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Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 12

"What the fuck! How did you do that?" I asked as Simone released her grip on my arm, removing the source of pain.

"It's a technique called Nikkyo, which just means second technique. It is one of the basic techniques in Aikido. I'll let Lee demonstrate it on me so you can see how it is done."

Lee showed me how to do it a couple of times, then suggested I try doing it. He showed me how to stand in front of Simone and offer my wrist to be grabbed. Simone did. I responded, repeating the moves that Lee had shown me, putting all my strength into it. Nothing happened.

Simone laughed. "You are using force. That does not work."

I looked at her puzzled.

"Take my wrist," she instructed. I did. "I am going to use force." She did. The moment she started, I felt the difference. For a start, although my arm was uncomfortable, the agony I had experienced before was not present.

"I'll do it again, this time without force." She did, and I felt the difference; in a moment I was in agony and kneeling on the mat.

"I've got to learn this," I stated as I got up.

"Get yourself a gi and a red belt and we'll teach you," Lee stated.

"What's a gi?"

"One of these," Lee replied, indicating his white jacket. "You are better off with a heavy karate gi rather than a judo gi."

"What about those?" I asked, indicating the black, skirt-like items they were wearing.

"No, those are only worn by practitioners who are qualified to teach," Lee informed me. "Anyway, we must get through this kata. Simone needs it for her black belt."

I sat at the edge of the mat for the next half hour watching Lee attacking Simone with the knife and being variously thrown, hit or kicked in such a way as to disarm him. Occasionally, Lee would make Simone go through a technique three or four times due to some error she was making, though I could see no difference between the first time she did it and the time that Lee found acceptable.

When they had finished, Lee said he would teach me a basic move. It took me a few goes before I could get into doing the move without using force, but when I did, I found I could put Simone down on the mat quite easily. More importantly, it worked on Lee, who was a lot taller than I was, weighed about twice what I weighed, and was built like a brick shithouse. He still went down, provided I relied on technique and not force.

Simone said she would be coming over to practice with Lee on Mondays, Wednesdays and the occasional Friday for the next few weeks up to Easter as she was training for her grading, and it was easier to come over here than going over to Uxbridge.

"Won't I get in the way of your training?" I asked Simone. She laughed.

"No, Johnny, you won't. Lee would not allow that. However, teaching you is part of my training and will improve my understanding of techniques. Explaining how something is done is important; it gives you an insight into what you are doing."

As we were leaving the mat, I invited Lee and Simone into the house for a drink. Lee said thanks but informed me they were going down to the Crooked Man for a pint. The was no use in me going; Mary knew I was underage, and I would not be eating a meal, so no alcohol for me. Anyway, I did have some homework to do. I thought Simone would have some as well. She informed me she had finished it over lunch, knowing she would be busy this evening.

Once I got back to the house, I made myself a mug of chocolate, then went up to my room. First, I got online and ordered a gi and a red belt. Then I got down to doing my homework.

When I got to my classroom Tuesday morning, there was a note on the door saying that the class had been cancelled due to administrative reasons. As I was reading it, Simone came up.

"Fancy a coffee over the road?" she asked, after she read the notice.

"Yes, could do with one. Only had time for one cup before I came in," I replied.

We got over to Marge's. The place was empty, not surprisingly as classes were in full belt till ten thirty. Over our coffee I asked her about the black-belt grading she was going for.

"Should have gone for it a couple of years ago," she informed me. "Only problem was I was never in the country when your uncle was available to do a grading."

"What's special about my uncle?"

"Johnny, your uncle is one of only three senior dan grades in the tradition and the only one in this country now practicing with the exception of the founder. All dan gradings are done with him on the grading panel."

Simone then went on to tell me about what was required for the black-belt grading. I was surprised to find that not only were there the practical combat tests to past, but there was also a written examination and a possible oral one as well. This surprised me.

"Johnny, you've got to realise that getting a black belt is something special. From the technical fighting perspective, there is little or no difference between a black belt and a brown belt. In fact, I know a few brown belts who are a lot better than some black belts. The big difference is that at black belt, you can teach unsupervised. You can get a teacher's diploma at blue belt, but that only allows you to teach under the supervision of a black belt who holds a teaching certificate. If you want to run your own club, you must be a black belt and get a teaching certificate. So, you need to prove that you not only know the fighting techniques but also the history, terminology, and even the first-aid traditions and methods."

"It sounds complicated," I stated.

"It's not, Johnny. Most of it is just common sense, though the history can be a bit of a bore sometimes."

"Why do you have to know the history?"

"To show the line of your teachers going back to one of the masters. Actually, in my tradition, we can show the line going back to three of the traditional masters."

We then spent another twenty-odd minutes chatting and were just about to order another round of coffee when Mr. Taunton came in, looking rather shaken. Simone called him over, invited him to join us and asked if he was alright.

"Sorry, it's a bad day," he stated. "Not sure I should be talking to students."

"Why?" Simone asked.

"I've been suspended."

"On what grounds?" I asked.

Before he could answer, Simone said we should sort out some drinks. I decided I had had enough coffee, so asked Marge for a hot chocolate. Simone said she would go for the same.

"What about you, Len?" Marge asked looking at Mr. Taunton for the first time. "What's happened? You look as if you're about to cry."

"I probably am. One of my female students has accused me of sexually assaulting her."

"Right, you need something stronger than I can serve you, so I'm treating you. I'll treat the three of you; three chocolates coming up, one with a stiff nip in it with my compliments."

Marge walked away muttering that she had never heard of anything so stupid in her life. A point which Simone picked up on.

"Why is it stupid?" she asked.

"I'm gay. My partner is Marge's cousin." Simone laughed.

It had never occurred to me that Mr. Taunton was gay; he wore a wedding ring. He had been on his honeymoon at the start of the year. Though why not, if he was in a civil partnership?

Marge returned with three mugs of chocolate. I could smell the whisky in Mr. Taunton's from the other side of the table.

"What happened?" Simone asked.

"Nancy Carver, one of my practical-maths students, has informed the principal that I assaulted her in my office on Friday afternoon a week last Friday. The principal has suspended me and told me he is reporting it to the police as he is required to. The thing is, her mother is Dame Nancy, a big shot in the local Conservative party. Her father owns Leeman Engineering."

"What time Friday?" I asked.

"He didn't say, but it would have to have been after two thirty as I was teaching till then."

"That's impossible!" I exclaimed.

"Why?" both Simone and Marge, who had seated herself next to Mr. Taunton, asked.

"Because I saw Mr. Taunton just before five on that Friday coming out of Wood Green tube station in London. There is no way he could have got from here to there in less than two-and-a-half hours on public transport." I knew Mr. Taunton did not drive; he had very poor eyesight.

"I wish we could prove that," Mr. Taunton said.

"We can," I replied. "Dad's got a GPS dashcam fitted in the car. If I saw you, the camera would have seen you as well. We were stopped just before the station, and you walked past the car."

"Get your Dad to save the recording," Simone ordered.

I phoned Dad, gave him a quick explanation of the situation and asked him to make a backup of the footage from Friday. He did better than that. A few minutes later, he loaded it up to an internet shared location and sent me a text to let me know where it was. Simone had her laptop with her, so we went online and downloaded it. She then emailed a copy to Mr. Taunton.

When we watched the video, it had both a time and date stamp and a GPS location reference on it. I found the section of the video as we were leaving Bob's office. Shortly after we had left, we stopped at some lights just before Wood Green tube station. Mr. Taunton was clearly visible coming out of the tube station and walking down past the car.

"What do I do now?" Mr. Taunton asked.

"Get a good solicitor," Marge instructed.

"Do you know one?" Mr. Taunton inquired.

"No, the only solicitor I know around here is the one who handled the purchase of this place for me, and he messed that up."

"I know one, and I know he's around today," I stated.

I phoned Dad back. I knew he was seeing Martin today because he had to sign the papers for the trust. Dad confirmed that he was due to see Martin at two. I told him we needed a good solicitor for Mr. Taunton. Dad told me to phone Martin; he thought he was working from home this morning.

I did phone, and Dad was right; Martin was working from home. When I explained the situation, he asked to speak to Mr. Taunton. I handed my phone over to Mr. Taunton, who spent ten minutes answering Martin's questions.

"I'm sorry I don't drive; my eyesight is too bad," Mr. Taunton said to Martin.

"What's the problem?" Simone asked.

Mr. Taunton asked Martin to hold a minute. "Mr. Clay wants to see me this morning, but there is no way I can get there."

"We've got an hour before our next class. We'll take you," Simone stated. I noticed she included me.

I went to pay for our drinks, but Marge told me to forget it, just get Len to the solicitor. Simone had gone to get her car.

It took us just over twenty minutes to get Mr. Taunton to Martin's. On the way there, he told us more about what had happened. The girl was on a vocational course that was marked by teacher assessment. To pass the course, students had to score fifty percent overall for each subject. At the moment, Nancy was failing maths. Friday morning, she had approached Mr. Taunton and offered sex for a higher mark that would give her an overall pass mark. Mr. Taunton had refused.

We dropped Mr. Taunton off outside Martin's house about twenty minutes after we left Marge's. Simone offered to wait for him, but he assured us that he could get a bus into Dunford and from there, one to Southminster, where he lived. It turned out he and his partner lived apart during the week due to their jobs but were together at weekends, alternating between Southminster and London.

With Simone's driving, we got back to the college in plenty of time for our next class. At least, it would have been plenty of time if Simone had been able to find a parking space in the car park. As it was, by the time we had parked we only just made it to our physics class.

That evening when I got home, Martin was waiting to interview me. Apparently, he had delayed his meeting with Dad so he could do that and see me after. I told him what I had seen on Friday, and he typed it up as a statement and asked me to sign it. Once I had done that, I asked him what was going to happen. He told me he could not really say, other than the young lady in question was going to be in for a very nasty shock.

Wednesday's maths class was abysmal; we had the same substitute teacher as we had before. I told Simone that we better get my Dad to teach us until we got Mr. Taunton back. Simone thought that it might be a good idea.

At lunch time, Simone and I went over to Marge's. As we entered, Marge signalled to us to go over to her at the counter.

"Len asked me to send his thanks to you dears. He hopes everything will be sorted by the end of the week."

That evening, I had my first training session with Lee and Simone, which I found very interesting. It was so different from savate, though in many ways it was the same. So much depended on position and timing. Lee complimented me on my zanshin.

"What's that?"

"It is one's awareness of surroundings at all times. It's the basis for mugi."

"And what is mugi when it's at home?"

"One's sense of place in combat," Lee informed me.

I may have enjoyed the hour I spent on the mat training with Simone and Lee, but I regretted it in the morning. I was aching in places that I did not know could ache. Simone did not give me much sympathy when I got into college. Though Antonio did when I saw him at lunch. He also expressed interest in joining us for lessons. Simone had to point out to him that the dojo was a private dojo, not a club, so only open to people who worked on the estate.

"I'll be working there in two weeks," Antonio informed her. A fact that I had to confirm.

As we walked over to the college for our physics class, sans Antonio, Simone informed me that she did not like Antonio.


"Don't know, but there is something just not right about him."

We were just going into our maths class on Friday morning when there was a bit of a commotion further down the corridor. Two policewomen dragged an over-made-up young woman out of the refectory.

"You can't do this. Do you know who my father is?" she screamed as they half carried and half pulled her down the corridor.

"Christ, somebody must have complained about her," a youngish lad in the corridor stated.

"Who is she?" Simone asked.

"The college nymphomaniac, Nancy Carver," the boy replied.

"Good," stated Simone.

Both of us had a break from ten-thirty to one, so we went over to Marge's. As we entered, Marge called us over.

"Len wants to meet you two somewhere out of college. Any chance you could see him Saturday or Sunday?"

"I'm in London Saturday," Simone stated.

"So am I," I added.

Marge looked at us. "Are you two a couple? I could have sworn I heard you were gay," she stated, looking at me.

"I am. We're just friends."

Simone looked at me and asked when I was coming back from London, I told her Sunday morning.

"How about I give you a lift back? I'm at a party Saturday night at Neal's. Should be leaving London about ten-thirty to eleven Sunday morning. We could meet Mr. Taunton on the way back."

"That works for me," I told Simone. "I'm staying in Hampstead."

"What time will you get back?" Marge asked.

"I would think sometime about twelve," Simone replied.

"Look, I'm closed on Sunday, but I always come in for a few hours to sort the books out and check everything. How about I bring Len in and you meet him here?"

We agreed that worked for us.

I was planning on getting the bus into Southminster after classes on Friday. This would be the last time I went up on a Friday before we started the new arrangement, but in the end did not need the bus. Simone offered me a lift into Town. I got to Joseph's before Joseph. That meant I got caught by Aunt Debora, who was home from the States and wanted to know all the gossip.

She had just about pumped me dry when Joseph did get home from school. He informed me he had some news.


"Got a text from Neal. He's inviting us to a party tomorrow night."

"Are we going?"

"Of course."

That meant that we had to find the right outfits for the party. I had brought nothing with me for going to a party, Joseph insisted he did not have anything that was suitable.

"Just like his mother," Uncle Bernard moaned as he emptied his wallet of cash for Joseph to use. "She always needs new stuff for every event we go to."

"Of course, I do," Aunt Debora called through from the next room. "Must check who's throwing a dinner party next week and get an invitation."

We left Uncle Bernard looking at his wallet with dread and went off to Camden Market, which is always busy on a Saturday morning. A couple of hours later we returned to Uncle Bernard's a couple of hundred quid lighter and overladen with multiple bags. Fortunately, we got a taxi back. Would never have managed on the tube.

Once we got back, Aunt Debora insisted on looking at what we had bought. To be more exact, at what I had bought. All I had got was a shirt and a new pair of jeans. The two of them sat in the living room with the stuff spread out around them, discussing what went with what.

"Let's leave them, Johnny," Uncle Bernard suggested. "I fancy a bacon butty."

"Aunt Debora allows you to have bacon in the house?"

"No, but there is a nice little café just around the corner."

It was a good hour later when Uncle Bernard and I got back. Aunt Debora and Joseph were still discussing what he should be wearing that evening. Eventually, they came to a decision. Then Aunt Debora started on Uncle Bernard for not sorting out any lunch.

"But I did," Uncle Bernard protested. "I took Johnny to the café!"

"What about us?"

"Well, you were enjoying yourself so much I did not want to interrupt you."

A well-aimed cushion was propelled from the settee towards Uncle Bernard's head. Aunt Debora then got up and made lunch for Joseph and herself.

I had a bit of a problem persuading Joseph that we needed to get ready early and go out well before the party. Neal had told Joseph to be at his place between nine and ten. What Joseph did not know was that I had booked a table for us for dinner. After all, it was Valentine's Day.

It was a small restaurant just off Kensington High Street, one I had never been to, though I remember Clive, one of my mother's lovers, had said it was good. That had been a few years ago, though. What I did know is that I had been unable to get a table for the second sitting, so had to take one for seven. That, in itself, was a good sign.

Uncle Bernard insisted that we take taxis everywhere tonight.

"Dressed up like you two are, you are prime targets for any muggers around," he commented when we came down from Joseph's room ready to go out. "Now don't stay out too late, not that we'll know. I'm taking your mother out to dinner at a country pub and then on to the Kent house."

I had no problem with the requirement since Uncle Bernard slipped me a few twenties to pay for the taxis.

The restaurant was nice. I could see why Clive had recommended it. The place was just what you wanted for a quiet intimate meal. Service was good without being overbearing. Although the food was not the best I have had, it was well up in quality on what you got at a lot of places, places that charged a lot more and provided a lot less. The only real complaint I had about the place was the quantity of food. Both Joseph and I are growing teenagers; there was no way what they served would fill us.

The one downside of the meal was that we were not able to get any wine with it, there being no adult present to order it for us. I had made a mistake there. I should have got Dad to book the table and reserve a bottle of wine for us when he booked. That would have solved the problem as an adult would have ordered it.

Whilst we were waiting for our desserts to be served, I gave Joseph the present I had got for him. It was a gold chain with a double J pendant hanging off it. I had seen it in a pawn-shop window when we went to look at the Golders Green flat a couple of weeks ago and had bought it as we walked back from the viewing. More correctly, Dad had got it for me as it was over the limit on my card; I had then transferred the money to Dad when we had got home.

By eight-thirty, the serving staff were making it clear that they would like us to leave, no doubt so they could get set for the second service of the evening. Anyway, by that time both Joseph and I were feeling peckish, so we ignored Uncle Bernard's instructions and decided to walk to Neal's. It was just over a mile to walk and did not take us long. At least, it would not have taken us long if we had not stopped at a fast-food place to grab a couple of bags of chips hot from the fryer. We sat on a wall and ate them. As a result, it was well past nine when we got to Neal's.

Either Joseph had forgotten and failed to pass the information on or Neal had not told him, but the party was fancy dress. Not too bad for Joseph, as dressed the way he was, he could claim he had come as Quinten Crisp. Somewhat more difficult for me.

A girl dressed in a Cleopatra costume turned to me as we entered.

"Didn't you know it was fancy dress?" she asked.

"Julia darling, for him that is fancy dress," Neal said, coming up behind her, dressed in what looked like something from the set of Gladiator. "You should see what he normally wears."

Neal guided us through the crowd that was filling the hallway and kitchen to the main room. The room had been cleared of furniture except for some chairs around the walls and the carpet rolled back to create a dance floor. Somehow, I was not surprised to see Lee there dancing with Simone. Neal handed us a couple of glasses of wine.

"Don't touch the punch," he advised.

"Why not?" Joseph asked.

"We've medical students here, and they have access to pure alcohol; they like to add it to punches at parties."

"That's good advice," a voice said behind me. I turned to see Maddie standing there, dressed like a vestal virgin. "Also avoid the beer."


"Because my boyfriend has crap taste in beer. I have yet to educate him."

Neal looked offended. "I've got some Grolsch from Amsterdam and some Pilsner Urquell in the second fridge," he commented.

"Why isn't it here?" I asked.

"With this lot, they're mostly students who would not appreciate it."

"Neal, you're a student," Maddie reminded him.

"Yes, but I've got taste," he replied.

"For pie and mash," Maddie riposted. Neal laughed, grabbed Maddie's hand and pulled her onto the dance floor. I put down my drink, told Joseph to do the same and pulled him onto the dance floor. I danced a few dances with Joseph. Also danced a couple with Simone. I even got a bit of a dance with Neal. The small band that Neal had playing had just started to play Jealousy. Maddie tapped me on the shoulder and suggested changing partners.

"Neal can't tango, and by the look of it, neither can you." She then grabbed Joseph and the two of them danced off. It was clear both Joseph and Maddie knew how to tango. Neal tried a couple of steps with me, but we decided to give up and get something to drink.

We were standing at the drinks table when somebody called my name. I looked across the other side of the room and saw someone I knew I should know but could not place. He was tall, getting on for six-foot, if not over, and had long blond hair tied back in a ponytail, rather like I kept my hair. He waved to me and indicated he was going into the next room. I went through the other door to the room.

"Johnny, ain't seen you for three years. How you're doing?" he asked, crossing the room. The moment he spoke I recognised him. Tony Richards. We had been…well, I am not sure what we had been, but we had been something at my first public school, though he had been a bit of a squirt back then. It is clear that puberty and a growth spurt must have hit him hard after I was sacked. Back then, as a couple of twelve-year-olds, I had been a lot bigger than he was. Now, he towered over me.

"Tony, what are you doing here?"

"Neal's my cousin, ain't he? Didn't know this was on till I got back into Town. My sister had an invite, so I tagged along. So, w'at you're doing now? Heard you got sacked from that place they sent you to."

"Yes. I'm doing A-levels at our local FE college."

"You said you'd never do A-levels," Tony pointed out. "Didn't want to fit in with your mother's plans."

"Not her plans now, they're mine. Living with my father."

For the next few minutes, I chatted with Tony. We swapped telephone numbers, and I promised to contact him next time I was in Town. I was just about to leave to find Joseph when Tony pulled me in for a kiss. When I came out of it, I saw Joseph looking at me. He turned and disappeared back through the door to the dance floor. I followed.

There was no sign of Joseph in there. I looked around, then spotted Lee, so asked if he had seen Joseph.

"Just passed him in the hall, he was putting his coat on."

I ran out into the hall. There was no sign of Joseph. As I opened the door to the landing, I heard the downstairs front door slam. Dashing down the stairs I almost fell. Just managed to keep my balance. Once in the street I looked both ways, but there was no sign of Joseph. Running, I got to the corner with Gloucester Road just in time to see Joseph getting into a taxi by the station. He looked back at me briefly as I ran up the Road towards the station, closed the door of the taxi, which drove off. I looked around for another.

Suddenly Lee appeared, apparently out of nowhere.

"Where's Joseph?"

"He jumped in a taxi before I could get to him."

"What happened?"

I told Lee. He looked at me. "Come on, let's get you back to Neal's."

"I need to get a taxi; he'll have gone home."

"Johnny, you need to get your coat, it's freezing out here. Simone's got her car; we'll take you to Joseph's."

"You will?"

Lee nodded, put his arm around me and started to guide me back to Neal's. Suddenly, I was cold.

It took Simone a few minutes to get her car and then pick us up. Twenty minutes later I was standing outside Uncle Bernard's ringing the doorbell. The house was in darkness, and there was no answer when I rang the bell. I rang it again, then again. There was no answer.

"I don't think he's here." I looked around and saw Lee standing at the foot of the steps. "Come on, Johnny, get back in the car. We'll take you back to Neal's. I've just spoken to him, and he said he would put you up for the night."

Lee guided me back to the car. As I got in, Simone asked if I had tried phoning Joseph. I said no, and she told me to do so, so I did. It went straight to voicemail. Then it occurred to me to try Uncle Bernard's.

When I got through to him, he told me that Joseph had phoned and was on his way down to Kent. Uncle Bernard was in his car, going to pick him up from the station.

"What's happened?" Uncle Bernard asked. I told him.

"Stupid boy!" Uncle Bernard exclaimed.

"I know, I'm sorry," I said.

"Not you, Johnny, that idiot son of mine. Why did he not find out what was going on before going off?"

We chatted a bit more. I told Uncle Bernard that some friends were putting me up for the night and I would be going home in the morning. I was, though, worried about getting my backpack as my laptop was in it. Uncle Bernard assured me that he would sort something out about that, and he would phone me in the morning. With that assurance I finished the call, which was a good job, we were just arriving at Neal's.

As I got out of the car, I saw something glistening on the steps leading up to the front door. Bending down, I picked it up. It was the double J pendant that I had given Joseph earlier; the chain was broken. He must have ripped it off his neck. I just sat down on the steps and started to cry.

"You get him. I'll deal with the doors," I heard Simone say. Without warning, I found myself being picked up and carried.

"We'll use the back stairs," Simone stated as Lee carried me in through the doors. Once inside, Lee put me down on my feet but kept an arm around me to support me. He guided me down the corridor. Simone unlocked a door at the back of the corridor. Lee guided me up the stairs to the third-floor landing. I could hear the party going on from the floor below. Unlocking the door off the landing, Simone led us through to an internal landing off another set of stairs. I must have looked surprised.

"Neal's apartment covers two floors," Simone supplied by way of explanation. "This is the private area of the apartment. Neal said to dump you in the second guest room; I'm using the first."

"Where's Lee sleeping?" I asked.

"The couch." Simone responded. Lee looked disappointed.

She suggested I should have a rest. I lay down on the bed, the noise of the party drifting up from the floor below. Simone informed me that she would be back in a bit and left the room. As she left, she switched off the light and closed the door, plunging the room into darkness. Not total darkness. The red figures of the digital alarm clock on the bedside table glowed in the dark, giving a red tinge to the darkness of the room.

I turned on my side and pulled one of the pillows tight against me.

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