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Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 14

After Ben and Phil left to sort out my stag do, I was at something of a loose end. The boys had gone into Rugby, Anne and Debora were enjoying a spa treatment, I had no idea where Bernard had vanished to, and I was trying to avoid Bob. Not that I knew where he and Susan were. In fact, the whole place seemed to be deserted. There was no sign of Mrs M or Gerald, the house manager, and there appeared to be a distinct lack of staff.

I went up to my room and got my laptop out. Might as well start doing some research for the damned meteorological book Bob got me to commit to. In the next couple of hours, I managed to get quite a bit of work done. More importantly, I had established a theme for the book, namely how climate change was going to impact on the planet's meteorology. I was reasonably sure that it was not the book that Bob actually wanted, but it was the book I was going to write.

The alarm on my phone went off at five. I looked at it, wondering why I had set the alert for five, then remembered. Dinner was to be early today, so I closed down my work and switched off the laptop. Then I showered and changed. It had just gone half-past five when I got down into the hall just as Mary Simpson was coming in through the main doors.

"Mr. Carlton, I must thank you," she said, crossing the hall as she approached me.

"For what?" I asked.

"For bringing me here. It's a miracle. Everything has just fallen into place."

"Forgive me, Mary, but exactly what has fallen into place?"

"Didn't you know? Your brother and his partner have offered me the job as events manager here," she replied.

"When do you start?".

"I've already started. I'm helping Mrs M with the arrangements for your wedding. By the way, I will not be going back with you on Tuesday. There is a conference arriving on Wednesday, and I am going to help with it. The Lodge is free till next week; I can use it and have a few days more with the boys. Will take them back to London by train on Saturday, then get to Dunford to pick up my car. Mr. Philip says that there is a house on the estate I can have; they just have to get it done up for me. In the meantime, I will be staying here.

"Anyway, thanks for bringing me here. It looks as if our luck is about to change. I must find Mr. LeBrun and tell him of events." With that, she made her way off to the staff-only area. I made my way to the lounge, where I found Bernard sitting, nursing a drink.

"Mary Simpson is looking for you," I informed him.

"Oh, I hope she has got some good news, then," he responded. Something clicked inside my mind.

"Wait a moment. You've set this up, haven't you?"

"I don't know what you mean." Bernard showed a smile that would convince, and no doubt had convinced, a judge as to his sincerity. Unfortunately, it did not convince me. I have known Bernard all his life; I know his ways.

"Come off it. You set it up for Mary Simpson to get offered the events-manager job here."

"Not quite."

"What do you mean, not quite?" I asked.

"Well it was clear that Mary's position down in Dunford was not really viable long term. Especially, if she wanted to have the boys with her. I knew she was experienced in events management, and I knew that Phil and Ben were thinking of getting an events manager. So, I just thought I would give them a chance to meet. I did not know that Mrs M knew Mary."

"It's going to be a bit of a trek for her to get back for the hearings. Isn't Ian due in court next week?"

"No," Bernard informed me. "My friend Mr. Justice Carter agreed that the case should be moved to London. He also extended bail till the end of August. No need to push these things till we are ready to move."

"One question, Bernard. Why was the case not heard in the Youth Court? Ian's under eighteen."

"That, Mike, is one of the questions to which I am seeking an answer. Technically the magistrates' court was sitting as a Youth Court, as no Youth Court sessions were scheduled that day; the referral to Crown Court is strange. However, attempted murder is a serious offence, and there is precedent for a juvenile to be referred to the Crown Court for trial. Why it was done in this case, I don't know. That is something I have to find out.

"The other thing I need to find out is why neither social services or youth probation were in court. They should have been."

"No, young man, I do not need a wheelchair!" a voice exclaimed from outside the lounge, loud enough that both Bernard and I heard it. We looked at each other with one thought in mind: Aunt Ruth. Before we had the chance to get out of our chairs and exit by the other doors, the lounge doors swung open, and a small woman entered. We were transfixed with fear.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "I knew I would find you two together — cooking up some mischief, I presume."

I stepped forward to greet her. "Aunt Ruth, it's so good of you to come."

"Don't try to butter me up, boy. I'm only here to see you properly hitched. Hope she is a gut woman, not like dat bitch you had before. Now give me a kiss." I obliged. "And you, Bernard Solomon Joseph Micha LeBrun, vat are you trying to do to me? I've been here all of five minutes, and I don't have a glass in my hand. Get me a drink, and make it a double."

Bernard stood and went over and got her a drink. He handed it to Aunt Ruth, who took a swish of it, then gasped. "Vat are you trying to do, boy, kill me? This is Irish; you know I only drink Scotch, single malt." She threw back the rest of the glass, taking it down in a single gulp and handed it back to Bernard who went to get her a drink. "Azoy vi iz meyn balibt goy?"

It took me a moment or two to realise she had switched to Yiddish. It took me a bit longer to drag the correct reply from my brain. For the next few minutes, we stood there chatting in Yiddish. Bernard returned with a glass of whisky for Aunt Ruth. This time it was Scotch, and she took her time to savour it.

"That is better boy," she stated. "Now why have you not been down to see me for three months."

"Sorry, aunty, there has just been a lot on," Bernard replied.

"That's no excuse. Leaving your poor aunty stuck in a home in Brighton. Is that the way you young ones treat us now? Vat? I went through the camps just so you could neglect me?"

Bernard backed up against the wall. I saw Mrs M go past the door and decided to make my escape. "Mrs M," I called out. "Excuse me, aunty, but I have to catch Mrs M. Need to sort out some details about tomorrow." With that, I exited the lounge and found Mrs M standing just around the corner.

"Will Mr. LeBrun be safe in there?" she asked.

"Probably not," I responded. "Do you want to go in and rescue him?"

"No way!" She laughed.

"I gather you have met Aunt Ruth, then?"

"No, Mr. Michael, but every Jewish family has an Aunt Ruth; in my family, it is Aunt Miriam. When it comes to Jewish aunts, I have always found discretion to be the better part of valour."

"I think I agree. By the way, thank you for finding a job for Mary."

"Oh, no. I should be thanking you for bringing her here. She is an answer to a prayer. To be honest, since we decided that we needed an events manager, I have been putting feelers out trying to find her. She was one of the best."

Just then, the main doors opened, and Stan and Flo entered, followed by some of my family. Most of them had met at my engagement party, but there were still one or two introductions that needed to be made.

O o O o O

Dinner, to say the least, was noisy. Not helped by the fact that Aunt Ruth was seated some distance from young Joseph, who, she was sure, needed her expert advice and instruction. Advice and instruction which I am reasonably sure the boy did not want to hear and probably did not need. Unfortunately, my Aunt Jane was doing the same for Johnny.

After dinner, Johnny came up to me. "Dad, is that woman really my aunt?"

"No, the aunt is a courtesy title. She's actually Ben's and my godmother. She was your grandmother's friend, and we try to be nice to her."

"Phew, that's a relief," Johnny responded. "When are you going on your stag do?"

"That I can't say; if it is up to me, never. Though, I suspect your uncles have a different view on that subject."

"We sure do, Mike," Phil announced, coming up behind me. "And you, Johnny, need to go and be nice to your Aunt Jane."

"Why's that?" Johnny asked.

"She is an elderly lady who one should be considerate to. Anyway, from what I hear, she is filthy rich, so it never hurts to be on the right side of her," Phil replied. Johnny shrugged his shoulders and walked off.

"What do you mean she's filthy rich?" I asked.

"Well, she put just over a million into the first film I directed and has committed quite a bit more to the current project," Phil said.

"But she lived in a one-bedroom flat in a block in Walthamstow," I commented.

"Yes," Phil responded. "And I think you will find she owns the block, plus the one next to it and probably a couple more nearby."

"Christ, is there anyone in this family who has not got money besides me?"

"Come off it, Mike, you're not doing too badly," Phil laughed. "Anyway, I came to tell you to be ready at seven-thirty. We will start our pub crawl."

"Pub crawl?"

"Yes, for your stag do, we thought we would take you to every pub in the villages that border the estate and buy you a drink in each." Once he had imparted that piece of information, Phil walked off.

I breathed a sigh of relief. At least, my stag do was not going to be that bad. There were only a few villages that bordered the estate. As far as I knew, there were only four, and one of them did not have a pub; it was more a hamlet than a village. I was reasonably certain that there were not more than two pubs in any of the other villages; in fact, I thought most only had one. So, in the worst case, I was faced with six drinks. On a full stomach after that dinner, I was fairly sure I could manage it.

O o O o O

I woke just gone eight. Contrary to my expectation from the night before my head was not pounding. The vast amount of water that I had drunk upon returning to my room had helped, as had the assistance I had got from Leni.

When I had asked Phil about my stag night, he had just said we were on a pub crawl through the villages around the estate. I had presumed he meant Manston Park. That was an error; he meant the whole estate: the park, the three estate farms and the five tenanted farms that they owned. A total of ten villages with at least two pubs in each village; I was sure that a couple of them had three pubs. Phil and Ben insisted I had to have a drink in each pub.

My brother and his partner had got the minibus out for our excursion and, no doubt as they intended to imbibe with the rest of us, had Leni driving. I had met Leni a few times over the years. He was a big man — six-foot-six tall with a muscled body. He generally wore a tight white tee-shirt, which emphasised his muscles. One reason for this was that, in addition to being their driver, he also acted as a bodyguard for Phil and Ben when they were going out informally. When they went to official functions, they tended to have professional security with them arranged by Allen. Personally, I thought that Leni was probably more useful. There is something about a big black man staring down at you that tends to deter the most persistent of fans.

Not that there was likely to be any problem with fans in any of the pubs around the estate. The locals would soon see to that. Ben and Phil were well known to the villagers and generally well-liked. The estate, with its various operations, was without doubt, the biggest employer in the area, and in the time they had owned it, they had more than doubled the number of people they employed. As a result, anybody who tried to hassle them in any way in any of the pubs would find that the landlord would quickly be asking that they leave. There would always be a couple of villagers on hand to assist in case the offending party decided they did not want to go.

Despite that, Leni's presence, although probably not required from a security point of view, was comforting. At least I was confident that there was no risk of drunk driving. Leni is strictly teetotal, and he's also a vegetarian, a fact that I oddly remembered.

At the first few pubs, either Phil or Ben had insisted on getting the drinks in. By pub number five, though, both were slightly tipsy, and Leni suggested it might be best if he went to the bar for the orders, which he did. He also did the same at pub six and all the other pubs. However, it was pub six that was the lifesaver for me. I had gone to the gents, and when I came out, Leni was in the corridor talking on his mobile. I was slightly the worse for wear; well, six gin and tonics under two hours is a bit much. Leni asked me if I was OK? I told him I was at the moment but did not think I would be after a couple more pubs.

"Leave it to me, Mr. Michael, just stick to G and Ts, and you'll be OK," he assured me.

At the next pub, Leni went to the bar to get the order in and came back with a tray loaded with drinks. He put a glass down in front of me. "Your G and T, Mr. Michael," he said, smiling. I took a sip, then another to confirm. It was just tonic, no gin. For the rest of the pub crawl, Leni got the drink order, and even though Phil or Ben said I would have a gin and tonic, all I ever got was tonic.

The result was that by the time we got back to Manston Hall, I was, to say the least, a bit merry, but there was no way that I was blotto. Not sure the same could be said about the other members of my stag party.

When I got back to my room, I realised there was something or someone in my bed. It turned out to be a blow-up sex doll, with a note: For Practice! I then knew why the boys had gone into Rugby.

I had forgotten that I had pushed the doll out of bed when I had climbed into it. So, in the morning, as I swung my legs out of bed, I found myself trying to stand on a partially inflated female torso, a somewhat precarious position. I sat down on the bed and kicked the offending object out of the way, then resumed an upright position and made my way to the bathroom.

A hot shower drove the last fuzziness that was in my head out and got me fully awake. Some fifteen minutes later, I was walking into the Conservatory for breakfast. Johnny and Trevor were there; no sign of Arthur or Joseph.

I went over to the breakfast buffet and grabbed myself some bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried bread and eggs. Once I had piled my plate up, I made my way over to the table where Johnny and Trevor were seated and asked if I could join them. When I sat down, I noticed Johnny was eying my plate.

"Couldn't have been that good a stag night if you are eating that lot," he stated.

"Actually, son, it was a very good stag night, though I am not sure what state your uncles are in." As if to answer my statement, Phil came into the Conservatory and grabbed a cup of coffee, then took one look at my plate, turned somewhat green, put his coffee down and made a rapid exit.

"I'm not sure stag nights are supposed to work like that," stated Trevor.

"Work like what?" I enquired.

"The groom ends up with no hangover, and the hosts look like death warmed up."

"Well, things don't always go by the book." I tucked into my breakfast. The two boys looked at each other questioningly. They were clearly waiting for me to say something about the sex doll in my bed. I decided the best thing to do was ignore the subject entirely. Had a feeling that would really annoy them.

Once I had finished breakfast, I checked with Johnny that he was OK with his role in the wedding. He was fine with it. I could see he was dying to ask me a question.

"Umm.. Dad, how did you sleep last night?"

"Fine. I slept like a log. Nothing disturbed me. Then, the Blue Room is well away from the drive and the comings and goings during the night." There was a look of horror on the boys' faces when they thought they had put the doll in the wrong room. With satisfaction, I left them and went for a walk. Still had a couple of hours to kill before I had to start to get ready for my wedding.

When I got back, I grabbed myself a coffee from the Conservatory. I decided to take my coffee through to the lounge. To be honest, I was a bit concerned about how close Johnny and Trevor seemed to be getting and wanted some time to think about it. For a start, how would it affect Arthur? Secondly, what impact would any relationship with Johnny have on Trevor? Although the boy seemed to be bearing up quite well, I was worried about him, and if Johnny was just looking for sex, I thought Trevor might end up getting hurt. I suspected he was still somewhat fragile.

It was then that I realised that I had not heard anything about Mayers. Surely the police should have done something by now — that is, if the matter had been reported to the police. I was not sure if Ben was still under an obligation to report or not when he suspected child abuse. Even if he was not, I felt that he should have done so.

I was just thinking about that when I saw Allen, the head of security, on his quad bike going up towards the stable yard. I went out onto the terrace and took the short cut through the garden that led to it. Allen was just closing one of the garage doors when I got to the yard.

"Have you got a minute?" I asked as I walked up to him. He looked around the yard. Liam was at the far end cleaning one of the cars, and there were a couple of maintenance staff doing odd jobs.

"You'd better come to my office," Allen stated. He led the way to the corner of the yard and up some steps to what had clearly once been the hayloft. It was now quite a comfortable office with a bank of monitors along the wall. I glanced at them and noticed that the whole estate and the house seemed to be covered.

"Probably a bit of overkill," Allen said. "However, with your brother and his partner here so often, plus some of their guests, it is probably better to have a bit of overkill. So, what can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you knew if there had been any follow up on Trevor's revelations about Mayers?"

"Officially, no; unofficially, yes. Do you want the short version or the long version?"

"Either, though I think the more I know, the better. Trevor and my son seem to be getting involved, and I want to be ready if anything happens. At the moment, I don't know if it has even been reported to the police."

"Oh, it's been reported all right," Allen informed me. "I would have done it anyway, though your brother did, with Trevor's consent. Said he was under an obligation to advise reporting it as he was technically still working in child psychology."

I nodded. "Yes, he volunteers his services when he can to groups working with underprivileged kids in London. I suppose he has to keep his registration up to date to cover that."

"Right. So, it has been reported. Trevor has not been interviewed so far, as Mr. Ben had the foresight to video that session where Trevor told us all what had been going on. My old contacts on the force were pleased to get that; it provided the one piece of information that caused a lot of things to fit into place."

"What was that?"

"The identity of Dean. It turned out that they have picked up a few chaps on possession of child pornography over the past four or five years who have had stuff that had clearly not come from the web. When asked its source, they have said they got it from a chap called Dean, but none of them knew who Dean was. Trevor identified him as Andrew Mayers."

"Anyway, Mayers is out of the country at the moment on some film shoot in Indochina — due back beginning of August. So, for the time being, the police are taking no overt action. They have a warrant for his arrest and to search his property. They are holding back on the search, though. Don't want to give him any warning. At the moment, he's filming in Vietnam, and extradition is not that straightforward if he decided to stay there. Currently, they are planning to arrest him when he arrives back in the country, then search the property."

"Does Trevor know this?" I asked.

"Not the details," Allen responded. "He's been told that action will be taken but has also been told that because of other enquiries, it will be some three to four months before any arrests are made. We've identified the photographer in Hendon, a chap by the name of Barry Gales — worked on several projects with Gleeson and Mayers. He'll be raided the same time as Mayers is."

"You seem to know a lot about what's going on," I commented.

"Well, you see the Yard has taken the case over, and I did twenty years with the Met before I went into the security business. Still have a lot of contacts there. They are finding me useful, as I know a lot of the background to the film-production side; they are tending to keep me in the loop, even if it is only identifying suspects from surveillance footage."

We chatted a bit longer about nothing in particular. Then I left the security office. On my way across the stable yard, I stopped to thank Leni, who was cleaning another car, for his assistance last night. Slipped him fifty quid by means of a thank you. He did not want to take it but did with a bit of pressing.

It still was not eleven, so I took a walk around the grounds. Partly, this was to give me time to think about what Allen had said. I was a bit concerned about how Trevor would be affected once the news broke of Mayers' arrest. It was bound to make the front page of the red tops. I just hoped that Trevor's name could be kept out of the whole mess.

The other reason for taking a walk was that I wanted some time just for myself. I realised how little time I had had to myself since Johnny came into my life. It was something that I had missed.

Shortly after twelve, I made my way back into the house. There was a light buffet lunch being served in the Conservatory. I helped myself to a couple of sandwiches and a slice of gala pie. Arthur and Joseph were the only other people in the Conservatory, so I joined them.

I asked Arthur where Johnny was. He informed me that Johnny and Trevor had gone out on the quads but had said they would be back at one. I made some comment about the pair of them being together a lot.

"Oh, don't worry, Mr. Carlton," Arthur said. "They're not involved in any way. It is just that Johnny is somebody Trevor can talk to. In fact, I think he might be the only person Trevor can talk to."

"You're OK with that?" I enquired.

"Yes. It can be a bit annoying at times, but I can understand it," Arthur informed me. "Anyway, Joseph and I can find things to do."

Shortly after two o'clock, Anne and I were married at St. Peter's on the Hill, the estate church for Manston. Although Manston Hall itself is licensed for marriages, Anne had wanted the wedding to be in the church. As she said, when she married John, they could not afford a church wedding. This time someone else was paying, so we might as well go the whole hog.

That's what we did: organ, choir, flowers in the church — you name it, we had it. Not that I can tell you much about it. All I can remember is Bernard telling me to stop shuffling and not to worry: it was the bride's prerogative to be late. Then, there was Anne coming down the aisle on her father's arm. She was dressed in a deep-cream-coloured wedding dress that looked like something out of one of those upmarket fashion magazines. I learned later that it was by one of the top young London designers.

I was somewhat surprised by the number of photographers who were present when we came out of the church. I assumed that someone had tipped the local press off that Ben and Phil were there. Turned out that someone, no doubt the designer, had tipped the fashion press off about the dress. I must admit the dress was something special.

Leni was waiting with the car, a 1920's Rolls Royce, to take us back to Manston for the reception. I was aware that Manston had a small collection of vintage cars, my brother's passion, which they kept for events like this. Later, after the reception, the same car would take us up to the bridal apartment over the boathouse, where Anne and I would spend our first night as a married couple.

It was rather a short night, as we had to be up at six the next morning to catch our flight to Antigua, from where we would island-hop to Necker.

Necker had been… Well, what can you say about Necker? It is Necker, a totally unbelievably relaxed place that was full of unbelievable luxury. Our two weeks on the island had been fantastic, but I was glad to be home. Enjoying yourself can be very tiring.

We had flown in to Stansted. Fortunately, Arthur had been able to pick us up. There had been no need to make our way into London and back out again, something we would have had to do if we had been reliant on public transport. It was a good job I had added Arthur to the insurance for the cars.

Both Anne and I had been exhausted and somewhat jet-lagged; it was well past ten before either of us thought about getting up. It was nearly eleven before I did anything to put that thought into action. I left Anne in bed; the jet lag had hit her a bit more than me. I had managed to grab some sleep on the flight over.

Arthur had left a note on the kitchen table saying he was in the clock tower wiring up. Wiring up what, he did not say. I presumed it was the transceivers for his business. He said to call his mobile if we wanted him. I called and said I was just making a pot of tea. He arrived just as I was about to pour myself a mug. Arthur grabbed a mug out of the cupboard, then sat down and poured himself a tea.

"So, what's going on? I asked. "Any problems?"

"No, Matt was able to establish that some work had already been started on the conversion, so the original planning consent was still valid. He has put in for some variations to the plans, and they had gone through on the nod. So, everything was ready to start work there.

"They put the internet spur in last week. You've got one-gigabit-per-second access," Arthur informed me.

"That sounds like a lot."

"It is. Doubt you will get anywhere needing it even with my business using it, but it was that or nothing." I nodded; he had already told me that. One thing, I could charge most of the line costs to Arthur for his business. I asked how it was going.

"Well, I have picked up most of my old customers. Lost a couple out Becton way, BT has put in a new local box so they can get ASDL out there now. Lost another couple who did not want to do business with me. Dad had told them I was gay. Think they are both Brethren anyway, so it was unlikely that they would do business with me."

"If they don't want to do business with you, then they are probably the type of customers you do not want," I pointed out.

"Yes, they were both late payers, arguing about the level of service.

"There are about fifteen of my old customers I can't cover from here, Mousco High is in the way of the direct line of sight," Arthur stated, referring to the small hill that existed to the southwest of Dunford.

"That's a bit of a problem," I said.

"Not really, I've spoken to that couple that have converted the old church into a house. He's a graphic designer and needs internet. I've said he could have a free service if I can use their tower as a relay point."

"And they've agreed?"

"Oh, yes. Thinks it helps that the Brethren have been telling people not to do business with me. They really laid into that couple when they moved here, saying they were desecrating a house of the Lord by turning it into a home. The Brethren wanted to buy the place but were outbid at the auction."

"Any news from Johnny," I asked. "Thought he would have been back; so, is he still camping on the Yorkshire moors?"

"Oh, no. They got rained out. He's down in London, staying with Trevor. Said he would be back tomorrow or Wednesday."

I was not too happy with that piece of news but noted that Arthur did not seem concerned about it. He continued to give me an update on what had been done, what was waiting to be done and what was not being done. He also told me that Matt was coming in the morning to give me a site tour and update me on the schedule of works. It seems some things could not be done in the order I had asked for them to be completed.

Arthur left to get his wiring done, and I had just put the kettle on to make another pot of tea when Anne came into the kitchen.

"Put the coffee on, Luv," she requested, so I did. Then I set about knocking us up something to eat. Over a couple of bacon sandwiches, we both agreed that we were too knackered to go out food shopping and we would go to the Crooked Man for dinner. I called Arthur to ask if he wanted to join us, but he pointed out that it was a Tuesday and he had youth club on.

Just then, the house phone went. I answered it; it was Johnny.

"Hi, Dad, how was Necker?"

"Fine, you can ask your stepmother all about it when you get home. I think she took about a thousand photos. Where are you?"

"I'm at Trevor's; he was a bit upset when he got back from Necker last week, so I came down to keep him company."

That made sense. Trevor and Tyler had been out on Necker for the first week. The plan was for them to shoot a taster of one of the scenes, but it had been cancelled. There had been a bit of an argument, and a few of Ben and Phil's group had left the island early. I gathered from Ben that the film had lost some of its financing, though he did not seem too worried about it. As a result, the filming for the start of the following week had been cancelled, and Trevor and Tyler, plus some other crew, had flown home.

I asked Johnny how Bob and Susan were?

"Oh, they're not here. That's why I came down; was a bit worried about Trevor being on his own. That's also why I am calling. He's out on a photo shoot, but once that is done, he has nothing on for the rest of the week. Would it be OK if I brought him up to the Priory?"

"So long as he does not mind roughing it, I don't mind. When are you coming?"

"If possible, tonight; if not, in the morning, I'll give you a ring later."

"OK. How're you getting home."

"Depends. Probably train and bus, but we might have to call for a lift from the station."

"Can do, just let me know," I said.

He hung up; I gave Anne a brief update on things so she knew what was going on. Once she had finished her second — or was it third? — cup of coffee, she informed me she was going to have a shower and get changed.

I spent the afternoon going through the whole pile of post that had accumulated for me whilst I had been away. Most of it was junk, but there was some important material in it that I had to deal with. A couple of pieces were urgent. I had just finished with them when Anne came into the office and suggested it was time to go down to the Crooked Man. I checked my watch and saw it had just gone six.

Just as we were about to leave, the phone went. It was Johnny; they were coming up tonight. Johnny said that Trevor had just got in and they were going to grab something to eat before getting the train. I told them to get the eight-thirty to Southminster, and I would pick them up from the station.

We had a quick meal in the Crooked Man. When we got back to the house, Anne said she wanted to make an early night of it. I could not blame her. If I had not obligated myself to meet Johnny and Trevor off the train, I would probably have done the same.

As it was, that was not an option for me. I had to drive to Southminster. I got there just before the train was due, not that it made any difference; it was late, as per usual. Not by much, though.

Seeing Trevor gave me a shock. He looked drawn and had a haunted look around his eyes. As I looked at him, Johnny gave me a shake of the head, indicating that I should not say anything. I got them into the car and asked if they wanted anything to eat. Both boys said no, so I drove them back to the Priory.

Of course, Johnny had not been there since we had moved in, so I had to explain to him where everything was. Not that it was much of a problem. Once I had told him where to find things, I left him and Trevor to sort things out for the night and made my own way to bed to join Anne. Travel fatigue is a bummer.

A good night's sleep seemed to have resolved the travel fatigue for both Anne and me. Anne was first up, but I was not far behind her. As I made my way downstairs, I noticed as I passed the only guestroom that had a bed yet that it had not been made up. That meant that Trevor had to have slept with Johnny. I was not sure how I felt about that.

Anne was in the kitchen making coffee and cooking bacon when I arrived. I put the kettle on for tea. Not long after, Arthur came down the back staircase into the kitchen; he had taken one of the rooms in what had been the servant's wing until his flat was ready. Arthur joined Anne in a coffee but declined a fry-up for breakfast, opting for a bowl of muesli. We sat around the table, consuming our breakfasts and discussing what had to be done today.

Anne wanted to make a supermarket trip to get some food in. Arthur needed some cabling and other supplies. The two of them decided that they would go into Romford. I said if they wanted to get off early that I would clean up the kitchen, so they left for Romford just gone eight-thirty.

I was just about to start cleaning up when Johnny came in. He grabbed a coffee and got himself a bowl of muesli. I commented on the fact that Trevor had not used the guest room.

"No, he slept with me," Johnny confirmed.

"Was that wise?" I enquired.

"Dad, nothing happened. He just needed to be held; he needed to feel safe and wanted. He's had a shit time of it; first Necker and then yesterday's photo shoot."

"What about Necker?" I asked. "I know he and Tyler came home early."

"Dad, you need to speak to one of my uncles or Trevor about that; I'm not saying anything."

"But you know?"

"Yes, Dad. Trevor's told me everything — about those bastards using him, about how it all came out. It seems that it now has consequences."


"Yes, Dad. Speak to your brother or his partner. I am not saying anything."

"Anything about what?" Trevor asked from the door.

We both turned to look at him. He looked at us both, then smiled weakly. "It's OK, Johnny; I'll tell your dad, but first can I get a coffee?"

I poured him a coffee. Johnny gave me a look which indicated that I should treat Trevor gently. As if I needed to be reminded.

"Look, sort yourselves out some breakfast first. Talking on an empty stomach is never a good idea. When you are ready, Trevor, come through to my study, and we can talk." I left the dirty pots in the sink and went to my study. While I was waiting, I decided to check my emails. For the last two weeks, I had only dealt with my personal email address. Anything coming into my business email address got an automatic reply that I was out of the office and would deal with it on my return. Well, I had returned, so I had to start dealing with it.

Opening up my email programme, I saw there were two thousand five hundred and seventy-three unread emails. I thought that was a bit excessive; I would not have expected more than three hundred. Looking at the list of headers, I saw that each email was repeated multiple times. Something had gone wrong. Well, I had an IT whiz kid on site; might as well use him, so I called Arthur. He asked if it was urgent or could it wait till after lunch when they would be back from Romford? I told him it could wait and closed down my email application.

Having given up on my digital mail, I started to deal with the physical mail left over from yesterday. I had already sorted out all urgent stuff and dealt with that. The next thing to do was to sort the rest of the mail, so I put it into three piles: to be dealt with, information and research, and junk. I had just finished the sort when Trevor knocked on the door, which I had left open, anyway. I told him to come in.

"No Johnny?" I asked.

"No, thought it would be easier if I spoke to you alone."

"I gather that something went wrong on Necker?"

"Yes, I've fucked up everything," Trevor stated.

"I doubt that. What happened?"

"Saul Lichtenstein."


"Saul Lichtenstein." Trevor had a look that suggested I should know the name. "He's a big producer from LA. He put money up for both of Phil's last two films."

"So, he has made quite a bit of money from Phil."

"Probably. He was there to discuss putting money into That Woman's Son, but he was having problems with it. He was not keen on me or Tyler being the leads. Wanted more prominent names."

"Well, what was the problem?"

"They arrived late afternoon a couple of days after we got there. I'd never met them, though Tyler had. I was introduced that evening when we all had dinner at the Big House." Ben and Phil had taken the Big House and the lodges nearest it for their guests who were involved in meetings about the film. Anne and I had been at the far end of the island in our own little — actually, not that little — paradise. We had only mixed with the crowd from the Big House on a couple of days during our stay.

"During dinner, I noticed that Peter Torrey — that's Lichtenstein's assistant — kept looking at me. As soon as dinner was over, he pulled Lichtenstein to one side and talked with him.

"I went for a walk on the beach. Torrey must have followed me. I had only gone a short distance when he came up to me and told me to go to Lichtenstein's room. His instructions were: I was to be naked, cleaned out and lubed up and kneeling at the end of the bed.

"I told him to fuck off. Torrey replied that he fully intended to fuck me when Saul had finished with me. Then, he said he wouldn't mind a piece of me now and grabbed me by the shoulders to push me down. I knew what he wanted, so I kneed him in the balls and ran off down the beach.

"Next morning, I get back from a swim and Saul is working on his tablet. He calls me over and tells me he has something to show me. Then he shows me his tablet. It was playing one of the kiddie porno videos I was in. Saul tells me that unless I give him what he wants, he will put the video on the web. He also tells me that there is no way that any two-bit porno actor is going to lead in any film of his, but if was nice to him, I may get a bit part.

"What Saul did not know was that Phil had come along the terrace and heard most of what was said. Phil lost his temper and told Saul he could stick his bloody money, that they could make the film without it. An hour later Saul and Torrey were on their way off the island. However, just before they left, Torrey came up to me and told me that I need not think I was going to be a star; they were going to ruin me.

"The next day Phil told Tyler and me that there was no use us hanging around. We could be of far more use back here, so he sent us home. I've totally fucked up the finance for Phil, and I should have done what Torrey told me to do; then everything would have been alright."

"No, it wouldn't Trevor. For a start, you would have felt bad about it. Also, you would have wondered if you got the part on your own merits or because you gave you arse to some paedophile producer. You've told me what happened on Necker, so what happened yesterday?"

"Phil had arranged this photoshoot for Tyler and me. It was for one of the Sunday supplements. We are supposed to do an interview next week. Well, I turned up for the shoot as arranged, and the art director said I looked like a whore after a bad night. She told makeup to try and fix me, but in the end, she said I still looked like a whore after a bad night and cancelled the shoot."

"Well, did you?"

"Did I what?" Trevor asked.

"Look like a whore after a bad night," I replied.

"Probably," he admitted. "I've not been sleeping well since I got back. Till Johnny came to stay with me, I did not sleep at all. Spent my time trolling the dark web to see if that video had turned up anywhere."

"Had it?"

"Not so far as I can see."

"Good. Now I need to phone Phil or Ben. Why don't you go and find Johnny."

Trevor gave me a weak smile and left. I picked up the phone and called Phil, using the family-only number. Both Ben and Phil have two numbers associated with their mobiles. One is a priority number that only the family and a couple of close friends, like Bernard, have.

I tried Ben first. The call went directly to voice mail, so his phone must be either off or out of service area. Next, I tried Phil's number; it rang.

A bleary voice answered on the third ring. "This better be good, Mike, I did not get to bed till gone one, and it is not quite five-thirty yet."

"Where are you?" I asked.

"New York. You should be back in England now."

"I am," I confirmed. "And trying to sort out a problem."

"What's the problem?" Phil asked.

"Trevor. He is in a bad way." I spent the next ten minutes telling him everything that Trevor had told me and what state Trevor was in.

"Shit!" Phil exclaimed. "Did not realise it had got to him to that extent. First, you'd better tell him that the film is still on. We have funding. He is still our star."

"You do?" I asked.

"Yes, Ben and I are putting in an extra fifty million. That is what we were looking for from Liechtenstein. It is stretching us a bit, so it might be a good idea to get that trust sorted before we start committing things."

"What about Liechtenstein's threat?" I asked.

"Don't think Saul will be damaging anybody's reputation in the future," Phil replied. "He has gone down the plughole so fast it broke the sound barrier."

"What happened?"

"He was returning to the states by the American Virgin Islands. Somebody tipped US Customs off that he had kiddie porn on his tablet. They arrested him at customs, then a warrant was obtained to search his property in LA. The police found a pile more of the stuff, plus two Mexican boys, under-aged illegal immigrants. Saul and his mate had abused both. They are now looking at quite long jail sentences.

"So, you can tell Trevor he does not have to worry. How bad a state is he in?"

"Pretty bad," I said. "I tried calling Ben, as I thought he could probably help. I think Trevor could use his skills. Couldn't get him; the call went to voice mail directly."

"No, you wouldn't get him," Phil replied. There was a pause. "I think he is probably somewhere over Bristol at the moment; he took the twenty-three hundred flight to Gatwick last night. Due to land at eleven your time. Leni is collecting him from the airport; I'll text him and tell him to bring Ben directly to your place."

"Remember, we've moved."

"Yes, I remember. Now you go and comfort Trevor, and I'll text Leni and your brother. They should be with you about one-ish, I think."

I did not get a chance to comfort Trevor. I had just put the phone down when the doorbell went. It was Matt wanting to talk about the project plan for the alterations. I spent about half an hour listening to the alternatives he suggested and then told him that it was no use; I could not make any decisions at the moment. I explained that there was a bit of a crisis on and suggested he come back in a couple of days.

Arthur and Anne got back from their shopping trip in Romford just before one. I updated Anne on the events of the morning and advised her that Ben was on his way. I pointed Arthur in the direction of my laptop with an instruction to sort out the email program. He was back five minutes later telling me it was all sorted.

I went to make some lunch. Anne followed me into the kitchen and gave the pile of dirty pots in the sink a disgusted look. It was clear that before I did anything else, I had to do some washing up. I started to appreciate Anne's insistence that we get a dishwasher. It was not a problem when I was living on my own, but now with more people in permanent residence, I could see the point in getting one.

I did cheese on toast for lunch. It was only for Anne and myself. Trevor and Johnny said they would grab something later; Arthur said he had eaten a burger in Romford. Once lunch was over, Anne told me to get out of her way as she needs to get the house sorted out. I took the hint and went to my study.

It was a lot closer to two than one when I looked out of my study window and saw a dark-blue Jaguar Sovereign with tinted windows pulling into the drive. Leni jumped out of the driver's door and opened the rear passenger door to let Ben out. I went to the main door to greet him. He was just coming up the steps when I opened it.

"New car?" I asked.

"Yes," Ben replied. "Leni said he was sick and tired of driving around in an old tank."

I laughed. Usually, when Leni was driving them, which was not that often, they were in the Range Rover, which must have been more than ten years old.

Leni got back into the car and drove off. I looked questioningly at Ben.

"Told him to go and find us a couple of decent hotel rooms," Ben informed me. "I know you have not got this place sorted out yet."

"I am sure we could have sorted something out for you."

"Yes, but this way I have an excuse if I need to put some distance between myself and Trevor." That I could understand. "On which point, where is he?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure. He and Johnny went off somewhere just before one. I'll give Johnny a call."

I did. Turned out they were helping Arthur. Johnny said they would be about an hour. Took advantage of the time to give Ben a mug of tea and update him on events.

We were still chatting when Johnny and Trevor came in from the stable block. They were both covered in dust. Trevor looked at Ben in surprise.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Came to see you. There's been a development, and we are changing a few things for the film. I needed to discuss them with you," Ben responded.

"I knew it. I fucking knew it. You don't want me now you know about me; you're fucking dropping me," Trevor yelled. He turned and raced out the door.

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