I did see — on the television. Tyler, having had his nap, got up not long after five. There being nobody in the lounge, Anne still being out, and the boys up in Johnny's room, he came and asked if I minded if he put the TV news on. I told him fine. I doubted anybody would want the TV before eight, if at all, today.
About ten minutes later, he called me saying there was something on the news I needed to see. I got to the lounge just in time to see Phil and Ben coming out of arrivals at Heathrow and being shepherded into a waiting car. The next shot was of the car arriving at the flat on Piccadilly.
The commentary over all of this was about Phil being a film producer/director who was at the centre of a sex-scandal allegation.
"Shortly after their arrival at their London flat," the commentary continued, "Matthew Lewis and Ben Carlton were seen leaving the building in Ben Carlton's red Maserati. As they were leaving, a photographer trying to get photos of the pair was hit by a passing vehicle."
The film showed a photographer stepping into the road and pushing his camera towards the Maserati, as he did so, a car coming from the other direction, caught him, throwing him across the bonnet and onto the path. All the photographers turned and were snapping the accident. The car that had hit the photographer stopped, and the driver got out.
"That's Alex!" Tyler exclaimed.
"Who's Alex?" I asked.
"The driver of the car; he's the stunt coordinator from the shoot. He was on the plane we flew back on."
The TV footage continued to show the photographer getting up from the pavement, talking to the driver, who handed him a card.
"Luckily," the commentary continued, "the photographer did not appear to be hurt, though he was rather shaken up."
"Of course, he wasn't bloody hurt," Tyler stated. "That’s Brad Jenkins. He's one of the best stuntmen around. He's also Alex's partner."
"You mean— " I started to say.
"It's a bloody setup," Tyler completed for me. "Everybody is filming or photographing the accident; nobody is looking at the Maserati. I bet Matthew and Ben aren't even in it."
I just nodded. Tyler continued. "How long will it take for the Maserati to get to Manston?"
"Ninety minutes, tops, I would think," I stated. "Why?"
"Well, you said your brother and Matthew, sorry I can't think of him as Phil, will be here around seven-thirty, right?"
"Yes," I replied.
"It will take them about an hour and a half from the flat," Tyler stated. I nodded. "So, they will be leaving around six. I expect that the paparazzi will hang around there until they hear that Ben and Matthew are somewhere else."
"Precisely," Tyler replied. "They can make that place very secure."
Anne called from the kitchen to let me know she was back and that she was making some drinks. Tyler said he would like tea, so I went through and told Anne to make a large pot of tea for Tyler and me. I went up to Johnny's room to ask the boys if they wanted a drink, but Johnny informed me they were okay with the cola they had.
We had just started our drinks when Trevor and Austin came across from the Stable House. Trevor asked Tyler if he had heard anything. Tyler responded in the negative but did brief them on what we had seen on television.
"I suppose all we can do now is sit and wait for them to arrive," Trevor stated.
"They should be here in just over an hour," Tyler pointed out.
"If things go according to plan," Trevor agreed.
In the end, it was a bit later than seven-thirty before Ben and Phil arrived; in fact, it was nearly eight. When they did turn up, it was in an old beat-up wreck of an MG Midget that I thought Ben had got rid of years ago. As they pulled into the yard, I went out to meet them.
"Sorry we're late," Phil said, as he got out of the car. "Bloody papz didn't leave till gone six, even though the Mas arrived at five and we were seen on the terrace at five-thirty, drinking."
"I'm surprised that you got here at all in that thing," I stated. "Thought Ben had got rid of it years ago."
"Watch what you are saying about Beatrix," Ben said as he clambered out of the car. At his height, the little sports car was far too small for him, especially with a hardtop on it. "I love this car."
"You're probably the only person who does," I replied, remembering some very rough rides in it in the past. "How come you've still got it?"
"Well, I promised that I would have a complete restoration done on the old girl," Ben stated. "But I never seem to have the time to do it. So, I just keep her around for fun runs."
"And spending a fortune getting it through its MoT each year," Phil interjected. "With what he has spent on repairs in the last fifteen years, he could have had a professional restoration done."
"Yes, but where's the fun in that?" Ben asked.
As we entered the kitchen, Anne came up and gave them both a hug, then told them to sit down. She then called the boys and told them to set the table in the dining room. Johnny looked at her, surprised.
"There's nine of us," she informed him. "A bit of a squeeze around the kitchen table."
Having imparted that piece of information, she started to attack a lettuce as the first part of making a salad.
"So, who's standing in for you at Manston?" I asked.
"George and Gill," Ben replied. "They are a couple of body doubles we have used on a couple of films. Got to know them quite well as friends. They're going to have a luxury break at Manston, whilst we slum it here."
Anne swatted him with a towel. "Not so much about the slumming it."
After dinner, Ben and Phil asked to speak with Arthur. They went to the drawing-room for a chat, but after a few minutes, they all trekked over to the Stable House. I asked Trevor what was going on.
"No idea," he replied. "All I know is that they said they wanted to talk to Arthur about a production issue."
They came back about half an hour later. Ben and Phil were both pleased about something.
"You are looking pleased with yourself," I commented to Phil as he came into the kitchen.
"Yes, we've just found that what we thought was going to be a problem, isn't," he replied.
"What was that?" I asked.
"Post-production management," he replied. I must have looked blank.
"We've got a film shot, but that is only the first stage," he informed me. "Now we have to turn about a hundred hours of material into about two hours of actual entertainment. Most of the work will be done by specialists, like the editor or the CGI team. Everything that is done after the shooting is finished is called post-production. I'm the director, so I am responsible for it. I need to keep in touch with what is going on.
"Fortunately, as things have turned out, we have gone completely digital with this film. That means I can do most of what needs to be done online. The problem, though, is that we are talking about massive amounts of data. To handle that, I need access to a good internet connection. Arthur has assured me that he can supply a high-speed synchronous connection for me to use. He is also going to get me a high-spec iMac that I can use and is providing me with some space where I can work."
"I hope he is charging you for all that," I commented.
"He is," Phil replied.
As we were speaking, I heard a car pull into the yard. I did not give much thought to it as I knew Martin had taken Marcia and the kids out for the day. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when the bell at the back door went. I answered it to find Allen standing outside.
"Tell the stars that their luggage is here, and they can carry it in," he stated. Phil, who was just behind me, laughed. I told Allen he’d better come in and asked if he would like a drink.
"Could kill a bloody whisky," he stated. "However, I've got to drive, so best stick with something warm and wet; I'll have a tea if it's not too much bother."
"No bother at all," I informed him as I filled the kettle. "I'll just go and find the stars while the kettle boils."
Tyler and Trevor were in the lounge watching a film along with Joseph and Johnny. I told them Allen had arrived with their luggage. Johnny paused the film and told Tyler and Trevor that he and Joseph would help them get it. Joseph just smiled in agreement.
I returned to the kitchen to make the tea. Allen, Ben and Phil were seated around the table talking.
"How are things up at Manston?" Ben was asking.
"You've got papz at each of the gates, there are also some up on Hob Hill," Allen replied.
"You can see into the grounds from there," Phil commented.
"Yes, but it is over a mile to the house. Even with a bloody good lens, it would be difficult to get a good photo. Especially, as George knows only to go out on the terrace when it is low light and to keep his back to the hill," Allen stated.
"He's been out then?" asked Ben.
"Of course, he has," Allen replied. "We had to make sure the papz knew you were there."
I poured Allen his tea and handed it to him.
"Thanks, Mike," he said.
"What about us?" Ben asked.
"You're slumming it; you can help yourselves," I replied. They did.
"Where are you driving to?" I asked.
"Down to the Belmont," Allen replied. "Booked a room there for the next week."
"You can stay here," I stated.
"No, I'm better off in the Belmont," he replied. "If any non-local reporters turn up, they are likely to stay there, so I can spot them easier if I am based there."
"What about security here?" Ben asked.
"Dealing with it," Allen replied. "Doubt if you'll have a problem tonight as they are all convinced you are up at Manston, but if you do, there are a couple of lads around to take care of things. Just don't go looking for them, as you won't see them. However, I suggest you stay in the house and yard for the next week. You'll be fairly safe from prying eyes here."
I thought I’d better tell them about Jan coming tomorrow; there was also the question of Jasmin, Tariq and JayDee. Could we be confident they would not say anything at school?
"That could be a problem," Allen said.
"I'll talk to Marcia and the kids," Ben stated. We all looked at him. He was volunteering to do something!
Actually, in the end, it turned out that I was the one who went and talked with the kids, due to events Sunday morning. Trevor had gone back over to the Stable House Saturday night. Sunday morning after breakfast, Ben and Phil had phoned the Stable House and asked him to join them for a meeting. That had resulted in Trevor walking across the yard to our back door.
What no one had realised was that Tariq and JayDee were loading up Marcia's car at the time. The moment the boys saw him, he was mobbed. Luckily, I was just taking some rubbish out to the bins when it happened, so I was able to go and rescue him. I explained that Trevor had to go into a meeting but got an assurance from Trevor that he would spend some time with the boys in the afternoon when they got back from visiting Marcia's parents.
By now, Jasmin had come down with some stuff to put in the car, so I drew her into the conversation.
"Look, you know that Trevor lives here with Arthur in the Stable House." Both boys nodded. "Well, he doesn't want people to know where he lives; otherwise, he will get no privacy. There will be piles of fans turning up, which will mean that he will have to leave and move somewhere else, which we would not want. So, I want you all — and that includes you, too, Jasmin — to be very careful and not say anything about anyone you see around here. You mustn't say anything at school about who you see or speak to here as I have some important guests staying and I don't want them scared away by fans."
"You mean Matthew Lewis and Ben Carlton," JayDee said.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"I saw them get out of the car last night," he replied.
I spent a few more minutes discussing things with the boys and Jasmin. They all promised not to tell anybody about what they saw. I could only hope they kept it. I knew only too well the temptation at that age to tell your best friend a secret which only you knew.
Fortunately, for Tariq, his best friend already knew the secret. I just hoped that Jasmin had not been here long enough to make a best friend at school.
"I presume the same applies to me," Marcia said. I turned, and she was standing behind me, car keys in hand. She must have come down while I was talking to the kids.
"I would appreciate it if you did keep it quiet," I said.
"Martin's bound to find out who’s here when he visits," she pointed out.
"Somehow, I suspect he will know who is here before he visits," I stated.
With that sorted as well as I could manage it, I went back into the house, grateful for the heat the Aga was pumping out. Johnny and Joseph were at the kitchen table, poring over some diagrams that made no sense to me but apparently meant a lot to them. I asked Joseph what time he wanted taken to the station to get the train back.
"There's no need to take me," he advised me. "Dad's picking me up; he has to come over this afternoon."
I thought it would be useful if somebody let me know what was happening. Anne came into the kitchen at that point, apparently to make some coffee.
"Bernard's phoned," she informed me. "He's got some papers that Phil needs to sign, so he is coming over this afternoon; should be here about two."
"That's when Jan's coming," I stated.
"I know," Anne replied. "Thought it might be useful if he sat in on that meeting."
I had the distinct feeling that I was losing control of events. Not that I ever had thought I had control in the first place, at least not since I had married Anne. Actually, I think I lost control when she started doing my cleaning. I remember her organising my laundry baskets, making me put coloureds in one and whites in another.
As it turned out, Trevor's promise to the kids worked out well. Marcia got back just after one. Trevor, who had gone back to the Stable House earlier in the morning, must have seen them arrive because, as they were getting out of the car, he came down and told the boys that as soon as they were free, they should go over to the Stable House. He then came into the main house and asked Tyler to join him for the afternoon. Ben and Phil were already over there as Arthur had obtained the equipment they needed that morning and was now in the process of setting it up. Ben and Phil needed to be there to connect to various systems that they used. Neither was prepared to share their passwords with each other.
The result of all this was that when Bernard arrived, there were only Anne and me in the house, Johnny and Joseph having taken a break in the rain to go for a walk in the grounds. I quickly explained to Bernard about the meeting with Jan. He agreed with Anne that it might be useful for him to sit in on it.
Jan arrived a couple of minutes after two, explaining that she had been stopped by the entrance by some man who was asking questions about why she was there. I apologised but said we often had visitors who had security details and that some such visitors were currently discussing computer issues over at the Stable House. I also suggested that, given the weather conditions, it might be an idea to have our meeting in the kitchen. With the Aga in it, it was by far the warmest room in the house. Even with the upgraded heating system that Matt had installed, keeping the Priory warm was a bit of an uphill task.
Jan had no problem with that, stating that she tended to work in her kitchen most of the time for precisely the same reason. She also had an Aga.
I introduced her to Anne and Bernard, explaining that Bernard was our solicitor and was here on another matter, but we thought it would be useful if he sat in on the meeting. Jan had no objection; in fact, she thought it would be useful as well.
"I really don't have much idea when it comes to the legal ramifications of things. I have put together an outline of what I think should work, but I have not checked it for any legal repercussions," she informed us.
That out of the way, we got down to discussing the outbuildings and how she could see them working. The first thing she did was present us with a well-worked-out report with some financial projections on it. What was clear from the report was that it would take the better part of six to eight months to get the proposed art centre up and running. I commented on this.
"If this is going to work, we need to attract established artists and craftsmen in their fields who already have a following," Jan replied. "I contacted a number I knew whom I thought might be interested. Some were. Most of those already have premises and are on some form of lease. They will need to give notice to get out of their lease. In the best case, we are looking at three months' notice. In the worst, they will have to stay till their current lease runs out, which is as late as August next year."
"Yes, that would delay things," Bernard observed.
"It's not quite as bad as it might seem," Jan continued. "Although they may not be able to move into the workshop/studios as soon as they become available, they were nearly all interested in running courses and making use of the exhibition space."
"How would that work?" Anne asked.
"It would be run as an open gallery," Jan replied. "Artists who are on the list of the gallery would be able to put in pieces of their work for a fixed period of time. If their work sells, we take a commission. That would be dependent on the overall price of the work, but in general, we would be looking at thirty to forty percent.
"To encourage visitors, I would arrange to have events taking place in the centre barn. I have already lined up half a dozen speakers who have indicated they would be prepared to put something on."
"Won't that cost?" I asked.
"In some cases, it will," Jan replied. "However, the ones that are going to cost are the ones that we can charge an admission fee for, so it should work out cost-neutral in the end. Anyway, if you accept my proposal, that would become my problem."
"What is your proposal?" Anne asked.
Before she could say anything, Joseph and Johnny came in from the yard.
"It's starting to rain again," Johnny stated by way of explanation for their return as they came through the door.
"I see," I replied. "You’d better come and join us. Jan, this is my son, Johnny, and his friend Joseph, who is Bernard's son.
"It might be useful if Johnny and Joseph join us, as from next September, Johnny is going to be the one around most of the time. It looks as if Anne and I will be staying in Town during the week due to work and other commitments."
"Do you mind if I get some hot drinks first, Dad?" Johnny asked. "It's bloody freezing out there, and we need to warm up."
"No," I replied. "Actually, you can make drinks for all of us. Sorry, Jan, I was remiss in not offering you anything when you arrived.
"Joseph, could you pop down to the cellar and hit the boost button on the central-heating controller? It’s the large one on the right of the control panel." Joseph nodded and set off in the direction of the cellar door.
"It's set, at the moment, to come on at four," I stated, by way of explanation to nobody in particular. "I think I need to adjust it."
"You certainly do," Anne stated. "Especially if the weather is going to be like this."
"Doesn't the Aga heat the house?" Jan asked. "Mine does."
"No, the house is too large," I explained. "It heats the hot water and provides some heat input to the central-heating system, but our main source of heating is a ground-source heat pump."
Joseph got back from his trip to the cellar. Johnny established what everybody wanted to drink, and the two of them got down to making them. Five minutes later, we were all seated around the papers and plans spread out on the table with a hot drink in front of each of us.
"Well, my basic proposal is this," Jan stated, indicating the report she had handed to us. "I will lease the outbuilding workshops and apartments, except for the studio apartment at the end of the east wing."
"Why aren't you taking that?" Johnny asked.
"The stairs from it come down into the private area," she replied, indicating the driveway between the Stable House and the outbuildings. "Your father indicated that the whole of the area inside the red line would be closed off from the general area where the public will have access."
"That's correct," I stated, indicating some points on the ground plan. "Matt will be putting up walls and gates here and here, which will separate our area off from that area."
"So, you are separating the Priory from Grange Farm again," Joseph stated. "Except this time, you are keeping the Stable House with the Priory."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, all this lot used to belong to Grange Farm," Joseph informed me as he pointed to the Stable House, outbuildings, tithe barn and walled garden. "The old owner purchased Grange Farm some years ago and demolished the house but kept the farm buildings."
"He's right," Bernard said. "They are two separate demises. There are two separate, land-registry records for this property. That's why the conveyancing was a bit complicated when you bought the place."
"Yes," stated Joseph. "This place is The Priory which is in Dunford; all that property is Grange Farm, which is in Lower Southmead."
"Didn't know there was a Lower Southmead," I commented.
"There isn't now," Joseph replied. "They demolished the pub and eight cottages and some hovels that comprised the place when they put the railway through in the eighteen fifties."
"How did you know that?" I asked.
"Dr. Portage told me about it when I helped with the tide-mill survey," Joseph replied.
"That could be useful," Bernard stated.
"It will certainly make branding easier," Jan commented.
"How?" I asked.
"Well, I was going to call it 'The Priory Arts and Crafts Centre'," she stated. "That, though, caused a problem as its entrance will be from Siding Lane; however, the entrance to the Priory is on Lynnhaven Road, which could be confusing. However, if I call it 'The Grange Farm Arts and Crafts Centre', using the Siding Lane address causes no problems."
"I would think 'The Grange Farm Centre' would be better," Anne stated.
"I think you're right," Jan replied.
"To get back to business, what is your offer?" Bernard asked.
"I would like to take it on a five-year lease to start with," Jan stated. "The first year, I would pay ten thousand for the lease; the subsequent years, I would pay twenty thousand. In addition, I would pay ten percent on turnover.
"That, I know, is less than you could get letting everything out yourselves, but it would mean you would not have to deal with any of the staffing, operational or insurance issues that would be involved in running the place. It would also give you some extra benefit when it is successful."
"You are fairly sure it is going to be successful," Bernard stated.
"Oh, I am," Jan replied. "I know this market, and I can make it work."
We spent the next twenty minutes talking about some of the details, but at the end of that, we agreed that, in principle, we were prepared to go ahead. Jan would draft a formal proposal and send it into us with a copy to Bernard. It would then be up to Bernard and Jan's solicitor to sort out the legalities of it all.
"One question. What is happening to the walled garden and the tithe barn?" Joseph asked.
"Well, Matt is talking to some people he knows to see if they would like to start a garden centre or nursery in the walled garden," I replied. "Mary is going to take on the tithe barn as a wedding and events location."
"And I have already spoken to Mary," Jan added. "I will take on the publicity of the tithe barn and handle the bookings for her. Having a nursery or garden centre in the complex, even if I am not involved, will be an extra draw for the location."
With that, Jan left. Johnny and Joseph went up to Johnny's room, no doubt to play on the PlayStation. At least, that's what I hoped, though I had the sense not to enquire too deeply. Anne made us another round of hot drinks, and we sat around the table, consuming them.
"You know, the Stable House having a separate address and being in a separate town could be very useful," Bernard commented.
"How?" I asked.
"Sorry, just musing on an idea," Bernard replied.
I wondered what he was up to.
After Jan left, I called across to the Stable House to let them know it was safe to come back. I also informed Phil that Bernard was here to see him. Ben and Phil came over almost immediately, informing me that Trevor and Tyler would be over in a bit; they were just finishing off something they were doing with the boys. Bernard asked me if they could use the sitting room.
"Of course, you can," I replied. "Will you and Joseph be here for dinner?"
"No," Bernard replied. "Mom has summoned us all for a family dinner. I’m surprised you were not summoned."
"I wonder what that is about," I stated.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Bernard said. "Actually, with Mom, your guess is probably better than mine; you always understood her better."
"That's only because I listened to what Aunt Sarah was saying."
Bernard laughed, grabbed his briefcase and went off to the sitting room, Ben and Phil in tow.
I started work on dinner. Anne told me to leave it; she would sort it. So, I went to the study and got back to work on the Kilpatrick papers.
About an hour later, Trevor and Tyler came over from the Stable House. I heard Anne ask Trevor if he and Arthur wanted to join us for dinner. Trevor must have texted Arthur, because a couple of minutes later, he said that they would take up the offer.
Bernard, who was in the kitchen when they arrived, informed Trevor that he needed a quick chat with him. The pair went off towards the sitting room. I went through to the kitchen and found Tyler chatting with Anne. As I entered, he turned and asked me what my plans were for the ground floor of the Stable House.
"Well, it was meant to be workshops," I said. "However, the way things are going, that does not seem very practical. Why?"
"I was wondering if I could rent them?" he asked.
"What for? They are designated for office or workshop use," I informed him.
"I guessed that would be the case, but it is not a problem. I am looking for some office and storage space. Been talking with Ben, and I think it would be a good idea for me to get some sort of business started for when I am not acting. I’m thinking of going into the specialist-camera- and-lens hire. There is an increasing demand for it. It is one of those things where the business location is not particularly important."
"Sounds like an expensive field to get into," I stated.
"It is," Tyler informed me. "However, I know an outfit in the States that some friends of mine have been running; it is about to go under. I think I can get quite a lot of stuff from them at well under market price."
"If they are going under, given the market they have available in the States, how will you make it work?"
"The market is worldwide," Tyler replied. "Physical location is not that important provided you have a good internet connection, which you have here. What is important is that I will not be trying to pay Manhattan rent. There is a good business to be had, but it is not that large that you can afford the rent for office and storage space in central Manhattan. That's where Jack and Sue went wrong."
"How are you going to run it?" I asked.
"I would need to get somebody in to do the day-to-day running of it," Tyler stated. "They don't need to know anything about the film business, just how to use the internet, take orders and issue invoices. They do not even need to be able to pack the stuff. I'd get a couple of sixth formers in to do that."
"How are you going to finance this?" I asked.
"Well, I've got two-hundred thousand available. I thought I would need about two million, so I will have to borrow about one-point-eight million."
"Why do you want to borrow that?" Trevor asked as he walked into the kitchen, followed by Bernard.
Tyler explained what he was looking at doing.
"If the figures add up, I'd be interested in putting some money in," Trevor stated.
"I would join him," Bernard stated. "Need to get invested in some start-ups. How about you, Mike?"
"Sorry, can't help cash-wise at the moment; need to get this place paid off. I could, though, help with a few years’ rent-free period."
"Look, Tyler, why don't you get some figures sorted out for us to look at," Bernard said. "Once you have those, I can say if we can put some funds up. Also, if the figures look right, I know a few more people who would be prepared to invest."
"Well, it looks as if I have let the Stable House workshops, then," I stated.
"Only leaves the offices under the apartment," Anne pointed out.
"I've got a use for them," I stated.
"Mike Carlton Productions," I replied. "With everything that is going on, I need to get some staff, and I will have to have somewhere to put them."
"Shit!" Tyler exclaimed. "I was hoping that I could talk you into turning them into another apartment. Now I will have to look for something local."
"Well there is always the housekeeper's apartment," Anne stated. "I'm sure we could do a deal on that."
"Really. Where is it?"
"At the back of the guest wing," Anne said. "It's not been modernised yet, but I don't think it would take all that much work to bring it up to standard. If you wait until I've got these in the oven, I will show it to you."
I must admit I had totally forgotten about the set of three rooms that existed in the building behind the guest wing.
"You might as well show him now," I said. "I'll take over finishing dinner."
Anne smiled and then led Tyler off to parts unknown, at least unknown to me. I do not think I had been in the housekeeper's apartment since we moved in.
"Well, I’d better get a move on," Bernard said. He walked back into the hall and shouted up the stairs for Joseph.
"You know we do have an internal phone system in the house," I pointed out.
"And do you use it?" he asked.
"Not often," I admitted. Bernard laughed.
Joseph came down carrying his overnight bag. Bernard said his goodbyes.
"Give Aunt Sarah my regards," I told him.
"I’d better not; she might remember she left you off the invitation list. In which case, you would get an immediate summons." It was my turn to laugh. Joseph and Bernard departed for dinner with Aunt Sarah.
Trevor asked if he could help with dinner. I told him that dinner was under control, but I would appreciate it if he made a pot of tea. A task he applied himself to with some alacrity.
Anne and Tyler came back about half an hour later. Trevor and I were seated at the table drinking tea, our second cup, and chatting generally.
"I thought you were sorting dinner," Anne said.
"I was and am; it's all in hand," I informed her. "Take the meat out at five-thirty and put it to rest, then put the Yorkshires in. It will all be ready at six.
"How was the housekeeper's apartment?"
"It's a mess," Anne informed me. "When I got there, I remembered why we had decided not to tackle it with the rest of the renovations."
"We put it for stage two, along with the boiler house and the gardener's house," I stated. "They all needed a lot doing to them."
"So, I have done a deal with Tyler," Anne stated. "Though, you need to approve it."
"What is it?"
"That I can have the apartment for two years rent-free, but I have to pay Matt to do the renovations needed."
"Do we have a list of what's required?" I asked Anne.
"Yes, it was in the initial estimate that Matt did," she answered. I had forgotten that.
"OK, if that will work for you, Tyler, let's do it," I told him. "I'll get Bernard to draft up the legal papers, but that might be a week or two before he gets round to it. I know he is swamped for the next couple of weeks.
"Incidentally, why do you want to live here, other than for the business?"
"I've got to move back to the UK," Tyler stated. "Ben got me an audition for The Dodge, and I've landed a part. I've got a contract for two seasons. Start filming in March."
I had to think for a moment. The name was familiar, but I could not quite place it. Then I remembered. Johnny had mentioned it. The Dodge was a series on one of the satellite channels aimed at a younger audience. It was the story of an East End crime family, headed by an elderly matriarch who was using the younger generation to legitimise its activities.
Thinking about it, that scenario sounded very much like somebody I knew and who Ben knew. I wondered how Ben happened to have the connections to get Tyler a part.
"Who are you playing?" I asked.
"Lee, the old lady's grandson. His dad was sent to prison when he was twelve, and his mother took him up to Manchester. Now he has finished university, got a job in the City and is back looking at where he grew up, with a big chip on his shoulder."
"And you've got two seasons?" I asked.
"Yes, that is all they have a production commitment for at the moment," Tyler stated. "Though they told me they have the storyline mapped for another five seasons."
"Sounds as if it could be a good role," Trevor commented.
"I hope so," Tyler replied. "They film March to June, roughly one episode a week."
"You'll be free by July, then?" Trevor asked.
"Has Phil spoken to you about Snowball?"
"Yes, Trev, he has. I told him I wasn't interested."
"It's too much like my own life," Tyler replied.
"That's why I thought you would be good for the part," Trevor stated.
Anne stated that if we were going to be talking films, we would be better off getting out of her way and moving to the lounge; so, we did. Ben and Phil were there. I indicated to Ben that I wanted a word and then went to my study. Ben followed.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Tyler," I responded. "He's committing himself to a pile of outlays, and I remember at Manston he said all he had been doing in the States was adverts."
Ben laughed. "Don't worry about Tyler. Yes, he was doing adverts, but there is a lot of money in adverts if you are in the right ones. For the last four years, he has been in the right one. We were lucky because that ad run had just come to an end, and they are starting a new series with totally new characters. So, the little gold mine Tyler was exploiting was no more. If it had still been in place, I doubt we would have got him for That Woman’s Son."
"But you got him a part in a TV series," I stated.
"Yes," he replied.
"Well, Phil and I are investors in it, so we have some pull. I just talked to the director, and she agreed to see Tyler. He had to audition, which he did while we were filming in the UK. Apparently, he did very well, so he got the part."
"How did you get involved?" I asked.
"Mark Thompson came along with the original script and asked if we would be interested in it as a film. It would never work as a film, but we thought it would make a good TV series, so we put him in touch with some friends and helped raise financing. As they say, the rest is history."
"Mark Thompson, any relation to Neal by any chance?" I asked.
"I believe they're cousins."
"So, it's based on Edith Jenkins?" I asked.
"Loosely, very loosely," Ben replied. "The first season was based a lot more on her, but subsequent seasons have moved away."
"And how has she taken it?"
"Remarkably well, but then, the money she is making is probably helping."
"What money?" I asked.
"Well, she put up most of the money for the original production, so she is the largest shareholder in the production company. It has now gone into its fourth season and been sold in over twenty countries. The Germans have just bought the rights to remake it in German. That fee alone more than repaid her original investment."
"Is there anything that woman does not have her hand in?" I asked.
"Not much," Ben replied. "Though I think she stays out of politics; says politicians can't be trusted."
"Trevor asked Tyler about Snowball," I told Ben. "Tyler said he turned the part down."
"He did, which is a mistake. He'd be perfect in the part."
"What's the story line?"
"It's about an English lad — white English mother, black American father. After he gets into trouble at home in England, his father insists that he move with him to the States. There he falls in a no man's land between the black and white communities of the small town they end up in. The whites regard him as black, but the blacks see him as a white, given his English accent and manners."
"Sounds like the perfect part for him," I stated.
"It is, but he is resistant to playing it," Ben commented. "Phil probably won't make it if he can't get Tyler for the lead. He specifically got the option on the book with Tyler in mind."
"I gather there is a part for Trevor in it," I stated.
"Yes, but it is small; he gets killed in the first ten minutes of the film," Ben stated.
Then I asked the question which had been on my mind for over a week. "How is Phil dealing with things?"
"Better than I expected," Ben said. "He's been half-expecting something like this to crop up for ages; it's just a pain that it has had to happen now."
"It's the Mayers’ trial," I stated.
"I know," Ben replied. "That it is his sister behind all this is what is hurting him more than anything."
"Are we certain it's Beryl?" I asked.
"Yes, one of the details in the News of the World article on Sunday was only known to her."
"What?" I asked.
"That he had taken nude photos of Leni," Ben answered. "She found them after Phil had been arrested. The police never searched his room; Beryl did."
"What did she do?" I asked.
"She told Phil that she had destroyed them; now, though, we cannot be so sure."
I just sat there not knowing what to say; I felt that I needed to say something. The need, though, was negated by a knock on the door. I told whoever was there to come in. Johnny came in and informed us dinner was ready.
Over dinner, Phil started to ask me about Mike Carlton Productions. I explained about pitching John's book for a TV series and that I had ended up with a series-development contract.
"One piece of advice, get a good production assistant," Phil stated. "You need someone you can trust to do what needs to be done without asking you all the time. At the same time, they need to know what you are thinking so that they don't go off at a tangent."
"Best find somebody new to the business and train them up to be what you want them to be," Ben inserted. "Everybody has a different view of what they want from their production assistant. Some want an assistant producer or director; others want a glorified PA. Until you start work you cannot know what you want, so find somebody who can fit in any role you need."
"I've got someone in mind," I stated, suddenly realising who would be perfect for the job. It would also kill two birds with one stone. All I needed to do was speak to Martin.
After dinner, Johnny gave me a hand to clear up and load the dishwasher. It was not often that we used it, but with eight for the meal, there was quite a bit of washing up.
"What are you up to?" he asked.
"I don't know what you mean," I stated.
"Come off it, Dad," he said. "I saw the look on your face when you said you had someone in mind for the job. So, who is it, and why?"
"There is somebody I know who I think could do what I need to be done and who is going to need a job, but I can't say anything till I have made some enquiries."
That said, as soon as I had finished cleaning up from dinner, I sent Martin a text asking when he could be free to talk? He answered about ten minutes later, saying he needed to see me anyway, so he would call round about ten the next day. I wondered what he needed to see me about.
Monday morning, the place seemed empty. Anne and Johnny had gone off to college. Ben and Phil had gone over to the Stable House to use the system Arthur had set up for them. Tyler had cadged a pile of cleaning materials and gone off to the housekeeper's apartment, stating he had nothing else to do and might as well give it a clean so he could see what needed changing.
I got through my two mugs of tea and a pile of toast, then went into the study to deal with emails and work on the Kilpatrick papers. Just after ten, the bell to the back door went. It was Martin. I made him some coffee and myself another tea, and then we went through to the study.
"Where do we start?" I asked. "The reason you came over today to see me or the reason I wanted to speak to you?"
"Probably with the latter," Martin said. "I wanted to see you to discuss how you are indexing the Kilpatrick stuff. I think that is going to take some time. So, why don't you go first."
"What can you tell me about Lee?" I asked.
"Why do you want to know?" Martin replied.
"Because I liked him when we talked at the court. I thought he was intelligent and smart. The two attributes don't always go together.”
"You are right there," Martin commented. "My brother has an IQ which is in the top quarter percent of the population. He is also one of the biggest idiots around. He can solve quadratic equations in his head but can't get the right bus home from the shopping centre."
"Don't I know it?" I replied. "I've met a few Nobel Laureates who are like that. Anyway, back to Lee. I'm thinking about offering him a job. I need some help, and I think he needs a job."
"It would help," Martin said. "Though the big problem is going to be accommodation."
"I think I can help there as well," I told him. "We have a small studio apartment which he can use. It will serve him till he gets back on his feet and can afford somewhere better.
"What I need to know is, is he trustworthy, and how do I go about visiting him to see if he would like the job?"
"As far as I know. Lee is totally trustworthy," Martin replied. "I took on his case pro bono because I knew the family and I knew how much Lee had put into getting to university. As for getting in to visit him, I'll take you in on a legal visit. It is bending the rules somewhat, but you are a clerk with our firm. When do you want to go?"
"As soon as possible," I replied.
"Well, we need to give a day's notice of a legal visit unless it is an emergency, which I can't make out this is, so the earliest will be tomorrow. Let me make a call."
Ten minutes later, Martin was informing me that we had a legal visit set up for two-thirty the following afternoon.
"Now, Bernard phoned me last night and said you have set up some sort of indexing for the Kilpatrick papers," he said.
"Yes, I have," I replied. "Want to see it?"
"I want to learn it," Martin replied. "Bernard's a bit worried that if you are excluded from the court as a result of a challenge from the defence counsel, we would be stuck."
"I can see that," I answered. "Hope you have a good memory."
"I'm a solicitor; of course, I have," he said with a grin.
I showed Martin the five mind maps I had drawn.
"Why five?" he asked. "Why not put it all on one?"
"It would get too complicated," I explained. "She has five main themes, so you have a mind map for each theme. If she says something, all you need to do is find the mind map for the theme behind the statement. Then you can look up the different opinions she has expressed on that theme."
For the next hour and a half, I took him through examples of how it worked. By the end of that time, I was praying that any challenge that Beryl made to me would fail. Martin understood how the system worked. Unfortunately, he seemed to be totally unable to grasp the idea of a theme from a statement made by Kilpatrick.
He left just after twelve, saying that he had a case in the County Court that afternoon. As he left, Martin turned and said he hoped any challenge made against me being in court would fail as he did not think he could use the system.
Tyler came back just after one, informing me that he had got one room cleaned. He hoped to get the other two finished over the next couple of days. He then asked when he could get Matt in to make a quote for the work. That, of course, created a problem. There was no way I could have Matt coming into the yard where he might see my guests. I pointed this out to Tyler and also pointed out he was supposed to be at Manston.
"It's OK, Mike," Tyler responded. "Nobody knows me this side of the Atlantic. All the ads I was in were strictly for the US market. They were not shown in Europe. So, I am not going to be recognised. Also, the outside entrance to the apartment is at the back; it does not open onto the yard, so I can take Matt in without him coming into the yard or the house."
He had a point there. Matt had texted me in the morning saying he would be on the workshop site this afternoon checking that the workmen were dealing with the snagging list he had left them. I had told him that it was a bit inconvenient as we had guests staying, but if I had time, I would pop round to the site. So, that is what I did, taking Tyler with me.
Once we found Matt, I introduced Tyler to him and informed Matt that Tyler was going to be taking on the housekeeper's apartment and he would be paying for the work that needed to be done there. Tyler asked if Matt had time to do a walk-through so he could explain what he wanted done. Matt agreed, so I left them together.
Getting back into the house, I found that there was a message on the answering machine. It took nearly three minutes of the message before I realised they were trying to sell PPI claim services. I deleted the message. Before going back to my study, I checked the front door to see if there was any post. We usually got our post late morning or early afternoon. I had looked just before lunch, but there had not been any; now there were seven envelopes for us. I picked them up and went back to the study. After sorting the post — there was none for me — I got back to work on the Kilpatrick papers. By four, I was reasonably happy I had got them indexed in a form so I could quickly find the relevant text or opposing-comment text in her work.
I felt confident to leave it where it was and get on with other things, which, in this case, meant preparing dinner. Phoning across to the Stable House, I confirmed that Trevor and Austin would not be joining us. More surprising was that Phil and Ben were not joining us. They informed me that they had a lot of work on, and one of the girls was going to go down to Dunford and get them a pizza.
That was something I had forgotten about: the girls. I knew that at least one of them, and often both of them, were here each day to help run Arthur's business. It was just that one did not see them that often, so they had slipped my mind. I just hoped that Arthur had managed to get them to understand how important it was that people did not know that Trevor, Phil and Ben were here — also, that they could keep it a secret. Though thinking about it, they were part of Miss Jenkins' family; I did not doubt that they kept a lot of secrets.
Having established how many there would be for dinner, I got down to prepping it. I had just started when Tyler came in. He asked if he could help, so I set him to peeling potatoes.
"How did it go with Matt?" I asked.
"Good," Tyler replied. "He showed me why my idea would not work and then made a couple of suggestions which made something close to my idea working."
"What was that?"
"Basically, I replace the bathroom with an en-suite shower room. That means that we can move the current bedroom across where half the bathroom was. By taking a small amount of space from the bedroom, there is then space to put in a small separate kitchen rather than having an open-plan kitchen in the living space. Matt says that in a small space, open-plan kitchens don't work."
"He's got a point there," I commented.
Dinner was about ten minutes from ready when Anne and Johnny got back. They hung up their coats, went and freshened up, then took their places at the kitchen table. There were only five of us, so I saw no point in setting the dining table. While we were waiting for the last piece of dinner to finish cooking, I handed the post out to Anne and Johnny.
There were five pieces of post for Anne; I guessed that most were bills as she handled the household accounts. Johnny got two, one of which was in a good-quality white envelope.
He opened the brown envelope first, removing its contents, then smiled.
"Good news?" I asked.
"Yes, I got accepted as an external candidate for my French examination. It is on the seventeenth."
"You must be the only person I know who would be happy to get an examination date," Tyler stated.
"The thing is, if I pass this, it equates to an A-level at A grade. I can drop my French classes at college. That will make timetabling a lot easier."
He then opened the white envelope and withdrew a sheet of heavy-laid white paper. Even from the back, I could see it had some sort of crest at the top.
"Fuck!" he exclaimed.
"What?" I asked.He handed me the letter. I looked down at it, seeing the logo of Buckingham Palace at the top.