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Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 51

Friday morning, I took Colin into Chelmsford for his appointment with Professor Prendegast. He was going to get the bus in, but I told him I had to go into Chelmsford to do some shopping, so he might as well wait for me and I would take him in. I did not have to go in, but it was a good excuse. It would give me a chance to have a chat with him about why he was unhappy with the idea of doing a film about building the replica.

I was not being totally deceitful saying that I had to do some shopping. I did need to be doing shopping. It was just that there was nothing to say it had to be done in Chelmsford. It could have been done anywhere. In fact, I had been planning on going into Town next week to do it. Now, it was the perfect excuse to give to Colin.

"Why you going into Chelmsford?" he asked as we got onto the bypass.

"Need some new shirts," I informed him. "The ones I have got are getting a bit tight on me."

"It's all that muscle you're putting on," Colin quipped.

He was right; I was putting on muscle. I had been fairly muscular from my gymnastics, but in the last few months, I had put on a bit more muscles that gymnastics does not really build up. Dad had commented on the fact while we were in Oz. He had noticed how tight my shirts were on me. I needed to go up a collar size. I had been a fifteen, now I needed to get fifteen and a half.

"You didn't seem too happy about them making of film of us building the replica," I said.

"But we won't be building it," Colin replied.

"What do you mean we won't be building it?"

"But we won't be, will we? You said last night that making the film of it will give you the funds to get others in to help with the build. It won't be just you and me."

It took me a couple of minutes to think how to respond. Fortunately, we were at the island for the intersection with Maldon Road. It was busy, so Colin probably thought I was concentrating on the traffic. To an extent, I was, but I was also running over in my mind what Colin had said. 'It won't be just you and me.'

I was about to say something, but Colin got in first. "I know it's stupid, but it felt special working on The Lady Ann with you. Helping you. It made me feel special. As if I was important."

"Colin, you are important. I would not have got as far as I have with The Lady Ann if you had not been around to help me. Look at all the work you have done in the Salvage Yard, especially with the storage sheds. That's been invaluable. If you had not gone through the sheds, we would not have known that there was a portable steam generator in one of them.

"Look, Colin, if they are going to make a film about us building a replica of The Lady Ann, I'm going to need you around even more. I can't struggle with things on film, I'm going to need you there to help me move stuff and to pass me the right tools when I need them. There is no way I can stop in the middle of doing something on camera and go off to find the tool I need next for whatever I am doing."

"You should have the tools ready before you start the job," Colin pointed out.

"I know that; you know that; you also know that nine times out of ten you start doing something and find that you need to do something different and the tools you have out and ready are the wrong tools."

"Like when you thought that deck planking would be screwed and it turned out to be pinned with nails. I had to go and find a crowbar for you."

"Not something I like to be reminded of, but that is a good example." It had also wasted half a day while we searched around for something to lever the planking up. On a boat that age or that type, the deck planking should have been screwed in place. Two brass screws holding the planking in place at each cross beam. I also should have checked before I had loaded up the electric screwdriver and other tools. "So, you see, Colin, I will need you even more when we are making the film, you're going to be my right-hand man."

We were now on the main road to Chelmsford, and the traffic was a lot lighter. I glanced across at Colin. He had a smile on his face. It was the first time I had seen him smile since I had told him about the filming last night.

"You were worried about it, weren't you?" I asked.

"A bit."


"You're the only friend I have and…" he went quiet.

"And what?"

"I don't want to lose you. I've never really had a friend before."

"Why would you lose me?"

"You'll have other people helping you. They will be building the boat for you. They will be doing stuff I can't do," he replied.

"Maybe, Colin, but they will be doing it because it's their job. You've been helping me because you want to; there is a difference."

Colin did not reply. I am not sure if I had managed to get through to him, but one thing I understood was that Colin had developed some sort of dependency upon me.

I dropped Colin off for his appointment, agreeing to meet him later at the Meadows Centre, which was not that far away. Then I went to park the car and find somewhere to get some shirts that would fit me, getting what I wanted from the local Primark. I would get some good shirts when I was in London next. I started back to the car so I could dump my shopping in it before I met Colin for some lunch. On the corner of the road where I had parked the car, there was a small coffee shop; sitting at a table by the window were Luuk and Joseph. I am pretty certain that they did not see me.

Getting back to the car, I placed my shopping in the back, then drove to where I had agreed to meet Colin. Fortunately, he was there, so I did not need to find a parking space.

"How'd it go?" I asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.

"Good. The prof helped me sort a few things out."

"Fancy some lunch?" I asked.

"Somewhere cheap," Colin replied.

"Forget that. I'm paying."

Not that the place I had in mind was all that expensive. It was just a bit upmarket from what Colin was used to. I had been there a few times with Mum and Dad. It was a pub on the main road from Chelmsford to Southmead, so a bit out of way for getting back to Dunford. The landlady there was a relative of Mary's, the Mary who ran the Crooked Man, and had recommended the place to Dad once when he was looking at taking Mum out somewhere special.

Although on the main road from Chelmsford to Southmead, the place was not near any town, and since the introduction of the strict drunk-driving laws, it had been forced to make itself into something of a destination venue. It had done so by becoming one of the better places for pub food in the area. To be honest, it was probably one of the better places for such food in all of England. You either had to have connections or have booked months ago to get a table in the evening. Fortunately, the lunchtime trade was not as busy. However, I did make a point of calling to book a table as I was driving out of Chelmsford. Turned out that it was probably a good job I had done so. It was Friday, and a lot of offices closed Friday afternoons, so there was a lot of lunchtime business. As we arrived, we were asked if we had reserved a table. I was glad to be able to say yes.

I told Colin that he would have to order the drinks.


"Because I'm not eighteen; you have to be an adult to order alcohol," I pointed out. He had turned eighteen while we were in Oz.

The waitress came over and took our orders. Colin also ordered two pints of lager for us. The waitress asked how old he was.

"I'm eighteen," he replied. He then produced his provisional driving licence to provide proof of age. I did not know he had got one.

"When did you get a driving licence?" I asked.

"It's only provisional. Got it last week. Your grandfather told me I needed to learn to drive. He helped me with the forms and stuff."

"What about your eyesight?" I asked, knowing full well he had been told he could not drive till his cataracts were sorted out.

"Saw the hospital last week for an assessment; they said that I was borderline for driving. Technically, I could, but they advised against it. Told your grandfather. He said to get a provisional so I could drive once I have had the operation. He said it would be useful to have it for identification."

"It was your birthday a week last Wednesday!"


"Did you tell the lads?"

"What was there to say? Nobody bothers about my birthday."

"I would have if I had been here; the lads at the yard would have. They could have had a celebration at lunch."

Colin laughed at that idea. "Nobody bothers about me except you."

"Don't be so sure."

After we had finished our mains and whilst waiting for dessert, I excused myself to visit the toilets, which I did not need. What I did need was to phone Mum and tell her that Colin's birthday had been on last Wednesday. She was not pleased to hear that we had missed it. I could hear Grandma cackling with excitement at the idea of a birthday to celebrate. I just prayed I had not dropped Colin into too much.

After we had lunch, I took Colin into Southmead. There is an industrial-clothing-supply store there. One thing I knew was the Colin liked the type of work coat that Bran wore in the yard when it was chilly. I had asked Bran where he got it as I had been thinking of getting one for Colin for Christmas. Decided to get him one now for his birthday. Having him along with me meant that I would get the right size.

Colin protested that I was wasting my money.

"Colin, it's mine to waste. Anyway, it was your birthday last week. You are getting a birthday present. That's final."

That said, I got him a work coat. Colin insisted on wearing it when we left the store. Actually, that made some sense as the temperature had dropped since we had come out, and it had just started to rain. Neither of us had come with a coat.

It was nearly three-thirty by the time we got back to the Priory. When we got in, Mum told me that Dad had asked that I go over to the office when I got back. So, I left Colin to Mum's tender mercies and trotted over to the office to see what Dad wanted.

Turned out he wanted to discuss the idea of turning the building of the replica into a film for TV. Things had gone a bit further this morning whilst I had been out. There had been a formal offer from one of the TV channels for a series about building the replica. From what Dad had picked up during the telephone conversation, Bob was a major shareholder in the channel and had pitched the idea to them, and they were happy to run with it.

"I don't think they had that much choice about it," Lee commented. I looked at him and he clarified things. "You father had them on speaker phone so I could take notes."

"I think Lee's probably correct," Dad stated. "From the sound of it, Bob's a large enough shareholder to wield some major influence. Though, I think the chap I was talking to actually rather liked the idea. Now, what I need to come up with is a clear proposal. Can you sort out a list of jobs that have to be done to construct the replica so that I can work out what we can put into each episode of an eight-episode series?"

"When do you want it by?"

"Well, yesterday would have been nice, but as it is, if you could knock something up over the weekend, it would help. I'm in Town on Monday and have agreed to meet with them Monday afternoon after I finish recording at the Beeb."

"I can probably sort something. I'll take my laptop into work with me in the morning. Steve asked me to cover the chandlery, so I should get some free time to work on it."

Dad then went over a couple of other things with respect to us making a film about the building of the replica. His main concern was: did I have the time available to do it in the time they would have to complete the production? That was something I could not answer. I did, however, suggest that Dad should talk to Steve about things. So, Dad phoned him.

The outcome of that conversation was that Steve and Peter, plus the children, were invited for dinner tomorrow evening. That call had just finished when Lee took a call and informed Dad that it was Gert for him. Dad took the call; it was short, and I had no idea what it was about. All Dad said was 'hello' and 'fine, do it'. When it was finished, I mentioned that I thought Gert was supposed to have come over yesterday.

"He did, Johnny, but he's staying in Town for a few days. He's working with Max on getting a version of The Unheard ready for Max to take back with him to New York to start hawking it around."

"Shouldn't you see it before it is hawked around?" I asked.

"Don't worry, I will. Gert is keeping me updated on any content changes they are making, which don't seem to be many. Most of the stuff he is doing is working on placement of captions and subtitles. Apparently different markets need them in different places. I'm having dinner with Max and Gert on Monday, so will see what they have put together then. Gert assures me that he has found the right music for it."


Dad nodded and smiled. It had never occurred to me that the film would require a soundtrack.

"What's he found?" I asked.

"Something by a Polish composer called Kilar. I don't know him," Dad replied.

"He wrote Exodus," Lee informed him. "That was the music used for the Schindler's List trailer."

"He also did the music for Bram Stoker's Dracula," I added.

There being nothing else that Dad wanted to discuss, I went back over to the house. Joseph was in the kitchen when I went in.

"I've just made tea," he stated, indicating the pot on the side. I went over and poured myself a mug.

"How was your day?" I asked.

"Fucking waste of time."

"Why? What happened?"

"Matt had an appointment with planning in Chelmsford to discuss some issues around the studio development. He took Luuk and me in with him. Luuk's been doing a lot of work on the design side, and I've been researching the regulations so we know a lot of the background stuff. When we got there, we were told it was a closed meeting and only Matt was invited. Had to spend most of the day sitting in a coffee shop waiting for Matt to get out of the council offices."

"Where is Luuk?"

"He's gone up to Town. Gert phoned him and asked him to go up to do some voice-overs. Not sure what on."

"The Unheard," I informed him. "Gert's working with Max this weekend to get a version that Max can hawk around, according to Dad.

"By the way, it was Colin's birthday last Wednesday. Think Mum's planning something for dinner tonight."

"Shit, I'd better get him something, though I don't really know him. He's more your friend than mine, Johnny. I've hardly spoken to him."

"I suppose he is," I responded.

I was right. Mum was planning something for dinner. To be more correct, for after dinner. We ate in the dining room, which was not a surprise given that there were seven of us. What was a surprise came at the end of the meal. Mum told us all to stay seated, then Grandma went and got a birthday cake, complete with eighteen candles. Colin was in tears. I guess he had never had a birthday cake before.

There were also a couple of presents. From Grandma and Granddad, a pair of cycling gloves. Mum and Dad gave him a watch. Nothing expensive but a nice, practical, military-type watch which was waterproof and fairly robust, being in a rubberised case, that he could wear at work. Even Joseph had a present for him. A couple of book tokens. I was not sure how appropriate they were given Colin's eyesight, but I suppose it was the thought that counted. Anyway, they were probably the only things Joseph had around to give him. I suspected they were part of his birthday presents earlier in the year. I know he had got a pile of them and had been saying he had no idea what to use them for. He did not buy many books, mostly read anything he needed on his Kindle, unlike me. I had a Kindle but much preferred a physical book when I could get one.

Later that night in bed, Joseph curled up next to me.

"You know that he's got a crush on you," Joseph stated.

"Who?" I asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.

"Colin, of course. He really does have a crush on you. I could get jealous."

"Not much to worry about there. Colin's not gay, I'm glad to say."

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Glad that Colin's not gay."

"Of course, I am, Joseph, Christ! Can you think of the mess it would be if he was gay? Not sure I could cope with that."

"You're serious, aren't you?" Joseph stated.

"I am," I replied. "Colin's a friend, a friend I like a lot. He is a friend like I've never had before."

"What do you mean?"

"There are no sexual overtones with Colin. Look, I didn't make many friends at school. I'm not sure that Oncle Jacques and Marcel can really be called friends, though Oncle Jacques probably was. Looking back on things, I don't think Marcel ever was. Doesn't matter, as I was sexually involved with them. Yes, Tony's a friend but we were sexually involved at school. About the only boy who was a friend that I was not sexually involved with was Matterson, and I bloody lusted after him. Strange, but he was a Colin.

"Even after I moved in with Dad, there was a sexual overtone to all my friendships. They were all gay. Arthur, Trevor, even you."

"What about Lee? He's not gay," Joseph pointed out.

"He's not a friend, either. I'm friendly with him and I get on with him, but he's not a friend as, say, Jim and Steven are. They, of course, are gay. Colin, though, is different. He's not gay. There are no sexual overtones there. I don't fancy him or lust after him. To be honest, the idea of any sexual involvement with Colin is off-putting."

"Why, Johnny? He's not that bad looking. I think I could fancy him."

"I don't know; it just wouldn't be right. I'd be taking advantage of him. I know he's older than I am, and he's been through a rough time and he's managed to survive. In many ways, though, he is totally naive. He's like a ten-year-old, at times."

I paused and thought about things for a time, then continued. "You know, I think that might be it. I know he's older than I am, but he seems younger. It's almost like he's the little brother I've never had."

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me. I went to explain some more to Joseph but realised he was gently snoring by my side.

Saturday morning, I gave Colin a lift into the yard. I told him to put one of the electric bikes in the back of the Volvo as he was only down to do a half day. He asked if it would be OK for him to do some sorting in the storage units at the Salvage Yard until I finished. I was not too happy about him being up there on his own, as Katherine was off today, so she would not be working on The Princess of Alba. However, he said he only wanted to sort out the veneer store, so I told him that as long as he stuck to that, it was OK.

As expected, I found myself covering the chandlery. On Saturday, if he could, Steve liked to deal with the paperwork for the yard. The first couple of hours were pretty busy, but it started to ease off after ten, and by eleven, it was really quiet. I got my laptop out and, working from the CAD drawings I had, started to put together a list of things we had to do to build the replica. I had been working on it for about ten minutes when the intercom buzzed, and Steve asked if I was busy. I told him it was as quiet as a pork butcher's on the Shabbat. He laughed, told me to put the 'Ring Bell' sign up and come up to the office. I put the sign up in the chandlery door, then locked up and went upstairs to the office. If anybody wanted anything from the chandlery now, they would have to ring the bell. It sounded down in the yard and in the office.

As I entered the office, Steve asked me to make a brew. He was on the phone to someone. I went through to the tearoom and put the kettle on. Steve had finished his call by the time I had made the tea. I put his mug down, then took the chair at the end of the desk.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" I asked.

"About this film that Bob wants your father to make. How do you feel about it?"

"That's not that easy to answer," I told Steve. "Part of me likes the idea, but part of me doesn't want to do it."

"Why not?"

"The idea of me building the replica was so I could learn all the skills I would need to restore The Lady Ann. However, if we make the film, most of the work will be done by others — Bran, Katherine, maybe even you. I will not be getting those skills or experience. From my point of view, it almost defeats the object of building the replica."

Steve nodded. "I can understand where you are coming from. Yes, you will lose the experience. However, you will have the chance to work with some of the best boatbuilders in the country and learn from them. You could probably learn more working with them on the replica than you would in a year at the International Boatbuilding College."

"That's another thing. Will I have time to work on the replica if they have a filming schedule? I've got my A-levels next year, and that is going to require a lot of studying. I was planning on spending three, maybe more, years on building the replica, but from the way Bob was talking, I think they want it done in a year."

"Actually, they want it done in nine months," Steve informed me. "Your father phoned this morning; he's heard back from the TV company. They would like it in next autumn's schedule if it goes ahead, which means they need to finish filming end of May, and they would want to see the boat in the water at the end."

"Can it be done in that time?"

"Oh, it can be done but you would not be doing all that much of it. Most of it would be built by experienced boatbuilders."

"What do you think of the idea?" I asked.

"I'm for it, though I am worried you won't get what you want from building the replica."

"Why are you for it?"

"Well, for a start, the publicity will be priceless. Have you any idea how much it costs us to advertise in those boating magazines we are in?"

I admitted I did not. Steve told me. The amount shocked me.

"Johnny, this series would give the yard far more coverage than we could ever afford to buy. More importantly, though, it will show us building a boat. We are not known as boatbuilders; we are a jobbing yard, a sorter-out-of-problems yard, a repair yard, even a salvage yard. I want to show you something."

Steve got up and went over to the cupboard at the back of the office. He opened it and took out a cardboard tube with plastic stoppers at each end. As he walked back to his desk, he pulled out the end stopper and started to pull out a rolled-up sheet of paper. He put the paper on the desk and then spread it out. It was a set of plans for a yacht.

"I drew these over ten years ago. They were an idea for a family cruising yacht. It will sleep six, not in luxury but in some comfort."

"How big is she?" I asked.

"Twelve metres, with a four-metre beam."

"She's fat."

"She is, but she is built for comfort, not speed. The thing is, if we can establish ourselves as builders, we could put this into production."

"We?" I asked.

"Well, you are part owner of the yards." I nodded. Steve continued, "Though we would probably have to start off building replicas of The Lady Ann."

"How come?"

"Johnny, when people see it being built, they are going to want one. Especially with the history of the original being told."

"I did not know about that."

"I think they only decided that this morning. From what your father said, he's got some history don from Cambridge to front that bit."

"Dr. Chapman?"

"That's the fellow."

"His expertise is Carolingian manuscripts and medieval history," I told Steve.

"Strange, your father seemed to think he would be ideal to cover the history of The Lady Ann."

"So, making the series would change the fortunes of the yard?" I asked.

"Yes, at the very least it would mean I could keep all the staff on throughout the winter."

"Then, I suppose we'd better do it."

"No, it's up to you if you want to do it. If you say no, I'll back you."

"It's OK, we'll do it."

"Good, your father said you were working on a job list for building the replica."

"Yes, I've started with it, but I'm not sure how to order things."

"That is always a problem," Steve stated. "Also, where you are going to build it?"

"Next to The Lady Ann," I said.

"How about using Shed Two at the Salvage Yard?"

"But we need that for paying work," I pointed out.

"Johnny, this is now paying work. Most of my phone call this morning was agreeing how much we are going to be charging for use of the yard. If they are paying, it makes sense to use Shed Two. It's got the overhead hoists installed. That will make it easy to lift and turn her."

"Lift and turn?" I asked.

"Yes, Johnny. The easiest way to build the replica will be to lay the backbone keel, then affix the ribs to the keel, stabilising the ribs. You then turn the whole framework over so you can start to plank in the hull. It is easiest to work from the keel to the gunwale. By having the hull upside down, you do not have to crawl underneath the hull to affix planks."

When I thought about it, it was so obvious. Much easier to work on the hull if the boat was upside down. We turned them upside down when we were repairing hull damage — that is, when we could.

"I think, Johnny, it might also be a good idea to get a laser scan done of The Lady Ann, that will give us far more detail than we have got in that survey that you have done."

"It will also cost," I pointed out.

"I don't think cost is one of our major concerns on this project," Steve commented. He glanced at the clock. "We'd better sort out lunch. Would you mind driving up to the Whistle and collecting the orders?"

I said I could, then remembered we had put the electric bike in the back. It would be far quicker going up on that than taking the car over the chain ferry — twice.

I went down into the yard and collected the orders from the guys. Alan and Mark, the composite guys, did not want anything. They were finishing at one today. The rest wanted a variation of pie and chips, except for Colin, who asked for fish and chips. I took the order up to Steve, who phoned it through to the Whistle. They told him the price, and Steve gave me the money from petty cash. He would get reimbursed from the guys when they came up for lunch. I got the bike out of the car, grabbed a rucksack to put the meals in and started up to the Whistle. With a bit of luck, the lunches would be ready by the time I got there.

They were not, but I did not have to wait long. When I got there, Jake said they would be about three minutes, and he was not far wrong. However, before the lunches arrived, somebody walked up to the bar and stood next to me.

"Next time you make a side trip, let us know," he said. I turned to find Dan, one of Miss Jenkins' heavies standing next to me.


"The tracker on your bike showed movement, as did your phone, so we knew you had left the yard."

"You're following me?"

"No, just staying close by where you are meant to be. We try to have somebody able to get to you within ten minutes. I had the job of covering the yard this morning."

Jake brought the lunches all wrapped up. I put them in the rucksack and turned to leave.

"I'll follow you back," Dan announced. He then walked out of the pub. As I got outside, he was just getting in his car. I got on the bike and started back to the yard, aware that Dan was a couple of hundred yards behind me.

After lunch, the chandlery started to get busy. All the weekend sailors who had gone out this morning and found problems with their boats or supplies were coming in for things. Colin had gone up to the Salvage Yard. I had given him the key for the storage unit the veneers were in and told him I would call up there to collect him when I finished.

Steve came down to the chandlery just before four to say he would take over. We were still fairly busy, but I finished at four, sent a text to say I was on my way up to the Salvage Yard and went up to collect Colin. When I got to the yard, Colin was just locking up the storage unit. He came over and got into the car, handing me the key for the storage unit, which I put back on my keyring for the yard.

"Did you get much done?" I asked.

"I've sorted the veneers by colour," Colin told me. "Got ten piles, going from dark to light. Don't know enough about wood to sort them into wood types. Sorry."

"Don't worry about that. I'll ask Bran to look at them sometime. He knows his woods."

I started the car and drove out of the yard and turned onto High Marsh Lane. I had the choice of taking the chain ferry or going down to the causeway. Looking down at the start of the causeway, I guessed the water was about six inches deep. I should be able to get through that. The thing was, I had not checked the tide table, so did not know if it was coming in or going out. If it was coming in, with the speed it came in around here, it could be up to twelve inches before we were halfway across. I decided to take the chain ferry.

When we got to the chain ferry, it was on the wrong side for us. We had to winch it over before we could load the car, then winch ourselves across. On the mainland side of the chain ferry, there was a small car park. A lot of people preferred to park their cars there and cross over as pedestrians and walk down to the yards. Dan's car was parked in the car park.

I did not stop to talk to him. Just turned onto the main road and set off home. As we turned at the top of High Marsh, where the footbridge was, I glanced in my mirrors and saw Dan's car pulling out of the parking lot. He stayed about a hundred yards behind us as I drove home.

Maddie was waiting for me when I pulled into the yard.

"What the fuck were you playing at?" she asked as I got out of the car.

"What do you mean?"

"Going to the Pig and Whistle without telling us. If you change what you are doing, you need to let us know."

"I just went to get the lunches; I often do that," I pointed out.

"You don't do that normally," Maddie stated.

"I do when Bran is busy; normally, either Bran or Colin go for it. It was just that I was free."

"Johnny, you need to let us know what your movements are. That way, we can cover you without having to keep a bodyguard with you. If you start going off without letting us know, we will have to put a bodyguard at your side."

I honestly did not like the sound of that.

"Bodyguard?" Colin asked. Shit, I had forgotten he was in the car, and I don't think Maddie had noticed.

"Yes," I told him. "I'll explain later." Then I looked at Maddie.

"Sorry," she said.

I just nodded to her, then told Colin to come on. He followed me into the kitchen. Grandma was at the stove, cooking.

"What's going on?" he asked as we got into the house.

"Can you leave it for now? I promise I will tell you later this evening, but for now, I need to speak to Dad."

"Your Dad's in the study," Grandma informed me. "Anne has gone shopping with Marcia."

I thanked Grandma and went up to my room to change. Then I went to find Dad. Colin went off to his room in the guest wing.

"What's this about Dr. Chapman doing the history of The Flying Lady?" I asked as I walked into the study. "He's a medievalist."

"He is also an expert on the Duke of Dunlieven," Dad replied. He picked a book up of his desk and handed it to me. I looked at the cover. Dunlieven – Warrior, Diplomat and Politician, Secret Power in the 20th Century, Dr. Joseph Chapman.

"He's written a book about him?"

"Yes, I ordered the book on Dunlieven from Amazon yesterday; came in this morning's post. When I saw the name of the author, I phoned Dr. Chapman and spoke to him. It seems that his father knew John Mitchell, the Duke's partner. When the Duke died, they were asked to sort his private papers. The book is the outcome of that."

"So, you asked him to narrate the history of The Lady Ann?"

"Didn't have to. When I told him what we were planning on doing, he offered to provide us with the history. Apparently, he has digitised copies of the Duke's and John Mitchell's diaries, papers and letters. The Lady Ann is mentioned frequently from the 1920s right up to the late 1960s. More importantly, he has actually got film footage of The Lady Ann when she was being raced."

"He has?"

"Yes. I should probably have spoken to you first, but it made sense to ask him to front the pieces on this history of The Lady Ann whilst I had him on the line. He's coming down tomorrow and said he would bring some stuff with him."


"Yes, he wants to photograph some things he came across when he was down here the other week. Also, he wants to talk to Joseph. You suggested he should."

"I did. By the way, where is Joseph? I thought he was finishing at lunchtime."

"He did. He's gone over to the dojo with Lee. They are moving some equipment so it is out of the way of the builders."

I was about to say I would go and see if they needed a hand when Mum called. She had got back from shopping and wanted a hand to empty the car. Both Dad and I went to oblige her.

"Should you be going out getting all this stuff in your condition?" Dad asked Mum as he removed the first of what looked like twenty bags from the back of the car.

"Marcia was with me," Mum replied. "I just pushed the trolley, she loaded what I needed."

"Where is she now?" I asked.

"Martin's taking her to the cinema," I was told.

"What about the kids?"

"Well, we left Tariq and JayDee with Lee; I think Jasmin is with the grandparents." That explained why Joseph had gone over to the dojo with Lee; he would be helping Lee with the boys.

Turned out there were only about eight bags of groceries, but that was enough.

Once we had got them into the kitchen, I gave Grandma a hand to put the groceries away.

Surprisingly, there was only Mum, Dad, Colin, Joseph and me for dinner. Although Grandma had cooked it, she and Granddad were going out for dinner. Granddad was treating the lads from the nursery to a meal at the Crooked Man. Apparently, they had hit some sort of target today. I must admit every time I had been down that way, they seemed to be busy. I made a mental note to go down and see them tomorrow. I had not seen them since we got back from Oz.

Over dinner, I asked Joseph how the boys were. He told me that Lee and Simone were taking them to some event over in Southmead. Apparently, Martin had given them tickets for it.

"Any idea when Marcia will be moving out?" Dad asked.

"No, I know Martin is buying somewhere for them to move to, but I don't think they have finalised things yet," Mum informed him. "They want to keep the kids in the same school district so they don't have to change schools. They also want something close to where James is buying so Tariq and JayDee can be together without somebody having to drive them around all the time."

"Makes sense," Dad commented.

Once we had finished dinner, I asked Colin and Joseph to come through to the library. I had already told Dad that I needed to let Colin know what was going on. Dad said he would leave it to me to sort out.

Once in the library, I gave Colin a shortened explanation about what was going on. I did not go into details about who or why, just said I had inherited some money and we had got word that I might be a kidnap target. I also told him that, as the money was in trust and Joseph's father was a trustee, Joseph also was a target.

Colin was silent for a bit then asked a couple of questions. He had clearly noticed the increased security about the place. Though, when I thought about it, I realised he could hardly have missed it. He would have been here whilst it was being installed. Finally, he seemed to come to a conclusion about things.

"Johnny, you need to make sure I'm in the car with you whenever you are going to the yard."


"So, I'm around to protect you if they try anything."

It was all I could do not to laugh at the idea of Colin protecting me. I was pretty certain I was a lot more skilled in fighting than he was. It was, though, nice to know that he thought I was worth protecting, a comment I made later to Joseph when we were getting into bed.

"I think he has a saviour complex over you," Joseph stated.

I did not bother to reply. If anything, I was a bit too tired to reply. The moment I lay down, I was asleep.

Sunday morning, I was up early because I had agreed to open the yard for Steve, though I was only doing a half day. Colin came in with me, but as he was on a full day today, I made sure the electric bike was in the back and made sure he took it out when we got to the yard.

Steve got in about ten. When he arrived, he took over the chandlery for the rest of the day, and I went to help Bran repair some decking on a motor yacht. Some idiot had placed one of those tinfoil barbeque trays on the wooden deck to have a barbeque, not realising that it would burn the deck. By the time I got to the job, Bran had already removed the damaged timber and cut out the lengths of wood to fit in. I did not think it was a good match, so I made a comment.

"On what they want to pay, they don't get a match," Bran replied. "They don't even get a staining varnish."

Bran was not happy about this job. That did not stop him doing a good job. The replacement deck planking was fitted correctly and caulked. There would be a coat of marine grade varnish applied to the surface, but that could not be done till tomorrow. There would also be an area of the deck which had clearly been replaced. It stood out like a sore thumb.

As we walked up to the tearoom, having finished what we could today, I mentioned this to Bran.

They want it repaired but don't want to pay the costs. To do that properly is a good ten hours' work."

I nodded in agreement. Actually, I would have estimated twelve, but Bran was more experienced than I was and could probably work faster.

He continued. "They gave us a maximum budget of two hundred and fifty quid."

I gasped. By time you took in the costs of materials that hardly covered three hours' work. No wonder Bran was so down on the job. He did not like to do jobs on the cheap.

Bran said he would go up to the Pig and Whistle for lunch and started to collect the orders. I decided to skip on lunch and go home. I set off. The causeway was passable, so it was not a long journey, and I got back to the Priory just before one.

Joseph and Dr. Chapman were in the driveway as I drove in. Joseph signalled that he wanted to speak, so as soon as I had parked in the yard, I walked back out to the driveway to see what was up.

"Come and look at this," Joseph called out as I walked around the side of the house. I went over to where he and Dr. Chapman were standing.

"What is it?" I asked, walking up to where they appeared to be looking at the small retaining wall running up the side of the drive.

"It's monastic stonework," Dr. Chapman stated. "I am fairly certain this wall was built using stone from a monastic building. By the quality of the stonework, I would expect there was something more than a simple monastic farm on this site."

"Why do you think that?"

"For a start, the stone is not local; it's been imported. That takes wealth. Most of the building normally would have been built using flint cobble, not dressed stone. Certainly not dressed stone which has been imported from some distance."

"How far?" I asked.

"I'm not a geologist, but from my limited knowledge, I think it would be from at least a hundred and fifty miles from here," Dr. Chapman informed me. "I know that does not sound that far now, but eight-, nine-hundred years ago, that would have been something of a journey to bring the amount of stone that is in this wall. I suspect this is only a small part of what was here. It was clearly more than a simple priory farm run by lay brothers."

"Dr. Chapman said we should show you when you got back," Joseph stated.

"You could have been waiting a while," I said.

"Oh, no. Dr. Chapman said you would be here in five minutes."

"How did you know?" I asked the professor.

"I saw the position of the drone," he replied.

"What drone?"

"The one that is being used to track you when you are in your car."

I decided I needed to have a talk with Neal or Maddie. When I did, they explained it was easier to track me with a drone than having somebody following from the Priory to the yard. They just needed to have somebody near the yard if it was needed. Neal pointed out that they had people by the chain ferry and the causeway, so both ways out were covered. It was only when I was walking back to the house that I realised that they had not covered the Blackwater. They probably did not think of someone using a boat.

Joseph and Dr. Chapman were in the kitchen when I went in, looking over plans of the estate, Joseph telling Dr. Chapman about the stuff he and Sarah Colman had found in their survey of the place. Joseph indicated that there was a fresh pot of tea on the side. Both he and Dr. Chapman had mugs of tea on the table by them. I poured myself a mug, then took a seat on the opposite side of the table.

"Dr. Chapman, how come you wrote a book about the Duke of Dunlieven?"

"That was more by accident than design," he replied. "My father had been involved in business with John Mitchell, Dunlieven's lover. The duke had left instructions when he died that his papers be handed over to my father. In fact, he packed them up and sent them to my father a few days before his death. Unfortunately, my father was not in a position to do anything with them at that time. I came across the papers when I was helping my father move stuff out of storage. At the time, I was an undergraduate. I used them as part of second-year studies, then turned that into the book. It sold reasonably well, enough for me to live on during my Ph.D."

"I doubt if you've ever been short of funds," I commented.

Dr. Chapman looked at me. I continued: "You've got a father who can give your wife an Alfa Romeo, and you wear Armani and handmade shoes. I don't think things like that are covered by an academic's salary."

"Oh, I can assure you I know what it is like to be short of funds, though I admit that in the last few years, life has been good. My father is a successful businessman besides being an academic in his own right. Unfortunately, he was not always around for me." There was a hint of bitterness in Dr. Chapman's voice.

There was something strange about the whole thing. Why had Dr. Chapman's father not been available at the time to work on the papers? I did not give it that much thought just then as I was interested in what Joseph was showing Dr. Chapman on the site plans.

"If the church was here, as Dr. Portage suspects, there would have been a cloister about here," Joseph stated with some emphasis as he jabbed his finger at the site plan. "So, this wall here—"

"—is probably the remains of one of the cloister walls," said Dr. Chapman. Joseph nodded his head, smiling. "Sorry, Joseph, but you are wrong."

"Am I?"

"Yes, Joseph. I can see thinking behind it due to the cruciform shape of the guest wing. You think that is the location of the priory church."

"Yes," Joseph confirmed.

"The problem is that the alignment is wrong. Churches of that period were always aligned east-west; that form aligns southeast/northwest. Also, churches were built on the highest point, so they could be seen. The highest point is here." Dr. Chapman jabbed his hand, pointing to area between the Stable House and the Craft Centre. "Now look at the building line here and here." He indicated the buildings which were now Marcia's apartment and Dad's office and the area beyond the walled garden.

"But if that's the church, it would have been massive," Joseph pointed out.

"Yes, and this would have been a side chapel," Dr. Chapman said, pointing to the guest wing.

"Surely, something that big would not have been undocumented," I commented.

"I don't think it was undocumented," Dr. Chapman announced. "I think the church's location was just misplaced."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The Abbey of Southmead," he replied.

"The ruins of that are in Southmead Park by the college," I pointed out.

"Are they the ruins of the Abbey of Southmead?" Dr. Chapman asked. "It is just presumed they were the abbey because they were in Southmead and were ecclesiastical. There is no specific evidence that they were the abbey ruins. You must remember the Abbey of Southmead was abandoned during the Black Death. Simon Islip, the Archbishop of Canterbury dissolved it in 1360 after a fire which destroyed the church and many of the buildings, if my memory serves me right."

"And the address of Green Farm was Lower Southmead," I pointed out.

"What we would really need to prove that the site of the abbey was here rather than in Southmead Park would be to find evidence of a cloister. A large, rectangular walled space around an open area," Dr Chapman pointed out.

"The walled garden!" both Joseph and I exclaimed at the same time.

"It is the most likely candidate," Dr Chapman agreed.

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