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Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 27

Whilst I was making a fresh pot of coffee, I sent Trevor a text telling him that we were having dinner at the Crooked Man and would be going down there about seven. He replied saying he would join us there.

I asked Johnny where he wanted to go tomorrow for our celebration meal. He suggested a Chinese in Maldon, so I phoned and booked a table for us. I booked a table for ten, remembering that Bernard was coming over and he would probably have the family with him.

Just before seven, I called Johnny to remind him and Joseph that we were going down to the Crooked Man. I told him to tell Maddie and Neal, as they were still over at the van. A couple of minutes later, Johnny and Joseph came up to the apartment to grab a quick shower and get changed. Johnny told me that they would walk down with Maddie and Neal.

As per her instructions, I took Anne down in the car. Was a bit surprised when we got there to find the place crowded. I asked Mary what was going on?

"Some people find the atmosphere here more welcoming than in the yacht club," she stated. "That is one good thing about a Henderson becoming Commodore, at least for my business."

"Henderson's become Commodore, when did that happen?" I asked.

"Last night; it was the AGM, and he got the votes," Mary informed me. "Officially, he does not take over till the 1st of October, but he is already throwing his weight around. A lot of the local members are not too happy with it; that's why they are eating here."

That made sense. The yacht-club marina was this side of the harbour, and the Crooked Man was the nearest eating place if they did not want to eat in the club. It might be a mile or so by road, but if they used the coast path, it would only be a few hundred yards from the yacht club. There was one thing that puzzled me. Why did Henderson want to be Commodore of the yacht club? From what I knew about the position, it needed a lot of effort and gave a minimal reward, other than the prestige of the job. From what I had heard about the Hendersons, I did not think they were all that interested in prestige. There must be some angle in it for them.

I had made our reservation for a table on the terrace as the weather was fine, and it was warm. Johnny and Neal came with me to get the drinks. We had just returned with them and sat down when Trevor arrived.

"How's Arthur?" I enquired.

"A lot better," Trevor informed us. "They are reducing his pain medication, so he is a lot more with it. I need to sort out some clothes to take in for him tomorrow. It looks like he will be out on Monday."

"Are you OK with arrangements for Monday?" I enquired.

"Yes," Trevor answered. "I am not happy with them; would have preferred to collect Arthur and take him down, but I understand the business. Phil's been good to me holding off the shooting of my scene, but he can't hold off indefinitely; that's the way the business is."

I nodded, understanding his position. Though I thought I would probably not have been so understanding if I had been in his shoes and it had been Anne in the hospital.

Just after Trevor arrived, a couple of young women took a table a bit further down the terrace. They seemed familiar to me, but I could not place them. Johnny, though, clearly knew them. He got up and walked across to chat with them. When he came back, I asked him about them.

"Oh," he replied, "they come to the youth club. The younger one is starting at Southmead College next week." It occurred to me that they were the young women I had seen talking to Miss Jenkins in the Harbour Café. No doubt they were keeping an eye on us.

I was not sure how I felt about that. In some ways, it was a relief to know that we had somebody looking out for us. On the other hand, it was a bit annoying to find that you were under observation all of the time. Were we, though? Did they watch us at the Priory, or was it only when we were out and about that we were under observation.

Our meals arrived, and we spent an enjoyable three-quarters of an hour chatting and eating. Johnny and Joseph seemed to be asking Neal a lot of question. However, they kept their voices low, and I could not make out what was being said. Trevor was talking to Anne and Maddie about filming. I was left out of both sets of conversation. Not that I minded; it was nice to be able to relax and not have to worry about anything.

Then my phone pinged. It was a message from Bernard asking if I could drive him out to the Jenkins' farm in the morning. I replied that I could.

Bernard arrived just after nine on Sunday morning with Debora but no Micha or Bethany. Debora informed us that she wanted to talk to Joseph; Bernard told me he needed to get to the Jenkins' farm. I left Debora with Anne, hoping that Debora was not going to cause problems with Joseph, and set off in the Hyundai for the Jenkins' farm.

Once there, Alison McCarthy greeted us; she was clearly expecting us. Alison and Bernard then went off for a walk round the farm, leaving me in the farmhouse kitchen with a pot of tea, some cake and the dogs for company. Actually, the cake was not that bad. It was a home-made farmhouse fruitcake, and it was delicious. So much so, that I was on my third slice when Alison and Bernard returned.

"Do you think it can help Terry?" Alison asked as they came into the kitchen.

"Oh, I don't think helping Terry is going to be a problem," Bernard advised her. "I'm going up to see him on Tuesday. Have to get some papers signed.

"No, this is not about helping Terry; it is about getting to the bottom of John's death. Some people really want the truth to come out."

"What about Ian?" Alison asked.

"Well, his trial is a week on Wednesday, and we are confident of an acquittal," Bernard informed her.

"Can you be that confident?" she enquired. "Isn't it up to the jury?"

"I don't think this case will be put to the jury," Bernard answered. "To be honest, I would be rather surprised if the defence has to call any witnesses."

They chatted for a few minutes more before we left. Once in the car, I asked Bernard if he was that confident about getting Ian off.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "Getting Ian off is not a problem. In fact, I could probably get all charges dropped now if I put everything we had to the prosecution."

"Then, why don't you?"

"Although that would help Ian, it would not help Terry," Bernard replied. "I need to show that McCormac is a liar. Better still, I need to get him to commit perjury. Once I have that, I can call into question his evidence in Terry's case.

"Mike, the justice system does not like to admit it is wrong, so the burden of proof you need to overturn a conviction is quite high. Even to get the case back to the Court of Appeal takes a lot of evidence. If I can show that a major part of the evidence used to convict Terry is unsound, then I have cause for appeal. Ian's case is not about Ian; it is about Terry."

As I pulled out of the farm lane onto the country road that led back to Dunford, I had to pull over to the right side of the road to avoid an Open Reach van that was parked by the side. I was surprised to see one out on a Sunday. I thought they only did emergency repairs on Sundays and could not think of anything out here that would warrant an emergency call out. I was even more surprised when I looked at the workman at the top of the ladder by the telephone pole. It was Neal.

I spent the rest of the thirty minutes driving back to the Priory wondering what Neal was doing up a telephone pole, then wondering if I really wanted to know.

Johnny and Joseph were just leaving on their bikes as I pulled into the yard. I asked Johnny where they were going.

"Steve and Peter have asked us to babysit for a bit," Johnny answered as they jumped onto their bikes and cycled off.

Anne was by the door to the apartment stairs. I looked at her, puzzled about what Johnny had said.

"Steve, just phoned," she informed me. "Peter's car has broken down. Steve is at the yard with the kids, so Johnny and Joseph are going to keep an eye on them while he goes to pick up Peter. Also, Johnny can keep the chandlery open for the afternoon."

"They seemed eager to get there," I commented.

"I think they were," she replied. "Debora had a long talk with Joseph, and he is not too happy. I think she put her foot down about him going home." I sighed and looked at Bernard.

"Don't look at me," he stated. "It's outside my control. She wants him home on Friday for Shabbat. Then, on Sunday they can go shopping for what he needs at the new school."

"You've got him into a new school?" I asked.

"Not confirmed yet," he answered. "We will know for sure on Thursday, but everything points to him going to St Paul's. The thing is, he will be starting next Friday."

"Funny day to start school," I pointed out.

"It is more an enrolment day," Bernard said. That reminded me I needed to sort out with Johnny when he had to enrol.

It was just gone five when Bernard and Debora left. We had gone down to the Crooked Man for a light lunch and then spent most of the afternoon sitting on the terrace chatting over a few pints. I noticed that after the first couple of gin and tonics, Debora had moved over to tonics only. So, presumed that she would be driving back.

Anne and Debora decided to go for a walk along the coast path. I got a distinct impression from them that they wanted a chat without the men listening in. That was fine with me, as there was something I wanted to discuss with Bernard.

"Bernard, what is it between you and Beryl?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Something your mother said. When I asked her what she had against Beryl, she said it was your story to tell."

Bernard leaned back in his chair. "You know I knew Beryl from uni," he said. I nodded; he had told me that before. "We were both in the same year in the School of Law. Both of us were outsiders. Most of the students were public school or the children of lawyers. Here we were, the daughter of a coal miner and the son of a tailor."

"If I recall correctly," I interrupted, "a fairly successful upmarket tailor by then."

"Yes, Dad was successful," Bernard agreed. "It still did not change the fact that I was an outsider. Beryl was, as well. You could feel the disdain the others had for those of us who did not come from the 'traditional' backgrounds for the law.

"There were about eight of us who didn't. There were also a couple of others who, though having the right background, did not quite fit with the respectable lot and so were excluded. Throughout the whole three years, we formed our own little group.

"The result was that Beryl and I got pretty close. Just before finals, we started a relationship. The weekend after finals finished, I brought her down to meet the family. That's when she realised that I was Jewish. She broke the relationship off immediately.

"Anyway, everybody was chasing around trying to get articles or a pupillage. I wanted to go for the bar, and through a friend of a friend managed to get interviewed for a pupillage at a set of chambers in Gray's. It was actually with Sir Henry.

"We met and got on well; I was introduced to the other members of the chambers, and everything seemed fine. Sir Henry took me out to dinner that evening and told me that he was sure I would be offered pupillage in the chambers when they had their chambers meeting the next Monday. That was on the Wednesday.

"The next day, I went back up to Birmingham for graduation and saw Beryl. She asked how things were going, and I told her about the interview. It turned out that she had also been interviewed for the same set of chambers. It was only a small set of chambers, and we both knew it was unlikely that they would take on more than one pupil.

"Well, I graduated and returned home. Friday evening Sir Henry — though he was just-plain mister then — phoned to say that the Head of Chambers had blocked my pupillage application. Sir Henry did invite me to have lunch with him on the Monday at his club.

"Apparently somebody had phoned the Head of Chambers on Friday morning to inform him that I was Jewish. It turned out the Head of Chambers was anti-Semitic. Sir Henry was all apologies, but as a relatively junior member of chambers, he could not do much. Though he did tell me that he did not feel he could stay in those chambers, and he didn't. It was not long after that he left to set up a new set of chambers with some other young barristers.

"One thing Sir Henry did do for me was give me an introduction to Steff Manning, recommending me for articles. That is how I came to join Manning & Son. Of course, by then it was the son running it; the old man had retired years before, though was still technically a partner.

"The rest you know. When old Gerald Manning died, Steff made me a partner after my return from the States, and I took over the firm when Steff retired."

"How does this fit in with Beryl?" I asked.

"Well, Mother did some digging of her own," Bernard replied. "The Head of Chambers might be anti-Semitic, but he was employing Jews. The Senior Clerk was Jewish, though non-practising. He, of course, took the incoming calls for the Head of Chambers, so knew that Beryl Smith had phoned that day.

"He also left with Sir Henry, becoming the clerk to the new chambers.

"Beryl, of course, got the pupillage. In the end, she probably did me a favour. I think I have made a far better solicitor than I ever would a barrister."

"Why did you not tell me this before?" I asked.

"Well, when you and Beryl got together, you seemed so happy, and I did not want to do anything to upset things for you. Then when things fell apart, there did not seem much point."

"You could have warned me as to the type of woman she was," I pointed out.

"Would you have taken any notice?" Bernard asked. "If I had said anything, you would probably have broken off our friendship. It was worth keeping stum to keep that."

Anne and Debora returned from the walk, and we made our way back to the house. The boys were there when we got back, Joseph looking none too pleased.

"Mam, can't I stay till Thursday," he asked Debora as we entered.

She looked thoughtful for a moment but then nodded. "Alright, I'll get your father to drive up and pick you up on Thursday. But Thursday it is. No arguments. Understand?"

Joseph beamed a smile and wrapped his arms around Debora. "Thanks, Mam."

That sorted, Debora and Bernard left. About half an hour later, Trevor arrived. He informed us that Arthur was a lot better and was looking forward to getting out in the morning. I asked Trevor if he had any idea what time Arthur would be discharged.

"Not sure. It will be after the consultant's rounds, so I would say sometime around eleven."

"I'll get down there for about ten-thirty, then," I stated.

"That should be fine," Trevor commented. "I'm off in about half an hour. Going down to the hotel tonight; will move to the Mrs Miniver after shooting tomorrow. Ben's arranged to move my stuff from the hotel."

I had one of my 'I must write' nights, getting up just after two-thirty and going to my computer. Fortunately, I do not get these too often, but when I do, I tend to get whole blocks of writing done. In the early hours of Monday morning, I managed to write a good fifteen-thousand words. The important thing was that I had effectively finished the first draft of the meteorology book. I would, of course, have to go back and do at least a couple of rewrites, but now I had broken its back. Getting the first draft of any work out is always a significant step to completing it. Like most authors, fiction or non-fiction, I had too many projects that had not completed the first-draft stage.

I was still sitting at the computer writing when Johnny came through and placed a mug of tea on the desk for me.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"Just gone quarter past six," he replied.

"You're up early," I commented.

"Have to be, Dad," Johnny responded. "Steve's picking me up at seven."

I nodded. It made sense. Joseph would be working with Matt this morning, so unless he went in with Steve, Johnny would have to cycle in by himself, and we had put a stop to the boys being by themselves. That thought process made me think about Joseph and how things were with Johnny.

"How is Joseph?" I asked.

"A bit pissed off with having to go home this week," Johnny stated. "He thought he would be able to stay until the start of next week."

"You knew he would have to go back for the start of school," I pointed out.

"Yes, Dad, we knew that. The thing is, his old school does not start till Wednesday next week. If Joseph had been going there, he could have stayed here till Monday. We planned on going sailing on Saturday."

"But Joseph wanted to change schools," I said.

"Yes, he did," Johnny confirmed. "It's just we did not realise that it would involve a change in start dates."

"How do you feel about it?" I asked. "The last few weeks, you and Joseph have been very close."

"Dad, we're a couple!" he exclaimed. "We've been sleeping together; we love each other; we're together."

"I know," I stated. "How will it be when he is at school in London and you're at college here?"

"Difficult," Johnny replied. "I'll miss him like hell. I am beginning to understand what Arthur was on about the difference between sex and a relationship. When Joseph is not around, it is as if part of me is missing."

"I know the feeling," I informed him.

"You and Anne?" he asked.

I nodded.

"But at least you know she will be back in the evening," Johnny continued. "With Joseph, I will probably not see him till half-term."

"I am sure he could come up some weekends, or you could go down to London to be with him," I stated.

"You'd be OK with that?" Johnny asked.

"Yes," I replied. "Now, you'd better get some breakfast; Steve will be here for you soon."

I got to the hospital shortly after half-ten. Just as I managed to find a parking space, my phone went. It was Arthur to tell me the doctor had just authorised his discharge.

The doctors authorising Arthur's discharge was one thing. Getting him discharged seemed to be another thing altogether. In the end, it was well past twelve before we got to the door of the hospital. I told Arthur to wait there in his wheelchair for me whilst I went and got the car. When I got to the car, I called the number that Bernard had given me and told them I was about to leave the hospital with Arthur. Then I drove out of the carpark and round to the main entrance to pick him up.

When I picked Arthur up, he winced getting out of the wheelchair and climbing up into the passenger seat. I asked him if he was alright; he assured me he was. He had a bit of difficulty with the seatbelt and admitted that it was uncomfortable. I made a point to drive slowly; did not want to risk any sudden stops.

I took things easy out of Maldon, taking the turn to Dunford. I noticed at the roundabout that there was a dark-green Ford Mondeo behind us. The thing was, I was sure I had seen it in the hospital carpark. However, I really did not give it much of a thought, expecting it to take the bypass as we reached Dunford. It was something of a surprise to see that it turned into the harbour road after me. I was more surprised, and a little bit worried, as it followed us through town and up Junction Road. By now, I was sure it was following us, something I became more confident of once it turned up the hill behind us as we went up towards the Priory. The only possible explanation for the car taking this route was that it was following us.

It was with some relief that I turned into the driveway of the Priory and pulled round the building into the yard. Neal and Maddie were there waiting for me; there was also a large man, who apparently went with a panelled van that was also sitting in the yard.

"Any problems?" Neal asked as I got out of the van.

"I think we were followed," I stated.

"You were," Maddie confirmed. "Dark-green Ford Mondeo, 2001 registration." She glanced at her phone and read off the registration number. "Stolen in Ashford on Saturday."

"Stolen?" the large man asked just as Arthur was being helped by Neal to get out of the car.

"Sorry, I should have introduced you," Maddie said.

"Mike, this is Richard Williams. He's an SRN and will be looking after Arthur on the Mrs Miniver for a bit." We shook hands.

"You questioned stolen with an air of disbelief," I stated to Mr. Williams.

"Not so much disbelief, more one of incredulity. They must be total amateurs if they are using stolen cars for trailing," he stated.

"Dangerous amateurs."

"That goes without saying," Richard commented. "Amateurs, especially at the level this lot are playing, are always dangerous. Professionals know when to cut their losses and pull out, amateurs tend to go in far too deep and then try to tidy things up by killing people.

"Well, we'd better get this show on the road." With that, he pulled open the side door of the van. Looking in, I could see that the interior of the van was very comfortably furnished. Also, what I took to be panels in the van were, in fact, one-way windows.

"Aunty wants us to wait an hour," Neal stated. "Gives us a bit of time to go over a couple of things with Arthur."

"That will be useful," Maddie stated. Neal was getting the wheelchair out of the back of my SUV. "Get into the chair, and we'll take you round to the van, Arthur. We can fill you in on some things."

The three of them went off in the direction of Neal's van. I looked at the interior of the van that was here to transport Arthur.

"Pretty luxurious," I commented.

"Yes," Richard confirmed. "We use it to move celebrities around town. Not as ostentatious as a stretched limo."

"I suppose not," I replied. "Well, we seem to have been left. Do you fancy a cuppa?"

I showed Richard up to the apartment. Anne had gone out; she had a meeting at the college, I remembered. Richard informed me he preferred coffee over tea, so I made him some coffee and made myself a tea.

"So, you're an SRN but working for Miss Jenkins?" I enquired.

"Yes," Richard replied. "Did six years in the Army Medical Corps, then did my Bachelor of Nursing. Worked in A and E for two years, then started doing this. You would be surprised at the number of celebrities who need a medically qualified person in attendance. No doubt, I will miss it next month."

"Next month?"

"Yes," Richard replied. "Aunty has got me looking after Arthur for the next couple of weeks, then I start medical school."

"That a bit of a jump," I commented.

"Not really. I go in as a mature student with a medical-related degree. I can convert in four years rather than the normal five. Always wanted to be a doctor but did not do well enough in school. Aunty suggested this way."

"Why does everybody call Miss Jenkins 'Aunty'?" I asked.

"Well, she is my aunt — or great aunt, to be more exact. At least, as far as be damned. Uncle Albert is my grandmother's brother. Edith Jenkins has been his partner since the nineteen-fifties. The only reason she's not his wife was the fact that he was married and she was Catholic and would not divorce.

"Though, I know what you mean. You must understand that the three families are all closely related, so we tend to call any one of the older crowd who is not our parent 'aunty' or 'uncle'. It is just in Miss Jenkins' case, there is a capital A on Aunty. She's the best thing that has happened to the families: got us out of crime and into business."

"You mean that Miss Jenkins is running a legitimate business?"

"I would not go so far as to say that, but it is a lot more legitimate than before Albert took over, her by his side. Those two had a vision, and Aunty is close to pulling it off. All the youngsters have a qualification; half of them have been to university. And they've come out without student debts; Aunty has seen to that."

Just then, Richard's phone rang. He answered it.

"Ah, it seems we can move," he informed me.

"What's happened?"

"Local cops, no doubt acting on a tipoff, picked up the occupants of a stolen Ford Mondeo. Stupid buggers using a stolen car for that type of work. Too much chance of being picked up with ANPR."

"What's ANPR?" I asked.

"Automatic number plate recognition," Richard informed me. "Most cop cars are fitted with it these days; reads any number plate it sees as they are driving along. Checks it with DVLA in Swansea, and the police database then alerts the crew if there is a problem with it. Bloody cops don't have to do a thing unless it bleeps at them."

We went down to the yard, where Arthur, Neal and Maddie joined us. Arthur was enthusing about the equipment in the truck. He and Neal were jabbering away to each other in terminology which left me a technological generation behind completely baffled.

"Alright," Richard announced. "It's time to get this show on the road. Neal, if you could help Arthur get into the seat facing the rear of the van, I will get him settled."

Arthur obediently, with assistance from Neal, got out of the wheelchair and into the indicated seat.

"Why this seat?" he asked. "I like to see where I'm going."

"It's backwards-facing," Richard informed him. Stating a fact that was obvious to all of us. "That means we can use a two-point, fixed, waist-strap seatbelt. If you were in one of the forward-facing seats, we would have to use a three-point belt, which has a chest strap. Any sudden braking and you would really feel it with your ribs."

Arthur grasped that point and happily settled into the rear-facing seat. Richard handed him the remote control for the entertainment system and told him that if he wanted to listen to anything, he should use the headphones which were hanging at the side of the seat. He then folded the wheelchair and clamped it into place in the van before closing the side door. Then Richard went round to climb into the driver's seat.

With the side door closing, the name of a major delivery company was revealed on the side of the van. I mentioned that I thought they might object to such usage. Neal informed me that it was not likely as Miss Jenkins owned it.

Maddie's and Neal's phones both beeped. Neal read a message, then went around to the other side of the van to say something to Richard. Richard just nodded. I looked at Maddie.

"We've just had the go-ahead for the move. Richard is to pick up a lead and tail car when he gets onto the bypass. They will shadow him to Richmond," she informed me. "Neal is giving him the details."

A moment later the van moved off. Maddie and Neal said they had work to do, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the yard. I returned to the apartment and my writing.

Anne got back shortly after two. I asked her how things had gone.

"Good," she replied. "Had a meeting with Mr. Gregory; he's head of the department. There was another woman there, Paula Timmings, who is doing the same access course. She's thirty-four. Mr. Gregory wanted to meet us to discuss the course with us. It seems some older students have had problems in the past, and he wanted to make sure any issues were dealt with before the course started."

"What sort of problems?"

"Time pressure is the main one," Anne responded. "Basically, we are doing the equivalent of a two-year course in twelve months. That means there is a lot of work. As Mr. Gregory pointed out, this can be a problem for the older student who might have home commitments they have to work around — like children. Paula's got two boys, twelve and eleven. Her husband started his own business last year and works from home, so there is no problem if one of the boys is off school. Her husband can look after them."

"Does he know that?" I asked.

"Not sure, but he is going to find out soon," Anne replied. "They're at an independent school and don't go back till a couple of days after the course starts."

"When does it start?"

"Next Monday. Actually, next Tuesday, but we have to go in on Monday to get all our passes and such sorted out. That reminds me, I have to go in tomorrow to enrol officially. It is only a formality, but it has to be done. Do you know when Johnny has to enrol?"

"I think he said Tuesday or Thursday," I replied. "You'll have to check with him when he comes in."

Just then the phone rang; it showed a withheld number. I answered it. It was Arthur, just calling to tell me he had arrived at the Mrs Miniver.

"How are things? Not too cramped?"

"This thing is massive," he replied. "It's a converted Dutch barge, and there is more room here than in my flat."

We chatted a bit more, but he said he was tired after the journey and was going to take a nap. He passed the phone over to Richard, who informed me that Arthur was fine, but he had just given him one of the pain killers which would make him sleepy for a bit.

I had just put the phone down when it rang again. This time a number was displayed. It was Jack's. I wondered what he wanted.

"Hi, Jack," I said as I picked the phone up.

"Afternoon, Mike," he responded. "Is that grandson of mine around?"

"No, he's at the yard today."

"Good, we can have a natter about him, then," Jack said.

"What are you up to?"

"Now, Mike, is that any way to speak to your ex-father-in-law?"

"Let's not go there, Jack; I am not sure if I have ever forgiven you for your daughter."

"Mike, I am not sure that I've ever forgiven myself for Beryl. Though I would point out, I have a fine son, a good son-in-law and a perfect grandson, which must make up for something."

"I am sure it does, Jack, but what are you up to?"

"The missus has just told me that I have to clear the workshop."

"What workshop?" I asked.

"The one I have got in the garage at the bottom of the garden."

"So," I asked, "what has this got to do with Johnny?" Knowing full well what the answer was going to be.

"Well, I would like to give it to him."

For the next half hour, Jack and I talked about him moving his workshop down here so that Johnny could have it. I had to point out that, at the moment, we did not have anywhere to put it. That resulted in an instruction to get the builders working on the conversion of the outbuildings as soon as possible. Jack also informed me he would send details of the power requirements down by letter and that he would pay for the work on Johnny's workshop. We spent most of the half hour arguing about that. In the end, I just gave up. I knew full well where my ex had got her stubborn streak from; I also had no doubt that Johnny inherited it, as well.

Once I finished the call with Jack, I phoned Matt to ask him what the timeline was on getting the outbuildings done. I needed to give Jack some idea of when the workshop for Johnny would be ready.

"Well, if you don't mind a couple of days slippage on the house, we could get three of the workshops finished this week," he informed me.

"What?" I replied. "How come?"

"All the structural work on the area below the apartments had to be done when we did the work getting the apartments ready. All that is needed is to put up the partitioning and do the second fix and they would be up and ready to use. It's all ready to go, so if I put the whole team on it, two — max three — days' work."

I told him he'd better get it sorted, though I wanted to speak to him about how they were configured. Matt told me he was coming up to the site on Wednesday, in any event, as he had to do a snagging-list check for the kitchen. They were ahead on the work there, and it was nearly ready. That was good news, which I passed on to Anne.

"That's good," she responded. "At least we will be able to cook a decent meal. Was getting tired of eating out all the time."

I knew how she felt.

Just then, I realised that Matt had not said anything about Joseph being at the office, and I had not seen him around. I mentioned this to Anne.

"Sorry," Anne said. "Should have told you. Sarah was picking him up from the office at lunchtime and taking him to the county museum. They have got the 3D plot finished, and she was going to show it to him. Said she would drop him off around five-thirty."

"Thanks for telling me."

One of Steve's men brought Johnny back just after four. I told Johnny about Jack giving him the content of his workshop.

"Where am I going to put it?" he asked.

"Matt's going to advance work on the workshops," I told him. "He said he could get those under here sorted in a couple of days. We need to go down and work out how we need them set up."

When we got down to the area below the apartment, I was surprised how big it was. To be honest, I had not paid it that much attention before as it had been filled with junk. All that, though, had been cleared out. I remember Anne had told me she had got a good price for some of the stuff. Now, seeing the space cleared, it was much bigger than I remembered.

In reality, it had the same floor area as the apartments above, but being one open space, it seemed so much larger. It was about five metres deep and about thirty metres long. Cast-iron pillars split the area up into six bays, each of which had double doors leading out into the yard.

"What do you think?" I asked Johnny.

"It's big," he replied.

"Bigger than I thought," I responded. "How much of it do you want?"

"I would like the lot," he stated. I looked at him. "OK, Dad, I know, that's a bit excessive. Really, I only need one bay for my workshop?"

"Only one?"

"Well I was going to ask if I could have another bay for a storeroom, but I don't really need it. If they could put a partition across the bay, I could use the rear half as a storeroom. It will leave you five bays to rent out," he stated.

"Don't worry," I told him. "I am not planning on renting out any workshops on the yard."

"I thought—"

"So, did I," I interrupted. "But when I thought about it, I realised that the yard is a space that the family will be using. Not sure I want a lot of people moving around here coming to the businesses. Think I will stick to renting out workshops in the outbuildings on the other side of the Stable House."

"What are you going to do with the stables?" Johnny asked.

"To be honest, I had not thought about that," I replied. "Suppose we could use them for garages."

"Not sure that would work," Johnny stated. "I think the doors are a bit too narrow. You could use the last bay here as a garage. That would work."

I agreed that it would. We spent the next half hour discussing what we needed Matt's team to do. It was a relatively simple decision; one bay would be walled off as a large workshop which Johnny would use. The bay next to it would be walled off to form a storeroom, with a door in place to allow access from the workshop. The other four bays would be left as they were for the time being, though we would probably use at least one as a garage. The thing which did take the time sorting out was what should go where. I had just assumed that the first two bays would be the workshop and the storeroom with the garage at the end. However, Johnny pointed out that it made more sense to have the garage in the first bay, to be nearest to house.

Having sorted that out, we went back to the apartment. Anne had just made a pot of tea, which was welcome.

"When do you have to enrol, Johnny?" Anne asked.

"Any time before Friday, though I think I will probably do it tomorrow," Johnny replied. "Not going into the yard, and Joseph is out all day with Matt."

"Good," Anne replied. "I can take you in, as I can enrol tomorrow."

"Thanks, Anne," Johnny replied as I handed him a couple of letters that had come for him. He opened the first; it was a pile of advertising bumf, which was consigned to the bin. The second was an official-looking brown envelope. He opened it and removed the contents.

"Good!" he exclaimed. Both Anne and I looked at him. "It's my provisional licence. I need to get online and book my CBT." With that, he left us. Anne just laughed. I looked at her.

"I remember how excited I was to get my first moped," she stated.

"I don't," I replied.

"Come off it; you're not that old," she responded.

"I know, but I never had a moped or a motorbike."

"Poor you. You don't know what you missed."

Joseph was back when we returned to the apartment. He was busy telling Anne about the results of the scans.

"I gather it went well," I said when he paused to take a breath.

"Yes," he replied. "A lot of stuff has shown up."

"Like what?" I enquired.

"It looks as if there were some buildings down by Pound Pond. There is also something between the cruck barn and the yard. I can show you," he said, pulling a DVD from his bag.

We all went through to the living room, and I put the DVD in my laptop. At first, we tried crowding around the table with the computer on it to view the screen, but that was not working, so I connected the laptop to the television. Once we could see the images on a forty-six-inch screen, it was a lot easier to make out the details. There had clearly been a complex of buildings down by the pond. There also seemed to be some sort of trackway leading from the area around the pond up to the cruck barn.

Looking at it, I realised it made sense. The road that now ran along what we thought of as the front of the Priory had not been in existence till the late Nineteenth Century. The old road was no doubt what was now Sidings Lane, running along the old railway sidings. There was actually a drive from the cruck barn to the lane, but that had been cut off by the fence that now surrounded the property.

We spent the better part of an hour looking at the images, with both Joseph and Johnny making insightful comments about them. By then it was getting on for six, and I thought we ought to make some arrangements about eating. Nobody was particularly keen on the Crooked Man again. The food was good, but we had eaten our way through their menu. Neither Anne nor myself were in the mood for cooking. After some discussion of the options, which included an offer from Johnny to make a risotto, I ordered a Chinese take-away.

It would have been the risotto, but when Johnny checked, we did not have the right type of rice for it. Anne put Arborio rice on her shopping list. I made a note to talk to Johnny about his cooking ability.

After we had eaten, the boys went off to Johnny's room to do their own thing. Anne settled down with a book to read; I returned to my computer and started writing. Anne brought me a mug of tea about nine-thirty and an hour later informed me she was going to bed as she expected a busy day tomorrow. I told her to switch off the lights, and I would come to bed when I had finished what I was writing. One thing about being a touch typist is that I do not need the light on to type, and I find I can often work better in the dark — or at least semi-darkness — with just the light from my computer screen.

I had just closed down my laptop when I became aware of a faint sound coming from the yard. The windows of the apartment were open, the day having been hot and the night not much cooler. I was sure I had heard something. Moving over to the window, I looked out into the yard but could see nothing. Then, there it was again. The rustle of gravel, not the crunch of something heavy being pushed down into it, but the rustle of something moving over it and trying not to disturb it. It seemed to come from the far side of the yard, from near the opening at the side of the Stable House. Just then I glimpsed the shadowy form of a figure moving through the opening.

One of the jobs I had done earlier in the year, just before Johnny had become part of my household, was to write the technical manual on a thousand-lumen torch. I had, of course, been sent a sample of the torch to work with and had found it useful. I had also found that at close quarters the beam could be very disorientating if shone directly into somebody's eyes. It would effectively blind them for a couple of seconds, if not longer. I dug in the bottom draw of my desk and pulled the torch out, then went down the stairs and into the yard. Fortunately, I was walking on one of the brick paths that crossed the yard diagonally, so did not make any noise. I had just got past the opening at the corner of the Stable House when a uniformed figure loomed out of the darkness in front of me.

I raised the torch to switch it on.

"I wouldn't if I was you, sir," he whispered in a voice which I am sure could not have been heard four foot away.

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