"Problems?" Arthur asked.
"Yes," I stated. “Johnny.”
"What's he done?"
"He lied to me. This morning he said he was going to a party at Neal's and would be staying the night, that Neal would give him a lift home in the morning."
"But he was speaking to Neal this morning," Arthur informed me. "He knew that Neal was in Cambridge."
I thanked Arthur for sorting out the printer. Once he had left, I phoned Bernard to ask if Joseph was there.
"Yes, he's here," Bernard stated. "Why?"
"Johnny’s gone up to London, said he was going to a party at Neal's and would be staying there the night. Just found out that Neal is in Cambridge."
"You didn't check with Neal?" Bernard asked.
"Why should I?"
"Now you know why," Bernard replied. He had a point there.
"I hope he's not getting into any trouble," I stated.
"He's sixteen," Bernard pointed out. "At that age, they get into trouble. I remember we did."
"Don't remind me; that's what I am worried about."
"Don't worry, Mike. Remember Johnny knows London; he's grown up there. He also is a lot savvier than most sixteen-year-olds. He is clearly up to something that he does not want you to know about, so it is probably illegal or questionable. Just be ready to support him if things do go wrong. Don't go charging in being the heavy-handed father.
"By the way, just in case there are any problems, you’d better have Martin's direct number." That in no way made me feel any better.
I spent the next half hour fussing around trying to take my mind off the fact that my son was not where I thought he was. All I succeeded in doing was working myself up into a heightened state of agitation.
Anne arrived back as I was once more trying to call Johnny's phone. I left a rather terse message.
"That was a bit short," she commented.
"Not as short as what I'll say when he gets back," I replied.
"Why? What has he done?"
"He lied about going to Neal's party. Neal is in Cambridge all weekend."
"So, where has he gone?" Anne asked.
"That is what I would like to know. I've tried phoning him, but his phone is switched off."
"I'll make some tea," Anne stated. "Then I will sort out dinner."
She made a pot of tea for the two of us, which was unusual. Anne prefers coffee. Then we both sat down at the kitchen table and talked about what Johnny was up to. Anne's first thought was that he was meeting Joseph. That, though, was discounted. Joseph was down in Kent. We then decided that he must be meeting somebody he knew; the question was who.
We were going around in circles for about the fourth or fifth time when my phone beeped, letting me know I had a text message. I opened it up. There was a message from Johnny:
'Dad, sorry, I was going to go to Neal's; did not realise he was in Cambridge. Am OK; at friends; will be home in the morning.'
He did not say where he was, who the friends were or what he was doing in London if not going to a party. If he was going to a party, whose party?
I tried to phone him but got the number-unavailable message again.
"At least we know he's OK," stated Anne.
"For now, anyway," I observed.
"You could be a bit more positive," she commented.
"I'm not really in the mood to be positive."
"So I see."
"Come on, let's go to the Crooked Man," Anne instructed. "I'm not in the mood to cook, and you're not in the mood for a conversation. I'll chat with Mary."
She did, too. The place was pretty empty, which it usually is in the evenings this time of year. In fact, there were only six other people in there. Mary said they were the committee for the local allotment society. Once we had our dinners, we sat at the bar, Anne and Mary chatted. I sat and listened whilst I worried.
Sunday morning, I went down into Dunford and got the Sunday papers. Was not really in the mood to read them but looked through them to see what they were saying about Phil. Most were not saying much, even the Sunday Times, which was a Murdoch-owned paper and was silent on the subject. The News of the World was the exception. They basically reprinted what had been in the Sun on Friday, then added to it a more extended interview with Leni's mother. It went further to accuse Leni of effectively lying to save his job as Phil's driver. I wondered if they were aware just how large a role Leni played in looking after Phil and Ben when they were in London. He effectively managed their London lives.
On the whole, though, the press coverage of Phil's conviction, with the exception of the News of the World, was good. It was very much on Phil's side. That was one thing I did not have to worry about.
I continued to worry about Johnny till just gone eleven on Sunday. A car I did not recognise pulled into the yard, and Johnny got out. So did a girl who looked familiar, but I could not place her. The two of them came in via the back door.
"Hi, Dad," Johnny said as he came through the door; this is Simone." He stepped slightly aside, allowing the girl to come fully into the room. "I promised her lunch for bringing me back."
"Hello, Simone," I said, offering my hand in greeting. "I'm Mike Carlton, this one's father, as I am sure you've gathered. You're welcome to join us for lunch, though I am not sure if that will be before or after I murder my son." Simone took my hand and gave it a rather firm shake.
"He said you would be upset," Simone commented, there was a distinct French accent to her English. I remembered where I knew her from; she had been one of the girls from the Tante Edith. How had Johnny ended up with one of the girls from Miss Jenkins crowd?
"He told us he was going to a party at Neal's. He's one of the people involved in a business that is based here," I said by way of explanation. Then I realised that if she was involved with Miss Jenkins, she probably knew that.
"Yes, I know," Simone stated. "There was supposed to be a party at Neal's this weekend. Maddie has won an award, and we were going to celebrate, but then Maddie could not get away, so Neal had to cancel the party, and he's gone up to Cambridge. Unfortunately, it seems that Johnny did not get the text cancelling the party. When he got to Neal's and found no one in, he called Neal. Neal called my sister and me — we live close by — and asked us to look after Johnny and make sure he got home."
"But why was your phone off?" I asked Johnny.
"It wasn't," stated Simone. "We live in a basement flat, and mobile reception is terrible there. Unfortunately, we do not have a land line."
"Must be a bit inconvenient," I commented.
"Oh, it is at times, but then we usually are not in very much. Both my sister and I work away quite a lot.
"We work in the family business. I believe you know our aunt, Miss Jenkins."
That was said in a way which made it clear that there would be no benefit in asking further questions. It also made me suspect that whatever Johnny had been up to, it had involved Miss Jenkins, either directly or indirectly. Part of me wanted to know what was going on; the sensible part of me was saying that I did not. In the end, I decided that, at least for the time being, I did not.
Johnny asked if I could make a coffee for him and Simone, stating that he needed to go and get changed. While I was making the coffee, Anne came in. She had been up with Marcia, no doubt getting details of her date with Martin. I introduced her to Simone and gave an outline of the explanation that had been provided. Simone once again explained the facts; once again, I was not convinced. I had to admit though she had a remarkable ability to stick to a story.
I made us a quick pasta dish for lunch, which I served with a salad and some red wine. Simone declined the wine, pointing out she was driving. After lunch, she said she would have to get off as she was meeting her aunt in Chelmsford at three. Johnny escorted her out to her car. They had a short conversation standing next to it, then Simone got in and drove off. Johnny returned to the kitchen. As he entered, I looked at him.
"Do I want to know what you were up to?" I asked.
"Probably not, Dad."
"I just hope you have not done anything illegal," I stated.
"Don't think I did. I think it was all legal."
With that, we left it. I knew he had been up to something. He knew I knew. The thing was, he also knew that I did not really want to know what he had been doing, just in case it was something I would be required to disapprove of.
Bernard phoned just after lunch to ask if there was any news of Johnny. I told him that he had turned up.
"What was going on?" Bernard asked.
"Seems like it was a mess-up," I replied. "The party had been cancelled, but Johnny had not got the message; ended up staying with some of Neal's friends."
"Is that so?" Bernard commented, in a tone which said he did not quite believe it. He then went on to ask me if I had any luck finding information about Susan Kilpatrick's views. I had to admit that I had not done much but would get onto it that afternoon, which I did.
By five of the clock, I had managed to trace just over a hundred articles or papers by Doctor Susan Kilpatrick. Fortunately, most of them were available either online or in online-reference sources that I had access to. I took most of the remaining afternoon and the evening to download copies of them. Then I had to work out a way to get them to Bernard. There was far too much to email. In the end, I copied them onto writable compact discs with the intention of posting them to his office.
I sent Bernard an email saying what I had found and my intention of posting them to him.
Monday morning, there was tension at the breakfast table. It was not often I had a weekday breakfast with Anne and Johnny; they had usually left for college before I came down. This morning I was up well before either of them, being unable to sleep. I kept wondering what Johnny had been up to in London; that he had been up to something, I had no doubt.
Anne set off for college just before eight; Johnny had already left for the yard, saying he might as well get some work done this week. I set about cleaning up the kitchen. Just as I was finishing washing the last of the pots, the phone rang. It was Bernard. He had just read my email and told me not to post the CDs; somebody would be coming by this morning to pick them up.
"How did the weekend go?" I enquired.
"Not good. People do not seem to react logically to the C-word," he stated. "They all seem to assume that because I have cancer, I am about to drop dead."
"I hope you intend to disappoint them."
"I most certainly do," he stated.
After I finished clearing up the kitchen, I went through to my study. I was not in the mood for writing, so after I had dealt with the emails, I decided to read some of Kilpatrick's papers and articles. They were well-written and gave the impression of being well-researched. However, I could not get over the feeling that she had decided what the facts were and then was citing evidence which she knew would support her view. At no point in anything I read did she cite any writings or research which did not fit in with her hypothesis. That might be acceptable in a paper, but in an article, I would have expected some comment on differing views and a reply to them, at the very least.
I was just about to start on another of her articles when the back doorbell rang. There being no one else in the house I went and answered it. Martin was there.
"Bernard asked me to pick up some disks you have for him," Martin stated when I opened the door.
"Yes, come in," I replied. "I'll get them for you. Are you in a hurry, or do you have time for tea or coffee? I was just about to make one."
"I'll take a tea, please," Martin replied. "On the way to HMP Chelmsford, but don't need to be there till after one." From the sound of his voice, I gathered that he did not fancy going to the prison.
"You do not appear too happy with the idea," I commented.
"I'm not," Martin replied. "Chelmsford is a bloody-awful prison, and the staff are lazy. It is always a pain to get in for a visit; then you find your client is not waiting for you. Half the time, your client has not even been informed that he has a legal visit. Then you wait around for them to find where your client is and bring him to you. By then a good portion of your allocated visit time is up, so you have to do another visit and go through the same procedure again. Hopefully, this will be the last visit. He is in court on Wednesday, and if he takes my advice, he will be out by the end of the day. He's been on remand for eighteen months, and with a bit of luck I can get him a two-year sentence, and he will have already served his time."
"Why shouldn't he take your advice, then?"
"Because he is bloody innocent, and I am advising him to plead guilty to two lesser charges on the agreement of the prosecution not to present evidence on the major charge."
"If he is innocent, Martin, why are you telling him to go guilty?"
"Because he is a black kid from the wrong address — with the wrong friends. He looks like what your average white juror expects a black gang member to look like. I would not give him more than a one in ten chance of getting an acquittal if it goes to the jury, and I doubt we could find grounds for an appeal.
"Even the police suspect he did not do it, but they need a conviction. The victim is the son of a local MP. Sometimes, the system stinks."
"At least he gets out soon," I commented.
"Yes, with a criminal record. Even getting out is not certain. Unlike in the States, we do not have plea bargaining here. The prosecution may agree not to pursue certain charges in return for a guilty plea to others, but the judge is not bound to give a certain sentence. In this case, the average sentence for the offences he is pleading guilty to is two to three years. Given a guilty plea, we would expect the lower end of the average. However, the judge could sentence the maximum, which is seven years."
"What does he face if he goes to trial on the major charge?" I asked.
"Worst case: life; probably twelve years if he is found guilty," Martin replied. "The kid's in a fix, and I have to go and tell it to him. He's bright. Was hoping to go to university, the first person in his family to do so. No matter what happens, that's finished now."
"He was arrested two days before his A-level exams started. He's missed them. Even if he wanted to take them when he gets out, he would need to study a new syllabus."
"What was he studying?" I asked.
"History, English, Maths and Physics," Martin replied. Now I understood. The set material for English changed every year. The same applied to a lesser extent in history, with the periods being covered by the exam varying from year to year. Even in Maths and Physics, there could be a variation on which parts of the subjects would have an emphasis in any year, though with them there was a major core component which had to be covered, so it was not such a problem.
"Strange mix," I stated.
"Yes, but he wanted to get into broadcasting," Martin replied, "so was advised to take a wide range of subjects at A-level".
Martin finished his tea. We chatted a bit longer; then I gave him the CDs. As he was leaving, I asked him to let me know how things went with the case he had been discussing.
I went back to the study and managed to get down to doing some writing, though my heart was not really in it.
Just after one, Bernard called me. His first question was whether Martin had picked up the disks. I told him he had. Bernard then informed me that writs for defamation had been issued against both the News of the World and the Sun that morning. It would be on the evening news. Leni was suing both papers, as was Phil.
"Not sure how useful that is going to be," I pointed out. "The accusation has been made and will be fresh in the public mind when the Mayers’ trial starts. I think Beryl will have something to make sure it is."
"No doubt she will," Bernard replied.
"It's a pity you're not prosecuting," I said.
"Unfortunately, I'm not; Sir David Stellerson QC is the lead counsel for the CPS in this case. Though … I wonder if you've given me an idea."
"What?" I asked.
"Can't say yet," Bernard replied. "I'll let you know if I can pull it off."
With that, he rang off, leaving me perplexed as to what he had in mind. I did not have long to worry about it though.
Janet Long phoned and informed me that I was required in London on Wednesday for a meeting regarding the project based on John's book. After some negotiations, I agreed to meet at four in the afternoon. That decided, I went to put it in my diary. My day for Wednesday was empty, so why had I insisted on having the meeting late in the afternoon? It did not make sense. I was sure that something was happening Wednesday morning, though for the life of me I could not think what it was.
The prospect of the meeting on Wednesday gave me an incentive to review what I had written in my proposal. I spent the next couple of hours going over the whole thing until it was time to sort out dinner.
Johnny got back from the yard just after four but informed me he had some studying to do and would be in his room. Anne arrived back from college about half an hour before dinner was going to be ready, which I regarded as perfect timing. Both of them had time to freshen up and change before dinner.
Over dinner, Johnny was asking me what I knew about the upcoming Mayers' trial. I had to tell him I did not know very much, other than his mother was the defence counsel.
Tuesday morning, I slept in; that is, I did not get up till gone nine. Partly this was because I had found it was best to keep out of the way in the morning when Anne and Johnny were getting ready for college. Neither of them was particularly morning people, so tended not to be in a good mood until they had got to at least their second cup of coffee. This morning, of course, Johnny would not be leaving for college, though I had no idea what his plans would be.
It was also due to the fact that it had been two in the morning when I had gone to bed. Not that I had intended to be that late to bed. Though, to be honest, I often did some of my best work in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately, last night had not been due to some inspired writing on my part.
After dinner, I had gone through to my study, intending to check my emails and then do some writing. The thing was that I was not in the mood to write, so I ended up reading. More specifically, reading Susan Kilpatrick's articles. There was something that struck me as being odd. To keep track of things, I started to make a mind map of her ideas and concepts. As I did so, things started to look odder and odder. It appeared that in different papers and articles, she had written almost diametrically opposed pieces.
At first, I thought she might have had a change in her ideas at some point in her career. However, when I checked the dates of the articles and papers, that appeared not to be the case. I found papers which put forward one point of view published within months of papers which stated almost the complete opposite. Then an article published a few weeks later would propagate the original view.
Some six hours after I had started, I had a series of diagrams, charts and maps, that made absolutely no sense. At least no sense from the point of view of presenting a consistent scientific perspective on her work. I had still been thinking about it when I finally went to bed.
Now, in the cold light of morning and after a couple of mugs of tea and some marmite on toast, I could see a pattern when I looked at the diagrams I had drafted the previous evening. Kilpatrick's views did not change over time; they changed in accordance with whichever publication she was writing for. She was nothing more than an opinion for hire.
I emailed Bernard with this information. About twenty minutes later, Bernard called me.
"Exactly what do you mean, an opinion for hire?"
"Somebody who will change their interpretation of the scientific facts to fit in with the requirements of the person who is picking up the bill," I stated.
"And the defence is pulling her in as an expert witness on false-memory syndrome," Bernard replied.
"So, you told me."
"I've got a meeting this afternoon with Sir David Stellerson; he's the QC who will be leading for the prosecution. I'm going to let him have what we've found out and tell him what we suspect."
"Will that help?" I asked.
"No idea. Though I am sure all the stuff you have provided will help if we can get somebody to make sense of it."
With that, Bernard finished the call. I got back to some more writing. Shortly after eleven, Johnny put his head around the door and asked if I would like some tea.
"Yes, please," I replied. "I thought you had gone to the yard, not being in college."
"Not today," Johnny responded. "Trying to get my head around vector matrices. Anyway, Steve is out today. He was leaving at five this morning to go up north to do a boat survey. I was invited along, but five is a bit too early for me."
I laughed and told him to give me a call when the tea was ready; I would come through to the kitchen for it. I needed a break from the screen.
He called me about ten minutes later. Not only was there a pot of tea ready on the table, but there was also some toast, which was very welcome. I had not had that much at breakfast. While we drank our tea and chomped our way through the mound of toast Johnny had made, we discussed what he was studying this morning. It had been ages since I had done vector-matrix during A-level maths and later at university. Fortunately, I remembered enough about them to give my son some pointers on where to look for answers. I had a reasonably good set of maths books in my library.
What was supposed to be a short break ended up being a lot longer. It was getting on for one when I returned to my writing. Johnny had decided he had done enough maths for the day and, despite the weather, had gone out for a walk. I did point out to him that it was pouring down with rain; he pointed out he had a pretty good set of waterproofs.
They were clearly not that waterproof. By the time he got back, nearly three hours later, he was soaked to the skin. I had just gone into the kitchen to make some tea when he came in through the back door dripping wet. I told him to stay where he was. The last thing we needed was him trailing drips through the house. After I grabbed some towels and a spare bathrobe from the airing cupboard, I pointed him in the direction of the utility room, telling him to put his things in the wash, then get upstairs and have a hot shower. I assured him that when he came down, I would have a hot drink ready for him.
It was a good twenty minutes plus before he came down from his shower. I handed him a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of Amaretto in it.
"Thanks, Dad, I needed this," he said as he took a second swig from the mug.
"I'm not surprised. That rain looks more like sleet," I commented.
"It feels more like sleet," Johnny confirmed. "The weather indicator down by the harbour is showing three degrees."
"With this wind that will feel more like minus one," I observed. "What possessed you to go out for a walk in this weather?"
"I needed to think," he replied.
"Is this about college?" I asked.
"No," Johnny responded. He offered no more information. I did not push it. I have learnt that, at times, he has a particular way of saying no; that means the matter is closed.
I chatted with Johnny whilst he drank his hot chocolate. He did not divulge any more details about why he had gone out for the walk. He did let me know where he had gone. First, up to the yard to see if Steve was back. Apparently, he was but he was busy with administration work, so Johnny had left, not wanting to be drawn into office work. He had then followed the Long Creek down to the shore and, it being low tide, walked along the shore to Dunford harbour. From there, he had walked home. By my calculations, the walk was a good eight to ten miles.
I was just washing up the tea things when the phone went. Johnny answered it.
"Dad, it's my godfather," he said, holding the phone clearly so the caller could hear. Then he spoke to the caller. "I know I'm your favourite godson; I'm the only one you've got."
I held up my wet hands.
"Go and take it in the study," Johnny instructed. "I'll finish up in here, and I’d better start to think about something for dinner. I think you'll be on the phone for a while."
I dried my hands and went to the study, where I picked up the land-line phone. As I did so, I heard the click of Johnny putting down the kitchen extension.
"Afternoon, Bernard," I said. "What can I do for you?"
"You can take a job as a junior researcher in my office. It will be at minimum wage and only till the end of the year, maximum. We need to have a meeting tomorrow," he stated.
"And why should I do that?" I enquired.
"Because Sir David Stellerson has just appointed me as his junior in the prosecution of Mayers. I will, of course, need a researcher in court with me to sort out all the documentation relating to Kilpatrick's writings."
"Yes, Mike, you will be in court as part of the prosecution’s legal team. However, for that to happen, you must be legally employed by this practice. I am sending a contract of employment over in the morning with Martin. He will be there about eight-thirty as he has to be in court in Colchester at ten. It is backdated to the date you started doing the searches on Kilpatrick's writing."
I suddenly remembered what was happening on Wednesday. It was the trial of the lad Martin had been talking about.
For the next half hour, Bernard went over a number of things from the material that I had supplied him with. I informed him that I had a meeting in Wood Green at four. Bernard suggested I meet him at two-thirty. He did not think things would take more than an hour, and it would give me half an hour to get to Wood Green. It was an arrangement I could agree to.
Wednesday morning was chaos. First of all, Martin arrived just before eight. At least, that is when he rang the back doorbell. I suspect he had stayed with Marcia overnight as I knew they had gone to the cinema the previous evening. The thing that made suspicious was that his car had not moved from where it had been parked the previous evening.
He caught me looking at his car. I just nodded to him. He smiled.
"Got some papers for you to sign," he said as he came into the kitchen.
Just then, Anne and Johnny came past on their way out. They were taking Marcia into college this morning as her car was in the garage, but first had to drop the kids off at school. Johnny had a meeting with the college principal about his suspension. It seems he had got his godfather onto the matter.
I offered Martin a tea, which he gladly accepted. Fortunately, I was just making a fresh pot when he arrived. As I was pouring the tea, the back door opened, and Anne came in.
"Bloody car won't start," she stated. "Can I use the Santa Fé?"
It was somewhat inconvenient, but I could see no immediate alternative, so I grabbed the keys from the key rack and passed them to her.
"Thanks," she said, turned and left.
"That's going to make things a bit awkward," I stated to no one in particular.
"Why?" Martin asked.
"Well, I have to be in town at two for a meeting with Bernard, then I have a production conference at four. Was going to drive to Southminster and get the train. Suppose I’d better book a taxi."
"If you don't mind a couple of hours hanging around Chelmsford Court, I can take you in," Martin said. "Can give you a lift back if you can hang around till six. I'm taking Marcia and the kids to dinner tonight so have to come back here. Where is your production conference?"
"Wood Green," I stated.
"No problem," replied Martin. "I've a case conference in Finsbury Park at three. There's parking arranged for me there. It's going to take at least a couple of hours, so I can drop you off at Manor House tube station on the way in. Then can pick you up somewhere in Wood Green on the way out.
"Now, can we get these contracts of employment signed?" Martin asked. I duly signed where he indicated. Once I had, he witnessed my signature; then he placed one copy in his case, leaving the other for me. He then removed an ID badge on a lanyard from his case and handed it to me. "You'll need this," he stated.
I looked at the badge and saw it was made out in my name, with my photo, stating that I was a researcher with LeBrun, Dean and Cohen, Solicitors. I looked at Martin.
"It will get you into the secure areas of the office without having somebody escort you," he informed me. He paused for a moment, then continued. "Though it might come in useful this morning."
"How?" I asked.
"I'll tell you in the car. We’d better get a move on as I have a client to see before his case is heard."
Martin locked his case, finished his tea and got up ready to leave. I went to the study and grabbed what I needed, pushing it into my case. Got my coat and phone then went back to the kitchen. Martin was already in the yard, so I set the alarm, locked the door and joined him.
It seems my new status as an employee of LeBrun, Dean and Cohen got me — along with Martin and a young lady called Helen — access to the defendant prior to him being called up for his case.
Martin was a bit annoyed to find only Helen at the court when we arrived. While she had gone to the ladies room to freshen up, Martin explained to me that she was a second-six pupil, and he had instructed her supervisor. I asked if this caused a problem.
"Not really. She handled all the earlier stages, so she knows the case. If Lee pleads as I have suggested, then it will be fairly straightforward. She will just have to put forward the mitigation statement. It will be a bit more difficult if he decides to go not guilty."
"I thought you sorted that out with him on Monday." I said.
"No, I only presented the options to him on Monday and gave him my advice. He wanted to speak to his family before he made a decision. That's why I needed to be here early, so I can take instruction. We’d better go down and see him."
"We?" I asked.
"Well, you are with the firm now, so you might as well stay with me. Anyway, you can sit with him and talk while we advise the prosecution on the plea. It will be more comfortable for him in the interview room than it is in the cells."
I was sitting across the table facing a young man who looked like the epitome of your local black thug. The young man's name was Lee Sanderson. Martin introduced me as a researcher for the firm of solicitors he was now working for.
"Does that mean I have new solicitors?" Lee asked.
"No, my father's firm is still representing you, and I've got permission to continue with your case from the new firm I am moving to," Mark informed him. "Now, have you decided about how you will plead?"
"They'll drop the attempted murder if I go guilty on the other two?" Lee asked.
"That is what they have indicated," Mark replied.
"Don't have much choice then, do I? What's the worst I can get?"
"Carrying an offensive weapon in a public place, four years," Helen stated. "Causing actual bodily harm, five years. As both charges relate to the same incident, they will be concurrent sentences, so the worst you can get is five years. With a third off for pleading guilty, that reduces to forty months. That is less than four years, so you will be released at the halfway point. Which is twenty months, you have already done over eighteen months, so in the worst case you will be out by Christmas. If it is anything less than three years, you will be released today."
"I spoke with my dad on Monday; phoned him. He's says I have no chance of a fair trial so I’d better get the best I can. Going guilty on the two lesser charges looks like the deal. I will plead guilty to the two lesser charges."
"Right, we'll go up and let the prosecution know," Martin stated. "Mike, can you stay with Lee until we come back down. It saves him going back to the holding cell. Also, it is a lot more comfortable here than in the holding cell." I indicated I would. Mike and Helen left.
Lee looked at me, then commented. "You don't look much like a solicitor."
"I'm not," I replied.
"So, what do you do?"
"I just joined the firm as a researcher," I stated. "Not really sure what I should be doing."
Lee laughed. Then went very silent, a lost look coming over his face. I asked him what was wrong?
"Well, I'm not sure what I should be doing," he stated. "Had it all worked out: A-levels then university. Had three offers. Then this happened."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Wrong place at the wrong time. Been invited to a party by some of the local lads. Turned up just as they were laying into this chap. Just in time for the police to arrive. The others ran off; I copped it."
"Well, you can go back and do you're A-levels when you get out," I pointed out.
"Not on," replied Lee. "I've spent two years studying the Anarchy and the Tudors, Measure for Measure, A Man for All Seasons, Homage to Catalonia and Death of a Salesman. By the time I get out, the new syllabuses will be in place. Doubt if any of the stuff I studied will be on them. I would have to start from scratch again. At least, the maths and physics will not have changed much.
"Then, there is the cost. Dad can't support me for another two years, not with my sister starting sixth form in September. If I had got into university, we might have managed, but even that was tight. There is no way he can fund two of us through sixth form."
To change the subject, I asked him what he thought of Homage to Catalonia. The perspective he had on the work was interesting. I was not in agreement with what he said, but he made some excellent points and was able to support them from the text.
We had just started to talk about mathematics when Martin came back.
"Well?" asked Lee.
"They've accepted. You plead guilty to the offensive weapon and assault occasioning actual bodily harm and they will offer no evidence on the attempted murder. However, they are pushing for the maximum sentence."
"I was hoping to get out today," Lee murmured.
"I know, but you will be out before Christmas," Martin stated.
"That's something," Lee agreed.
"What was the offensive weapon?" I asked.
"My walking stick," Lee advised me. "I'd broken my ankle a few weeks prior, and it was still in plaster. That's why I did not run when the others did."
"What are you going to do when you get out?" I asked.
"Don't know," he replied. "Probably go to the smoke and find some work, though it is likely to be shifty. A couple of lads in here have given me contacts they said can help."
"Won't you go home?" I asked.
"Nah," Lee replied. "Dad can't afford to keep me, and there is no work available around there for an ex-con. Anyway, I probably would not be too welcome. I know the lads who were involved, and they know I know them. They might be a bit worried about me saying something."
"You've not said anything so far," Martin commented.
"Damn right, I haven't," said Martin. "I've got my dad and sister to consider."
At that point, one of the guards came in and told us that Lee was up next. He was taken out of the door opposite us, and we went out the other direction and up to the court. The whole proceedings were over in about twenty minutes. Lee pleaded guilty to the first two charges put to him and not guilty to the third. The prosecution indicated they intended to present no evidence on the third, for which the judge ordered a finding of not guilty. The prosecution then made a submission regarding sentencing, Helen put in a plea of mitigation. The judge passed a sentence of forty months and then said, "Take him down."
We saw Lee again for a few minutes before being informed that they were ready to transport him back to HMP Chelmsford.
As Martin drove us to London, I asked him about what Lee has said regarding not being able to go home.
"He's probably right there," Martin told me. "There's no way his father can support him, and there is no work for an ex-con round there. The only way he would make a living would be to get in with one of the gangs. He's got the build and looks to be an enforcer, and they would use him as one.
"Unfortunately, he is not going to be better off coming to London."
"He said he had been given contacts that would help him get a job," I pointed out.
"Yes," replied Martin. "Contacts names given by convicted criminals. What sort of jobs do you think they will find him? Initially they will probably be legal, if only just. Being a bit of muscle on some door or in a club, stopping the punters getting through to the strippers' dressing room. The work will be just about legal, but then he would be asked to do a favour for the boss, and then a bigger favour until he would find himself so far in that there is no way out. Along the way, he will no doubt get a couple more convictions, all pretty minor but enough to lock him into the criminal world. Once you are in it, it is very hard to get out."
That is not what I had wanted to hear.
We made good time into London, and Martin dropped me by Manor House tube station just after one-thirty. It had just gone two-fifteen when I walked into Bernard's office. The receptionist was clearly expecting me, telling me to go straight through. I started to, but the door from the reception was locked. She told me to use my badge; I had forgotten about that. I pulled it out of my pocket and swiped it over the reader at the side of the door. There was a click, and it opened.
I walked down the corridor to Bernard's office; the door was open. I went to knock, but Bernard called out for me to come in. So, I did.
"You got your badge, then," Bernard stated.
"Yes," I replied. "Now, exactly why have I become a junior researcher with Le Brun, Dean and Cohen?"
"Partly because it is a way to get you into a closed court," Bernard replied. "More importantly, though, because I need you."
"Somebody was kind enough to send Sir David a copy of an opinion written by Ms. Kilpatrick. Now, we can't be one-hundred-percent sure, but we believe it is the opinion that she will be presenting in the Mayers' case. The basic thrust of it is that the therapist has implanted the false memories in the alleged victim to cover their own abuse of the alleged victim.
"There is an interesting part in it." He removed a sheet of paper from the folder on his desk, put on his reading glasses and then read. "In such cases, the therapist can be expected to have frequent contact, if not close association with paedophiles of similar interests."
"Oh, God!" I exclaimed. "The exposure of Phil's criminal record. Now it makes total sense."
"Yes," responded Bernard. "Now as to why I need you. Sir David has asked me to act as his junior. He only wants me to deal with one aspect of the case; that is cross-examining Ms. Kilpatrick. To do that, I need somebody who knows their way around her writings. Darren, our psychology graduate, would have been ideal. Unfortunately, he leaves us at the end of the month — going home to New Zealand. So, I need someone who can come up to speed on this material fast and can understand what is being said in the papers. My guess is that by now you have probably read quite a lot of them and skimmed most of them." I nodded that I had. "Good, I hope you will do this for me; there is no way I can sort my way through all her stuff."
I agreed that I would. Bernard advised me that the trial would start on the third of December and was listed to last for two weeks. Personally, he thought that it might not take that long. He told me I would have to be there for the first couple of days, but after that did not really need to be there for the prosecution case. I only needed to come in for the defence case. Specifically, for when Ms. Kilpatrick was called.
He also warned me that Beryl would probably object but that he was ready for that and had precedent to quote to the court.
For the next half hour, we discussed what Bernard needed me to do and what information he needed. We finished going over everything just after three. That gave me plenty of time to get to my meeting in Wood Green.
Janet was waiting for me when I got to the agency and showed me into a meeting room.
"We've got a few minutes before the others arrive," she stated. "It will be about four-fifteen before they get here. Now there is an offer on the table. I suggest we accept it for the time-being with caveats. The important thing to get out of this meeting is that you need to be in control of the content of the series. That is what I am working for."
"What's the offer?" I asked.
"Twenty grand for the book rights, which will go to John. They will have the rights for five years, if they have not released something in that time, the rights revert to John.
"They are offering you one-hundred grand to produce a full script. That is out of a development budget of three hundred. I am aiming for two fifty with you undertaking the whole of the development work."
"What is the development work?" I asked, not knowing if I was capable of it.
"First, producing a full script, then identifying locations that are needed, outlining possible shots, maybe even producing a storyboard."
"It sounds a lot for one person," I commented.
"It is, but I have some people who are into that sort of stuff. I can put a team together for you."
I suddenly saw how Janet worked. On a two-fifty budget, she would take her ten percent, which was twenty-five thousand. However, if I used her people, she would be taking ten percent from each of them, which no doubt would amount to at least another ten thousand.
Just before quarter past the hour, we were joined by two men and three women. One of the men I knew, Martin Shelt; the others were introduced to me. The other man and one of the women were from the Beeb. The other two women were from Martin's production company.
For the next hour, I sat back and listened as things which I did not understand were being bandied about. Janet scribbled a note to me and passed it over. 'Don't worry, they are just vying for position.' Eventually, there seemed to be some sort of decision. Janet then summed things up.
"Right, we are agreed that Shelt Productions will acquire the television rights to the book. These rights are conditional on Michael Carlton undertaking the treatment. The BBC will underwrite the development project to the sum of one-hundred-thousand pounds, subject to them having the first refusal on full production. If the production goes elsewhere, they will own ten percent of the development project. Shelt Productions will fund the rest of the development project to the sum of two-hundred-thousand pounds. In respect of this, they will own sixty percent of the development project. The remaining thirty percent will be owned by Mike Carlton Productions."
There was a general murmuring of agreement around the table. Janet continued, "That being the case, I will get draft contracts out to you all by the end of the week. Please get them back to me by the end of the month."
"Why the rush?" the chap from the Beeb asked.
"I have another party interested and they want to know where they stand by the third of December," Janet stated.
With that, the other parties stood and said their goodbyes before leaving. That left Janet and me in the meeting room.
"Sorry about that," Janet said. "There was not much input you could make, as you don't know the business yet. However, you needed to be here so that they had a face to put to the entity behind the idea."
"That I can understand," I stated. "What I don't understand is what you said about Mike Carlton Productions. Where did that come from?"
"Hasn't Irene spoken to you?" Janet asked.
"Sorry. She said she would ring you this morning," Janet responded. I then remembered I had switched my phone off before putting it in the locker at the court. Martin had advised me to; otherwise it would keep scanning for a base-station signal that it could not pick up, thus running the battery down. I had not switched it back on. The moment it connected to the network, it started beeping like mad.
"Sorry, Janet, I was in court this morning and had to switch my phone off," I informed her. "Seems I forgot to switch it back on."
"Right. It looks like it is up to me to explain," Janet replied. "There is quite a bit of money tied up in this project. I've just committed you to undertake a major part of the pre-production development. If you fail to supply for any reason, it is likely that your production partners will come after you for the money they have put in. To protect you, we need to work through a legal entity. I spoke to Irene first thing this morning, and she informed me that you are doing an increasing amount of script work on the presentation you are currently doing. It makes sense for you to put that through a production company, as well. We agreed that the best thing to do would be for you to set up Mike Carlton Productions. Irene was supposed to discuss it with you this morning."
"I can see that it would make sense," I commented. "What do I have to do to sort it out?"
"Actually nothing," Janet explained. "I will liaise with Irene, who will get everything sorted. She is already dealing with your accountants so is in an excellent position to get everything set up. We will put it all past your solicitor when it is ready. That should be sometime next week.
"The only thing you will have to do is get some staff to work with you."
"What am I going to need?" I asked.
"For a start you will need a production assistant," Janet started. "Don't let the name put you off; it is really a glorified gopher. It is somebody who can take over the boring jobs for you, like printing out drafts of the script, making sure your diary is kept up to date and that you can make the meetings that will be demanded of you. You will need someone who can do the fact-checking for you. Remember, if you state something in the script, you need to make sure that you have supporting evidence for what you are saying. A lot of the stuff is going to be controversial. You need to be able to defend it. More importantly, you need someone you can bounce ideas off as you're working."
"And when does all this have to be in place?" I asked.
"There's no rush," Janet replied. "It will take a few weeks to get the contracts sorted." I looked at her surprised as I thought she had said she needed them by the end of the month. "Oh, they will initial them by the end of the month, agreeing in principle to the main points. Then there will be weeks of negotiation over the details. For a start, is this going to be a Martin Shelt Production in association with Mike Carlton Productions and the BBC, or is it a BBC Production in association with …? You get the point. I doubt we will get anything signed off until the beginning of next year.
"Look Mike, I know this is probably a bit overwhelming for you, but for now, just go with the flow. I'll get some notes sent out to you to let you know what you need to set up and what staffing you will need. I can also help with any contract staff. However, after talking with Bob and Irene, I think you probably need a couple of permanent staff. You are becoming something of a property now and there is going to be a lot more work in the pipeline."
Janet had given me a lot to think about as I left her office. I texted Martin to let him know I had finished. He texted back to say he was just finishing up and would pick me up at Morrisons at six-thirty. That was fine with me as it was not far from Bob's office and would give me about twenty minutes free in which I could do some shopping. Tomorrow, I was responsible for dinner and needed to get something in for it.
It was just before eight when we got back to the Priory. Martin went to the apartment to get Marcia and the kids. I went into the kitchen. There was a note on the table that there was a pasta bake in the warming oven and some salad in the fridge. It went on to say Anne had gone into Maldon and they would be back about nine. This puzzled me a bit as both her's and my cars were in the yard. Johnny apparently had gone into Dunford, and Anne was picking him up on the way back.
I got the pasta bake out and served up what I needed before placing it back in the oven in case Johnny wanted any. Eschewing the salad, I ate a satisfying fill of carbohydrates, washed up my plate and then went to deal with my emails and the pile of phone messages that were awaiting me.
Most I would not be able to deal with till the morning, like the one from my accountant and the other from Irene. The one from Matt I could deal with, as I was fairly certain he would be at the Anchor this time on a Wednesday. He usually played darts on a Wednesday night.
I was right, he was in the pub, and he informed me that I better make my call quick as he was up in the next game, which would start soon. I replied that I was returning his call.
"Yes, I was calling to let you know the holiday apartments are ready. Could we do a walk-through tomorrow or Friday?" I agreed to do the walk-through in the morning at ten. Matt then informed me they were starting work on the back fence, gate and drive in the morning.I decided to place a Skype call to Ben to tell him about today's developments. He was happy with what I told him.