I scanned down the letter. I was trying to take in what it said.
The Lord Chamberlin, at the command of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, is hereby advising you that you will be awarded the honour of the George Medal in the New Year’s honours list. This medal is awarded for:
That on the 4th of September of this year, you did, at risk to yourself and being unarmed, take on a fugitive from the law who was armed with a pistol. In doing so, you successfully immobilised the fugitive whilst receiving a gunshot injury to your person.
Could you please indicate your acceptance or decline of this honour by the 21st of December…
The letter went on to state that the information regarding the honour was not to be made public until the honours list was published on the thirty-first of December.
"It's not a joke, is it?" Johnny asked.
"No, it's not a joke," I told him.
"Christ! Joseph will be surprised when I tell him," Johnny stated.
"You can't tell him," I said.
"Johnny, you've been offered the award of the third-highest honour for bravery in this country. However, you can't tell anybody until it is officially announced."
"What about you all knowing?" he asked.
"That's regrettable," I stated. "Hopefully, none of us will mention it."
"Mention what?" Tyler asked.
"I don't know," Anne replied.
Nothing more was said about the matter, at least not until Anne and I were in bed.
"You do know that I am going to need a new dress, don't you?" she stated.
"What's brought this on?" I asked.
"Going to the Palace," Anne said. "I will need a new dress for when we go to the Palace for Johnny to be given his medal. Can't appear before the Queen in an old dress."
"Doubt it will be the Queen," I stated. "Charles is doing most of the award ceremonies these days from what I've heard."
Tuesday morning, everybody was out again: Johnny and Anne at college, Phil and Ben over at the Stable House and Tyler busy cleaning the housekeeper's apartment. I suppose now I should refer to it as something else. Maybe the annex.
I spent the morning reviewing what I had done on the Kilpatrick stuff and dealing with emails. Just before twelve-fifteen, I took a break and made some lunch for Tyler and myself. I had already told him to be back by twelve-thirty for lunch. He did make it on time.
"How's it going?" I asked as we sat down to a lunch of bacon sandwiches.
"About finished," he replied. "Not much point in doing much in the bedroom or bathroom as they will be messed up when Matt's team gets in. I've finished the living room and cleaned windows and the fireplace. Matt said that all they have to do in there is rewire, and he hopes that it will not make that much mess."
"What are your plans for this afternoon?" I asked.
"I'm going to start to put together a business plan," Tyler informed me. "I emailed Jack last night about buying his business. He's getting me figures and will be emailing them to me. Should get them about two."
"Remember, you've got to allow for shipping the kit to the UK and for getting UK power supplies for stuff," I stated.
"Not that big a problem," Tyler informed me. "All of the kit has got international charging units or multiple-nation charging units. You have to have that as most of the hires are international. A lot of the kit is out on hire at the moment, so they will just notify the customers to return it to here rather than to New York. I will only have to have about a third of the kit brought over directly from the States."
"Don't forget customs duties," I stated.
"Blast! That was something I had not thought about. Any ideas what it will be?"
"No, you’d better do some research on it."
At that point, Martin arrived to collect me for the visit to HMP Chelmsford. I checked with Tyler that he knew how to secure the place if he went out, though he assured me he had no plans to go anywhere.
We were shown into the visitors' room. Lee walked in a couple of minutes later, taking the chair across the table from us. He looked a lot different from when I had seen him at the court. For a start, he was wearing a striped, blue-and-white shirt, which did not look very clean, and heavy blue jeans. He also had a couple of days growth of beard, making him look a lot rougher and tougher—something emphasised by his height. When I had seen him at the court, he had been sitting down all the time. As he had walked in, he was clearly well over six-feet tall.
"Sorry about the beard," he said as he took his seat at the table. "They've run out of disposable razors again. Not been able to get a shave since Tuesday."
"Haven't you got your own razor?" Martin asked. "I know they have them at the canteen."
"Yes, but I don't have any funds,” Lee replied. "Dad can't send me any, and I ain't got a job in here. Anyway, what you here for? I thought all the legal stuff was finished with."
"It is, but Mr. Carlton approached me about something, and I thought I’d better be along when it was put to you."
"What's that, then?" Lee asked.
"I have some work starting in January which I thought might suit you," I stated.
"Doing what?" He looked at me with a very intense look, as if trying to read me.
"Part-time production assistant?" I replied. "At least it will be part-time at first, though it will probably grow into full time fairly fast."
"What's a production assistant?" Lee asked.
"It's essentially a personal assistant who deals with production-related matters," I answered. Lee looked at me blankly. "You would have to keep my diary to make sure my shooting commitments don't clash with any of my other work and deal with routine emails and letters. The most important part of the job will be checking facts and making sure that anything I put into a script is accurate."
"How many hours, and what does it pay?" he asked.
"Initially, twenty hours a week from the second of January," I told him. "Though once the production gets started, that is likely to ramp up quite fast. My brother tells me that his production assistant at times is doing sixty to seventy hours a week. It will pay ten pounds an hour to start."
"Sorry, that's two hundred a week," Lee observed. "I'm looking at paying over a hundred just for somewhere to live. Wouldn't have enough left to live on."
"Actually, you wouldn't have to pay for somewhere to live," I informed Lee. "There is a studio flat that you can have rent-free as part of the job."
"Is this for real?" Lee asked Martin.
"Yes," Martin replied. "Mr. Carlton is involved in several TV productions and is now starting his own production company. I know he needs a production assistant. With regard to the studio flat, I don't have any direct knowledge, but I do know he has several apartments on his property."
Lee was silent for a bit, thinking about things. Suddenly his face lit up. He looked at me. "You're the bloke who's on Our Industrial Past, aren't you?"
"Yes," I admitted. I was surprised he knew; only two episodes had gone out, and they were not at peak viewing times.
"Is that what I will be working on?" he asked.
"No, at least not at first. We have nearly finished filming that series, and I am not sure if there is going to be a second season. The project I am working on now is about the technology available to combat climate change."
"It sounds interesting," Lee stated.
"So, do you want the job?" I asked.
"It sounds good," Lee replied.
"There is one thing though," I told him.
"Ah, the catch," Lee responded. "What is it?"
"You've got to enrol with the Open University," I replied. "You may not have done your A-levels, but that should not stop you from getting a degree. The course fees will be covered for you by the company."
"Thanks," Lee said. "Now I'll just have to find somewhere to stay when I get out until I start."
"Sorry, Lee. I meant for you to move in as soon as you get out," I informed him. "When do you get out?"
"My release date is the twenty-first," he replied. "That's a Sunday, so they will let me out on the Friday, which is the nineteenth. Where will I have to get to?"
"Dunford," Martin replied. "Don't worry; I'll send you details of everything. I'll also find a firm of solicitors to check the contracts for you."
"Can't you do that?" Lee asked.
"No. I now work for Mr. Carlton's solicitors," Martin said. "It would be a conflict of interest for me to handle your employment contract when my boss is handling the other side. I think my dad will do it for you; I will speak to him this evening."
"Thank you," Lee said.
Martin then started to ask a series of questions, taking notes.
In the car as we drove back to Dunford, I asked Martin to explain how the canteen system worked in prison. He explained that each prisoner had a spending account at the prison in which any money they earned and up to twenty-five pounds a week from their private cash was placed. They could then spend this money on items from a list that the prison circulated to prisoners each week. Each prisoner would get a copy of the list with their name and the amount of spending they had available that week. They could then mark off the items they wanted from the canteen. I asked Martin what was meant by private cash, he explained it was an account, kept for the prisoner into which funds sent in from outside where deposited.
"How do you send money to a prisoner?" I asked.
"The best way is by postal order," Martin replied. "You can send cash, but it has been known to go missing. You've got all those thieves in there; then you have the convicts. If you send a cheque, it can be three to four weeks before they put the money into the prisoner's private cash account. Cash or postal orders are allocated to the account immediately."
I asked Martin to stop near a sub-post office. There I purchased a fifty-pound postal order made payable to HM Prisons. As soon as I got back to the Priory, I wrote a short note to Lee, explaining that the fifty pounds was an advance on his expenses. I managed to get the postal order and accompanying letter in the post in time to make the last collection.
That dealt with, I made a note to talk to Anne about getting the studio apartment furnished. I also had to tell her I was employing a convicted prisoner as my production assistant and that he would be at the Priory for Christmas.
When I told her that evening, she took the news a lot better than I had expected. Her only comment being that she hoped I had enough on the credit card to cover what she was going to buy for the apartment.
Johnny was more pragmatic about it. He asked the one question I had not thought to ask.
"Can he drive?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "I never asked him. Why?"
"Well, it would be useful to have another driver around here, if only to take me to or pick Joseph up from Southminster."
I had to admit that Johnny had a point there and decided to write to Lee and ask. If he could drive, there was more sense to getting a third car. It also occurred to me that I should send him a formal offer of employment. Something told me that having that might make life a bit easier dealing with the authorities over his release.
The problem was that the offer would have to come from Mike Carlton Productions; at the moment, it had not been incorporated. I was not sure how to get around that problem.
I was in the middle of thinking about this when the phone went. It was Bernard, checking that everything was ready for tomorrow. I assured him it was; then I asked him about how to send an offer of employment from a company that did not yet exist.
"That is easy," Bernard informed me. "Just create your letterhead the way you want it. Just do not use the word limited in it anywhere. Then, in the footer, in as small a font as you can manage, put ‘Proprietor, Michael Carlton’. When you incorporate, you change the footer to read the full company name and its registration details.
"Just be sure to put in the letter that the employment will be with the limited company that will be taking over the trading entity of Mike Carlton Productions."
"Thanks for that," I said.
"That's OK; I will be billing you for the advice on my next bill."
"You see, Mike, with all this pro-bono work I am doing and that you've had Martin doing today, I need to find some income from somewhere."
"When I see you tomorrow, I'm putting in for a rise," I told him. Bernard laughed.
I spent the next hour trying to sort out some form of letterhead for the production company without much success. When Johnny put his head around the study door to ask if I wanted a drink, I roped him in on it. I went and made the drinks.
Fifteen minutes later, after I had made and served the drinks, Johnny had finished the letterhead. It looked good. Actually, it looked very good.
Then Johnny made a comment that made a lot of sense: "You know, Dad, it might be better if you got Martin to send a letter confirming that they had received an offer of employment for him. It will carry more weight, and it will also not look odd that you were visiting him today on what was a legal visit but are offering him employment in a different capacity."
I had to admit that he was right and made a note to discuss it with Martin in the morning. We had arranged to meet up at Southminster station and go in on the same train.
The following morning on the train into London, I discussed it with Martin. He said Johnny had made a good point and he would sort it, and there would be a letter in the post to Lee that day. I asked him to find out if Lee could drive.
"He can," Martin informed me. "That's how I came to be handling the case. It must have been just over a couple of years ago. Dad broke his foot and couldn't drive. He needed a driver for a few weeks over the summer period. Lee got the job. Spent a good six weeks driving Dad around Essex. When he was arrested, the only solicitor he knew the number for was Dad, so he got a call to him. Dad said he's a better driver than I am."
Having experienced some of Martin's driving, I could believe that.
We got to Bernard's office just before nine. From there we made our way to the Central Criminal Courts, entering them by a side entrance for legal staff. Once inside, I was introduced to Sir David.
"Ah, so you're the first problem of the day," he said, looking at me.
"Sorry," I replied.
"Don't be, young man. The work you did on getting the stuff on Kilpatrick is going to make my life a lot easier. I was puzzled as to why she was bringing in an expert witness from the States. We have enough experts over here, but when I saw your synopsis of Ms. Kilpatrick's work, it made sense. There is going to be a nasty surprise in store for Ms. Carlton-Smith."
"I wish she wouldn't use that name," I said, more to myself than anything.
"What name?" Sir David asked.
"Carlton-Smith," I replied. "She has no right to use the Carlton surname since our divorce."
"You're the ex-husband?" enquired Sir David.
"Yes," I confirmed.
He laughed. "My dear boy, you have my sympathy. I have come up against her a few times in court, and it has never been a pleasant experience. She can be quite nasty at times. You should hear some of the things the junior members of the bar call her."
"You should hear what my son calls her," I told him. He laughed again, then introduced us to his pupil, Ms. Kathy Donaldson.
"Don't be fooled by the fact that she is a pupil," he informed us. "She's in her third six, and if my chambers don't give her tenancy at the end of it, I'll set up my own chambers and give her a tenancy."
He then introduced us to Tim Tinkermann, who was from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Just before ten, we made our way into the courtroom. Sir David took his place at the front. Bernard and Ms. Donaldson sat in the row behind him, and Tim Tinkermann and I took the row behind them. As we were taking our places, Beryl and the defence team entered. She looked over at the prosecution, then noticed me. Immediately she turned and started talking with the other members of the team, pointing to me a couple of times.
Bernard turned to me. "They've noticed you."
"Well, I suspect they will first ask one of the ushers to remove you on the grounds that this is a closed court."
He was right; a woman in a legal gown came up to me. "Excuse me, sir, this is a closed court, and members of the public are not allowed in the hearing."
Bernard smiled at her. "Mr. Carlton is a member of my staff and part of the prosecution team in this case. If there is any objection to his presence, it will have to be made to the judge."
"Oh," she said in surprise. "I will have to check with the prosecution lead."
"Please do so," said Bernard.
She walked to the front of the court and spoke to Sir David, who appeared to confirm what Bernard had said. Then she went over to the defence team to deliver the message. Beryl looked distinctly unhappy.
At that moment, the Clerk to the Court came in and announced, "All rise". We did. The Judge entered.
Once the Clerk had made the initial announcement identifying the Judge and the case to be heard, Sir David rose and introduced himself.
"I am assisted in this matter by solicitor advocate, Mr. Bernard LeBrun, and my pupil, Ms. Donaldson. My learned colleague, Ms. Carlton-Smith, is acting for the defence. At that point, Beryl stood up and introduced herself. She did not have anybody assisting her.
"Sir David, it is most unusual for a senior member of the bar to be assisted by a solicitor-advocate," the judge stated.
"There are some aspects of this case that look like being somewhat unusual; my associate has a specific knowledge that I feel may be needed."
"Yes?" said the judge, clearly seeking clarification.
"My Lady, the defence have given us notice of an expert witness they are calling," Sir David advised. "Mr. LeBrun has some in-depth knowledge of this witness's field of expertise." I glanced across at Beryl when this was said and noticed she looked a bit uncomfortable.
"Right," the judge stated. "There are a series of motions that the defence has submitted that I will deal with now. The jury is excused for the morning." With that, one of the ushers led the jury out from the court.
I must have looked a bit puzzled. The clerk sitting next to me explained that it was quite normal; the jury was not allowed to hear legal arguments.
"My Lady, I would like to draw the attention of the court to a matter which is not in the motions I have submitted," Beryl stated as she stood.
"Very well, Ms. Carlton-Smith," the judge said. "I would appreciate it if you could keep the matter as brief as possible; we do have a lot to get through this morning."
"My Lady, this is a closed court due to the nature of the offence. There is a person in court who I believe is here solely as a spectator and has no right to be within the confines of the court."
"And who may that be?" the judge asked.
"My Lady, it is Mr. Michael Carlton, the gentleman seated behind Mr. LeBrun," she stated.
The judge looked at me. "Mr. Carlton, could you rise, please."
I did, the judge continued. "Can you tell me why you are present in my court?"
"I am a research clerk for Mr. LeBrun," I stated. "There is a large volume of material that has been collected with respect to this case that I have indexed. Mr. LeBrun asked me to be present to access the material, if required."
I hoped I had stuck close enough to the script that Bernard had worked out for me.
"Thank you, Mr. Carlton," the judge said. "You may be seated." I sat down. "Mr. LeBrun, can you confirm what has been said?"
Bernard stood. "My Lady, Mr. Carlton is employed by my practice as a research clerk. Over the last two weeks, he has been involved in processing some papers relating to the expert witness being called by the defence. In order to access the information in these papers, they have had to be extensively indexed. This was undertaken by Mr. Carlton and another of my clerks, Mr. Graham. Unfortunately, Mr. Graham is not able to assist me with these papers during this case, so I have had to draw upon the assistance of Mr. Carlton."
"May I enquire why Mr. Graham is unable to assist?" the judge asked.
"He has had to return to New Zealand, My Lady, to undertake the process for admission to the New Zealand bar," Bernard informed the judge.
"A perfectly acceptable reason. Thank you, Mr. LeBrun," the judge said. "Mr. Carlton, do you have any knowledge of why the defence may not want your presence in court?"
I stood. "My Lady, I believe Ms. Smith …"
"Carlton-Smith," the judge interrupted.
"My Lady, I do not believe the defence lead has the right to use my surname since our divorce."
"The defence lead is your ex-wife?" the judge asked.
"Yes, My Lady."
The judge turned to look at Beryl. "Is this correct, Ms. Smith?"
"Yes, My Lady."
"This does complicate matters slightly," the judge stated. She then looked back at me. "Is there any other reason why she might object to your presence in this court?"
"I do know, My Lady, that she has called my brother as a witness for the defence," I stated.
"I see," the judge commented. "I am adjourning the court for one hour; I will see lead counsel in my chambers."
"All rise," the clerk to the court announced.
The judge stood and left. Sir David and Beryl exited the courtroom by a door at the side of the bench.
Bernard turned to me. "Time for coffee, I think."
We returned to the courtroom about five minutes before the hour was up. Sir David and Beryl were already back in place. As we took our seats, Sir David turned and told me not to worry. Beryl was busy talking to her team.
Dead on the expiry of the hour, the clerk to the court called out, "All rise".
We did, and the judge entered. Once she was seated, she looked at a paper she had carried in with her.
"Ms. Smith," she started. I noticed that she had dropped the Carlton. Beryl did not seem happy. "I have noted the motion that you have made with regard to the presence in this courtroom of Mr. Carlton. Having heard the statements from the prosecution team as to his role in the proceeding and having been assured by Sir David that he has seen Mr. Carlton's contract of employment and that Mr. Carlton is legally employed by the practice of Mr. LeBrun, I do not find that Mr. Carlton is a stranger to this court and see no reason to exclude him on the grounds that this is a closed court.
"I have further noted your submission that Mr. Carlton is related to one of the defence witnesses. Although this is an unusual situation, it is by no means unique. Early in my career at the bar, I found myself defending a party in the magistrate's court; the prosecuting police officer was my brother. I can also think of several other cases where this sort of incident has arisen.
"In this case, Mr. Carlton is acting solely in a clerical capacity to the prosecution. He is taking no active part in the presentation of the case and will not be directly involved in the examination or cross-examination of the witnesses. That being the case, the motion of the defence is denied.
"I now move to the other motions that have been laid before me, including those that were added this morning. I fear that it is going to take a considerable time for us to get through these, I am therefore going to release the jury from attendance at the court until Monday, can they be so informed?"
"Yes, My Lady," the clerk to the court responded.
"It is now approaching noon," the judge observed. "I am adjourning the court till two o'clock, when we will begin to work our way through the motions submitted by the defence."
"All rise," called out the clerk to the court. We did. The judge stood and left the court.
Sir David turned to Bernard. "You lot might as well go home till Monday; it is all going to be legal arguments for the next two days."
"Back to the office then for me," Bernard stated.
He did not go back to the office. First of all, we went to a pub he knew just off the Garden for lunch. Sir David and his pupil joined us.
"How did it go in chambers?" Bernard asked Sir David.
"Just as you predicted," he replied. "She came on all hard and heavy, and the judge did not like it. I think up to that point it was borderline, due to Michael's relationship to the defence witness. However, that pushed the judge over the line, and you know the result. How come you were able to predict the judge so well, Bernard?"
"She was my tutor at law school," Bernard replied. "Beryl was in the same tutorial group, and she always argued with the tutor. What was surprising was the number of times Beryl won the argument with some obscure point of law."
"Maybe she should return to law school," Sir David suggested.
"I can't see her as a student," I commented.
"Oh, I was not thinking of her as a student," Sir David said. "I've crossed swords with her a number of times in court. She has a remarkable legal mind; unfortunately, she does not have the right attitude for the bar. She gets too committed to her cases. I think she would be a lot better off teaching law rather than practising it."
"I think you are right there," Bernard stated.
I had always heard about long legal lunches; this definitely was not one. We managed to get a pint each, and as soon as our lunches were eaten, we were up and away. Sir David and his pupil went back to the court. Bernard went to his office. I went back home, with a reminder to be back early on Monday.
* * * * *
I had enjoyed a couple of quiet days reading and writing. Hardly saw anything of our guests, other than Tyler. Ben and Phil spent most of their time over in the Stable House doing whatever post-production involved. Trevor was either helping Arthur in some way or the other or, once the kids were home from school, doing something with Tariq and JayDee in the yard until it was time for dinner. Tyler was mostly trying to sort out the figures for his business plan.
Saturday morning, I got dragged to Ikea at Lakeside by Anne.
The trip to Ikea was Anne's revenge for springing the surprise of Lee on her earlier in the week. She would enjoy seeing me squirm as she dragged me around the place, selecting furniture for the studio apartment. At the same time, she was doing some useful shopping that needed to be done, so she did not need to feel guilty about the trip.
On the way to Ikea, we had discussed the issue of whether or not the studio should be carpeted. Although my view was that we should get it done, Anne pointed out that the floors were polished wood and beautiful to look at. She also pointed out that it would be a bit difficult to get a carpet fitted while we had our guests.
I did raise the issue of the delivery men bringing the furniture; was not that going to be difficult with respect to our guests? Anne just smiled and informed me that she had got that sorted.
A couple of hours later, we were seated in the Ikea café, and I was a lot poorer. My phone rang; the call was coming from a number I did not know.
Answering it, I got a shock after I identified myself.
"This is Steve Webber, Matt's brother-in-law and reporter for your local rag. You might remember me; we met at Chelmsford Magistrates earlier in the year."
"I remember. Ian Jenkins' committal hearing," I said. "What can I do for you?"
"You can get me an interview with your brother-in-law. I understand he is staying with you."
"How…" I paused for a moment. "Look, at the moment I am in the middle of Ikea, so can't really talk. Can I call you back later?"
"Yes, could you make it before five?" he asked. "It's my youngest's birthday on Wednesday, and I am taking the family out to celebrate this evening."
"I'll be back to you before five," I responded. Then he rang off.
Anne looked at me. "Problems?"
"Yes, I need to talk with Allen and get back to the Priory; the local rag knows that Phil is at our place."
"Then we’d better get a move on," she stated. "I'll drive; you phone Allen."
That's what we did. I spoke to Allen and gave him what I knew. He told me I had handled it the right way. He would meet us at the Priory.
Phil, Ben and Allen were waiting in the kitchen when we got there. Anne got her coat off and then started bossing us around.
"Right. Get off into the sitting room or the library," she instructed. "Stay out of the lounge; I want to watch TV. I'll bring some drinks through to you as soon as I have them made."
She took our orders for tea or coffee, then shushed us out of the kitchen. We went to the library. Once there, Allen got me to recount again the details of the telephone call from Steve Webber. I recounted them.
"How the hell did he find out?" Phil said. "I thought we had covered our tracks."
"We did," Ben stated. "Though clearly not well enough."
"The thing is, he knows you are here and he wants an interview. The question is, how do we handle it?" Allen pointed out. "The first thing we need to establish is just what he wants."
I looked at the clock; it had turned four. "I did say I would phone him back before five," I stated.
"Then you’d better," Allen said. "Put it on speaker. And you two stay quiet. Mike, you call Webber but introduce me. I'll do the talking."
"OK," I replied. Then I put my phone on speaker and dialled Steve Webber's number.
"Thanks for getting back to me, Mike," he stated when he answered.
"I said I would, Steve," I told him. "Look I have you on speakerphone, and Allen Davidson is with me. He is—"
"Head of security at Manston and Matthew Lewis' personal fixer," Steve said.
"Right you are, lad," Allen stated. "As a matter of interest, how did you find out that Matthew Lewis was here?"
"To be honest, I did not know for sure until you just confirmed it," Steve informed us. Allen went red at that. "However, I was reasonably certain. Matt is my brother-in-law and usually joins us for Friday dinner. It used to be to babysit the kids and give his sister and me a night out when the kids were younger. Now it is just for a free meal.
"When he came yesterday, my youngest was putting some photos in her scrapbook. She's a massive fan of Tyler Lawrence. Matt saw the photo and asked who he was. When Lucy told him, Matt mentioned that he had met him and was doing some work for Tyler, and would Lucy like him to try and get Tyler's autograph? I knew that most of the work that Matt was doing these days was at the Priory.
"The thing that puzzled me was that I also knew that Tyler was supposed to be up Manston, and I could not see how Matt had met him unless he was at the Priory. Then this morning I was at the Beaumont Hotel to follow up on a story about the change of owners. Who should I see in the breakfast room but yourself, Mr. Davidson? You won't remember me; I was a cub reporter on the Evening News. You were Detective Constable back then — the Croydon Bus Murder. I interviewed you a couple of times.
"Once I saw you, everything fell into place. Mr. Carlton is Matthew Lewis' brother-in-law. I know from Matt that both he and Ben Carlton are frequent visitors to the Priory, and Trevor Spade has an apartment there. What more logical place is there for them to be hiding out if they did not want the press hot on their heels."
"You've got a good memory for faces," Allen said. "That case was thirty-odd years ago."
"It's not that good," Steve replied. "You gave me my first scoop, which resulted in a promotion. As a result, I kept an eye on your career. Did a couple more stories on you whilst you were at the yard."
"I see," Allen said. "What is it that you are looking for?"
"An in-depth interview with Matthew Lewis and Ben Carlton," Steve stated.
"At the moment that may be a bit difficult; there is a criminal trial going on, and any publicity around them could have an impact on the trial."
"Look, I'm not interested in the sensational story about Matthew and his conviction. I want something more in-depth, especially how that pair got together. I am quite happy to wait a bit as long as the interview is before the end of the year."
"Why before then?" Allen asked. I noticed that Phil was writing something on a piece of paper.
"To be honest I am probably going to be made redundant at the year end," Steve stated. "I need something to tout around to launch my freelance career. I'm too young to draw my pension but too old to get a new staff post with anyone."
Phil handed the paper to Allen, who read it.
"If I arrange an interview, would you be prepared to accept an embargo on it until the case in question is finished?"
"Yes, provided I can start touting the result around in January," Steve replied. Allen turned to look at Phil and Ben. They both nodded to him.
"OK, then, Steve: tomorrow afternoon, three o'clock. I will phone you with the location in the morning. Just you, no photographer; we will supply any photos required."
"Right," Steve replied. "I'll see you tomorrow afternoon." With that, he rang off.
"Do you think we can trust him on the embargo?" Phil asked.
"Don't have much choice, really, though I think you can," Allen replied. "Didn't remember the name, but when he said the Croydon Bus Murder, I remembered the person. He was with the Evening News then. Moved a couple of times to different papers while I was with the Met. I gave him background information a couple of times with regard to stories we wanted to be printed but where we did not want the background stuff made public. He was always careful to make sure he never gave anything away that he shouldn't. Tipped me off a couple of times, as well, about things that were going on in his patch that he thought the Met should know about.
"I'll say he will respect the embargo, especially if we can sugar-coat it."
"How?" Ben asked.
"Get Trevor and Tyler to talk to him about That Women's Son, but with an embargo on that until the day before the premiere," Allen suggested.
"And put him on the list for the critics viewing," Ben added.
Phil was quiet for a moment, sighed deeply, then pronounced. "We’d better brief Trevor and Tyler then, but they are only to talk about the film, no personal stuff." We all agreed to that. "Also, I want this embargo legally enforceable. Get Bernard on to it today. I want a cast-iron contract for the chap to sign when he comes tomorrow."
"You are hoping he will agree to sign it," I mentioned.
"No signature, no interview," Phil stated. "Allen, you’d better work out arrangements to get us out of here if things don't work out."
"Already onto it," Allen responded. "I've got two locations lined up."
With that, Phil went over to the Stable House, where Trevor and Tyler were entertaining Tariq and JayDee. Marcia had gone shopping with Jasmin and had asked the two young men to keep an eye on the boys. Ben phoned Bernard and informed him of what was going on. When he had finished, he put the phone down.
"Mike, Bernard said he will be here at eleven with a contract. Also said to tell you that he expects both lunch and dinner. He's bringing Joseph and Johnny back with him but is not going to deprive them of time together, so he won't leave until the time you would normally take Johnny to the station."
"At least, that is being fair to the boys," I commented. Ben laughed.
When Phil got back got down to discussing where to hold the interviews. Phil was all for holding them somewhere else so as not to compromise the security of the Priory as a retreat for them. Allen pointed out that it was a bit late for that as Steve already knew they were there. He said that he would get Bernard to put a clause in the contract that no mention would be made of the location. He would make sure that none of the photos supplied would identify the location.
"That might be a mistake," I suggested. "Providing photos that are clearly taken at Manston might mislead other media outlets when the story is published or if there is a leak before publication."
"You've got a point there," Allen conceded.
At that point, Anne came through to advise us that dinner was ready. Allen said he would see us in the morning.
"You're staying for dinner," Anne informed him. "I'll not have my cooking wasted." Allen stayed for dinner.
After dinner, Phil phoned across to the Stable House and asked Trevor if he could join us. When he came over, I told them that they should go and use the sitting room. I had the job of cleaning up the kitchen, and Anne had a book to read in the lounge. Anne smiled, then told me that she would have a coffee when I got around to making them.
I was just finishing off clearing up the breakfast things when Allen arrived Sunday morning. Pouring him a coffee, I asked if he had spoken to Steve Webber yet? It was getting on for eleven.
"Not yet," Allen replied. "I just wanted to know which room you think we should use. Also, should I direct him to the front door or to come into the yard?"
"Use the drawing-room," I told him. He looked at me, surprised. "I've got a recording system in there, so you can record the interviews."
"Good idea," Allen replied. "Front door or back?"
"Tell him to use the yard. That way he'll come in via the kitchen. Can give him a tea or coffee then when he arrives," I stated.
That agreed, Allen phoned Steve Webber and set things up for three in the afternoon. He was still on the phone to Steve, sorting out arrangements when Bernard arrived sans boys.
"Where are the boys?" I asked.
"Dropped them off by the Marina," Bernard replied. "Meeting some girl called Simone; apparently her boat is due to dock this morning."
I looked at Allen, wondering what was going on. If Simone was on a boat, it had to be the Tante Edith. If it was coming into Dunford, I expected Miss Jenkins to be around. I looked at Allen, who was still on the phone, then turned back to Bernard.
"When was this arranged?" I asked.
"Sometime yesterday, I think," Bernard replied. "Johnny said he got a text last night saying they would be arriving this morning."
I made Bernard a coffee and passed him a couple of Danish pastries that had not been consumed at breakfast. He took a seat at the table.
"How did things go at court?" I asked.
"Slowly," Bernard replied. "It was almost as if Beryl was delaying things as much as she could."
"She probably was," Allen stated. He had finished his call. "Have you seen today's News of the World?"
"No," we both stated. Allen pointed to a pile of newspapers he had brought in with him and dumped on the table. Bernard looked through them and pulled out the News of the World. 'STAR PAYS VICTIM TO LIE', was the front-page headline.
"Do we have to read the drivel, or can you give us a summary?" Bernard asked.
"I have no doubt you will have to read it with a fine-toothed comb later," Allen replied. "However, for now, a summary will do. Somehow, they have got access to Leni's bank account, at least his latest bank statement. Phil paid ten grand into Leni's account on the Friday that the Sun article appeared. They are claiming that Leni was being paid to lie about what happened."
"Why on earth did he pay ten grand into Leni's account?" Bernard asked.
"It's a standing arrangement," Allen replied. "Ten thousand is paid into Leni's account on the third Friday of each month. It covers Leni for paying all household expenses for the London property and other costs."
"Haven't they heard of a housekeeping account?" Bernard replied. "This just complicates matters."
"It was set up this way years ago before Phil was as big as he is today," Allen replied. "They had thought about a housekeeping account a couple of times, but why change something that is working. Leni keeps very accurate records and accounts for every penny spent. At the end of most years, they find that he is owed money."
Bernard was looking at the image of Leni's bank statement that accompanied the article, showing the payment of ten thousand pounds from Phil's company. He studied it for a couple of minutes then looked at Allen. "There are no wages paid into the account."
"Of course not," Allen replied. "Leni keeps that account just for business expenses. His wages go into his private account."
Bernard laughed. "We've got them. They did not check their facts."
I told both of them to go through to the sitting room, where I knew Phil and Ben were. I still needed to get the kitchen tidied up before Anne got back from her shopping trip and wanted to start cooking dinner, though I would have to sort some lunch out for them first.
I had just finished tidying the kitchen when Anne phoned. Jenny had called her; there were problems at the bungalow. Anne was going over there as soon as she had finished her shopping to see if she could sort things out.
"If you can't, bring Jenny back here," I told her. "The ground-floor bedroom is still vacant."
Just after one, I laid out some quiche and a grain salad for lunch, then told them that it was on the kitchen table and they should help themselves. Bernard asked if he could use my printer to print some stuff off. I told him fine. It was networked; he could connect to it over the network, and I knew Bernard had access to the network, as I had set it up for him a couple of months ago.
Once they had finished lunch, Allen asked me to show him the recording equipment in the drawing-room. The system was quite simple. There was a Tascam digital recorder on the shelf unit in the alcove by the fireplace. By its side was a Philips boundary microphone. I took Allen through the setup procedure for them, pointing out the best position for the microphone on the small table that sat in the centre of the room.
"How come you've got this setup here?" he asked.
"Well, this is the quietest room in the house," I pointed out. "I had hoped to be able to record some of the stuff I do for the Beeb at home rather than go into town to record it. It didn't work out. They say there is too much background noise. Going to talk with Matt about getting a recording booth put in the offices I am going to be using."
"If you want to cut out the background noise, you've got the wrong type of mic," Allen informed me. "Boundary mics are designed to pick up every sound around; that is why they are used to record meetings. For what you want, you need a highly directional mic. A good vocal mic would be best. I'll ask one of the sound lads what you should get."
"If you could, that would be useful," I replied. "It is a bit of a hassle having to make a three- to four-hour round trip to get into Broadcasting house, only to do five minutes of recording."
"I guess they are not paying travel time," Allen said.
"No, though they do cover expenses."
I got back to the kitchen to find Anne holding the back door open so that Jenny could wheel herself in.
"Problems?" I asked.
"Central-heating boiler has packed up," Anne informed me. "They say they can't get out to it till Wednesday."
"Apparently I am not classed as a vulnerable adult," Jenny informed me. "They will be cancelling my blue badge shortly."
"I would not think that is very likely," I stated.
"I don't know," Jenny replied. "Mihengel, from the group I go to, got his pulled back in August. Somebody saw him walking across the carpark by the marketplace. Yes, he can walk more than fifty metres — with crutches!"
"What's he doing about it?" I asked.
"Oh, he's appealing, but that takes time," Jenny replied. "They pull your blue badge; then it takes months for you to get it back."
I told Jenny she was in the usual room and then went and gave Anne a hand unloading the car. As I did so, I explained what the arrangements were for this afternoon's interview.
"I'll find something to keep me busy and out of the way for a bit," she informed me. "You can deal with supplying refreshments. Dinner won't take long to cook, so I can leave starting that till five."
We had just finished putting the shopping away when a car I did not know pulled into the yard. I guessed it was Steve Webber's, and I was right. A few moments after the car had come to a stop, he got out and looked around before coming over to the back door. I was there before him and opened it just as he was reaching for the bell.
Anne must have told Bernard and Allen that he had arrived, as just then, they came into the kitchen. I introduced them.
"Right, Steve, there are a couple of formalities we must go over before the interview starts," Allen said. Before things got any further, I made my excuses, said I would bring tea and coffee through to them when required, then made my way to my study.
About ten minutes later, Bernard put his head around the door and let me know that everything was going as planned. He said once he had got everything signed, he would be back to talk to me about the Mayers case. Signing whatever had to be signed took about fifteen minutes; then Bernard came back.
"So, tell, what happened in court?" I asked.
"Well, Wednesday afternoon, she objected to the evidence found in the search being allowed in the case," Bernard informed me. "Claimed that there was an irregularity in the search warrant."
"Was there?" I enquired.
"Not so far as I could see, and I have seen a few, so I know what to look for," Bernard stated. "Beryl claimed that the warrant was issued on the whole of the premises, not a specific flat. As a result, she claimed it was not clear which flat in the property could be searched. Although she took nearly two hours to make that claim clear."
"How did that go down?"
"Not very well, Mike. The judge ruled that the warrant as instigated covered any flat at the identified property, so the search of the flat was lawful."
"Thursday was a total washout," Bernard informed me. "She insisted on challenging the admissibility of each item of evidence on the disclosure list. I must admit she had some very creative challenges. The judge dismissed them all."
"Surely she must have known that," I stated. "What is she playing at?"
"Having seen the News of the World article, I think one thing was to get that out before the jury are warned about the press and reading papers. I also think that she is trying to set up grounds for a possible appeal. The evidence against Mayers is fairly overwhelming. Nobody on the prosecution side can understand why he has gone not guilty. With what's on the charge sheet at the moment, he is looking at life with a very long tariff. If he had indicated he would go guilty, the prosecution would have probably accepted a plea to only some of the charges, leaving the others on file. In that case, he would probably end up looking at a fixed term of twenty to twenty-five years. He could have been out in ten — worst case, sixteen and a bit — years.
"It does not make sense, but I get the feeling she is trying lay grounds for an appeal and a re-trial."
"Surely the outcome would be the same," I said.
"Yes, if the witnesses gave their testimony," Bernard responded.
"Why shouldn't they?" I asked.
"Look, Mike, it's hard enough for them to go into court once and give their evidence. Do you know how many child-abuse victims attempt suicide after giving evidence in court?" I shook my head. "Once they have done it, they don't want to do it again."
"I can understand that," I said. "What can be done to avoid it?"
"I think the judge is onto her. One reason everything is taking so long is that after each motion has been submitted, she has insisted on adjourning the hearing. At the same time, she retires to chambers to consider the submission. Then she gives her decision and has a written copy of it ready to hand out. Mrs. Justice Godwin is not leaving anything to chance and the whim of the Court of Appeal."
"What happens next?" I asked.
"The prosecution starts on Monday," Bernard informed me. "No need for you to be there until the defence starts, though nothing stopping you if you want to attend."
"I will," I stated.
Bernard's phone rang. He looked at the screen.
"It's Joseph; I’d better take it."