It was comforting to wake up in the morning and feel the weight of Brian's body pressed against my back. What was not comfortable was the pressure of my bladder, which was insisting that I needed to visit the toilet. A quick glance at the clock as I disengaged myself from Brian's embrace, confirmed the worst to me. It was too early in the morning for getting up on a holiday, but it was too late to go back to bed once you were up. So, I made my way to the bathroom, pissed, showered and shaved. Then dressed for the day ahead.
As I moved back through the bedroom, Brian mumbled something that sounded like "what time is it?" So I told him. An act which elucidated a torrent of expletives I hoped the boys never learnt. Though in all honesty I had to admit that, seeing where they were from, they probably already knew them, and possibly a few more that neither Brian nor I had ever heard. After the outburst of colourful language, he rolled over and pulled the duvet tight around him. By the time I got to the top of the stairs, he was snoring gently.
The door to the boys' room was open when I got down to the first floor landing. I looked in to check on them. They were both comfortably asleep – in their own beds. The first night they had been with me Peter had sought the sanctuary of his brother's bed during the night. I had no objection to this, but it could not have been very comfortable for either of them.
I got down to the kitchen and put the kettle on to make a pot of tea. I had no doubt that when Brian eventually emerged from our bed, he would want coffee, but I did not see any immediate need to meet that potential requirement. After all today was a holiday so I did not expect him to emerge before ten, at the earliest.
I had just poured the water onto the tea in the pot when I heard the letter box go. Surprisingly the paper had arrived before nine. Most unusual during the school holidays. I shoved a couple of slices of toast in the toaster, then went to collect the paper. Glancing through it I saw little of immediate interest to read.
The toast popped up out of the toaster as I got back to the kitchen. I dropped the paper on the kitchen table, then I transferred the toast to my plate, smothered it in butter, then applied a thick coating of rhubarb and ginger conserve to it. Made myself a mug of tea, the teabag in the mug method, and seated myself at the table. I opened the paper to the crossword, and started to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet before what I was certain was going to be a very hectic day.
For a start, we had to take two teenage boys shopping for clothes. I suspected that Brian wanted to get them far more than clothes. He had been mumbling about what boys needed last night. Clothes, though, were on the top of the list, then there was food. One thing I did know about teenage boys was they were not big on healthy eating. I was fairly certain that a lunch of smoked salmon, coleslaw and whole grain toast, was not the sort of thing that hit the top of their hits list.
What was on the top of my list, at least my list of things to do, was to inform my family. I had already set this partially in motion by emailing my sister-in-law, Louise, yesterday to let her know about developments. She could tell my brother. My brother Mike and I were not speaking to each other. To be more correct Mike was not speaking with me. He had not since Dad's death.
Our mother had died a couple of years before Dad, and Dad's parents had died years ago. However, Grandma Grace, my mother's mother, was still very much alive and living in Bermondsey. I checked the time and decided it was too early to call her. That was a mistake.
I had just finished my second mug of tea, this time made properly in the pot, when the phone rang.
"W'ats dis I hear, you got yourself two boys?" Grandma Grace's voice boomed down the line even before I was able to identify myself.
"Yes Grandma, I was going to phone later to tell you about them."
"Later, when be later, they be with you since Christmas day from what Lukie said. He phoned me last night to tell me thanks for his present and he tell me that he had two new cousins. I wait all night for you to phone me an tell me and I hear nowt. Now I have to call you to find out what you should have been telling me. So, tell me now, who bin these boys and how come you got them." I knew she was upset, her accent was showing.
I then spent the next half hour telling how I knew Tim from the Centre and that I had found out he had nowhere to go on Christmas Day so had invited him to have Christmas dinner with me. How, Tim had turned up on Christmas Day with his younger brother with him, the pair of them having walked ten miles to get to me. I also told her that Tim's father had locked the younger brother Peter in the coalhouse all night, after knocking him black and blue. Then I had to explain how Mary, who I knew from my volunteer sessions at the Centre, worked in Social Services and I had called her. She had arranged a temporary placement for the boys with me.
"And why is it temporary? Are you not a good place for those boys to be? Can't you and that man of yours give them a good home? I suppose he is over with his family?"
"Grandma, the reason it is temporary is because Mary was not in a position to issue a permanent placement. There needs to be home inspections and things. Mary has no doubt we will pass them, but things have to be done properly. Of course we can give them a good home, certainly a better one than they were in. Brian was over with his family but as soon as I told him about the boys, he got a flight back here. Arrived early yesterday."
"No doubt had those lads out riding with him on those bikes of his."
"How did you know?" I asked.
"Davy, I bant be born yesterday and I've seen plenty of teenage boys and I'd seen plenty of men with their toys. Brian would want to show off his toys and any teenage boys would want to play with them."
I had to admit that on that point Grandma was right, the moment Brian had shown Tim and Peter the motorcycles, they had wanted a ride. The fact that we had gone to the garage to get into the car to go shopping for them was totally lost. Getting a ride on the bikes was more important.
"I'll be arriving New Street at five to one," Grandma stated. I realised I had not been listening for a bit.
"But we've got nowhere for you to stay," I responded. I suppose I could move myself and Brian out to the summerhouse.
"You bant be listening, boy. I said I'd spoke to Louise. She's be picking me up at New Street and taking me to their house, I'll stay in Bromsgrove while I up there. We'll be coming for tea tonight, bout five, I don't do late eating, bad for me digestion you know."
"Who're we, Grandma?"
"Me and your brother's family of course. I ain't got no car and I don't drive anyway, so they have to bring me to yours and it would be impolite of you to not offer them tea. It would be stupid of that brother of yours to drive all that way back to Bromsgrove only to have to drive back again to pick me up when I am ready to go."
Grandma had it all worked out. I knew better than to argue the point with Grandma. It did occur to me that I would have to get Brian to sort out the dining table. With Grandma, Luke, Louise, Mike, Brian, Peter, Tim and me, that was eight for tea. At the moment it was only configured for four places, and I was not sure where the extra chairs were.
I also had to warn the boys about my brother. Brian, fortunately, knew the score. How I told the boys was going to be a problem, the last thing I wanted to do was worry or upset them.
Glancing up at the kitchen clock, I decided that Brian had had enough beauty sleep. If I was going to have to worry about things, then he could to. I made a jug of fresh coffee, then took a mug of coffee up to him, making enough noise as I entered our bedroom to wake him. I placed the mug of steaming coffee on the bedside table.
Brian poked his head over the top of the king-sized duvet, which he had by now taken total possession of.
"Coffee," I stated.
Brian looked at the mug, sniffed the air, then looked at me.
"Did I really ask you to marry me yesterday morning?"
"Yes you did. Why?"
"It's ten past eight on a holiday morning, there is no way you should be waking up your fiancé at this time unless you are after sex, which you certainly aren't dressed for, and by your actions I don't think the house is on fire. Do you have any reasonable defence for your inhumane action?"
"Grandma is coming."
Brian sat straight up in bed, pushing the duvet aside. He grabbed the mug of coffee and took a large gulp of it, then paused.
"Blast that was hot," he stated after a moment. "So, this is not a dream. You did just say Grandma is coming."
"She'll be here at five. Louise is picking her up from New Street at one, and Mike will be bringing her over at five, for tea."
"Does Mike know that?"
"It's Grandma, does it matter?"
"Point taken," Brain said as he got out of bed and made his way into the bathroom. Through the open door of the bathroom he asked what we had to do today.
"For a start we need to get the boys some clothes. We also have to meet with Mary at eleven at Social Services, no idea how long that is going to take. You said you wanted to get some things for the boys, though you did not specify what."
"For a start they both need phones that will not run out of credit. I think they need laptops as well, and some games equipment. We also need to get proper helmets for them, so they have their own, and some leathers…"
I listened to the list as Brian showered and shaved. Eventually he slowed down, came out of the bathroom naked with a towel flung over his shoulder.
"You don't think I'm going overboard, do you, David?"
"Yes you are. We don't know how long they will be with us," I pointed out.
"It doesn't matter. If they go somewhere else, they can take the stuff with them."
"I'll go down and start cooking breakfast, can you wake the boys on your way down."
Brian indicated he would, so I returned to the kitchen. Once down there I started to cook breakfast. Something told me that today the boys would need something more than cereal and toast. Brian arrived five minutes later, just after I had put the bacon in the pan.
"They'll be down in ten," he informed me.
I looked at the bacon and nodded. That would work out about right.
Shortly after what I assumed to be a herd of elephants descended the stair. It turned out to be two boys.
"Did you sleep well?" I asked.
"Yes, sir," Peter, the youngest replied.
I found it uncomfortable being called sir. I noticed they were both calling Brian, Brian, but Peter seemed to call me sir. Tim was doing the same, even though he had been calling me David for the last six months. I sat down on one of the chairs at the kitchen table to bring me down to Peter's eye level.
"Peter, my name is David not sir, so call me David please."
He looked a bit confused for a moment as he thought about it, then smiled. "OK, sir." Brian laughed. I stood up, returned to the stove and started to serve up breakfast.
Over breakfast I went over the events that we had to deal with today. The first thing was to get them both some more clothing. However, we had to be at Social Services at eleven and it was getting on for nine now, so I did not think a shopping trip into Birmingham was in the cards. We agreed a trip to the Primark store would have to do for the time being. We could go into town at the weekend.
One thing I was worried about was schooling. How were we going to sort that out? Hopefully Mary would be able help us there as I was fairly certain that there would not be anybody at any of the schools till after the New Year.
When I raised the point, Tim suddenly looked worried. I asked him what was wrong.
"I suppose I'll have to change schools?"
"I think that is likely, you'll be way outside the catchment area of your last school. Anyway have you been attending since you got kicked out?"
"I've gone when I can," Tim advised me. "Told the teachers that there were problems at home, and I was staying with family for a bit. Managed to get in most days, but sometimes missed the first class."
I was surprised that he even bothered to try keeping his schooling going, given the circumstances. However, it did say something about him. Tim had always struck me as an intelligent boy. Then something occurred to me.
"That's why you came to the Centre… to do your homework."
"But where are your schoolbooks?"
"Most are in the locker at school, there are a couple at John's."
I suddenly remembered about John, the friend Tim had stayed with, would not he be worried about Tim by now. I mentioned it.
"It's OK, I told him Christmas morning that I might be away for a couple of days. I'll pop down later and let him know I'm OK."
Breakfast finished, Brian got the boys to clean up, and then clean themselves up. Then we set off for Primark. The next hour was filled with getting clothes for the boys. Actually it was mostly for Peter. I had not realised how much I had bought for Tim on Sunday when I took him clothes shopping. A couple of times I had to put a brake on Brian, like pointing out that Peter was thirteen and yes he did need some slacks for formal occasions, but six pair was excessive, he would be grown out of them before he had worn them. There were only a couple of times a quarter when we might go somewhere where slacks would be appropriate.
It was quarter past ten when we finally got everything packed into the car and the boys in the back seat. I had thought of taking the boys someplace for a coke and a cake, but decided against it. Instead I called the cab company and ordered a car for twenty to eleven from our place, then drove home. We had exactly three minutes from parking the car in the garage to get to the front of the house to meet the cab. So, we left everything loaded in the car and walked around to the front just in time for the hire car to arrive. I did remember to grab my messenger bag from the car, it had the fostering documents in it, together with a notepad and pens, plus some things we would need later at the supermarket. It got us to Social Services five minutes before our appointment with Mary.
When we were shown into the conference room where Mary was waiting for us, I got a shock. There were four people there, Mary herself and three who I did not know, at least I did not know two of them. Mary introduced us. First, her manager, Patrick Bolton, who assured us that he was only there just to assure that there was no conflict of interest, given that we were known to Mary through our work at the Centre. The second was a Margaret Allsopp, who was introduced as Tim and Peter's case worker. Mary explained that she did not do case work these days and anyway the boys needed somebody on their side, who did not have any form of relationship with Brian and me. Mary went to introduce us to the third.
"Hello Jean, long time no see," I said, shaking her hand.
"You know each other?" Mary asked.
"Yes Mary, though I had not connected David Moore with Dr. David Moore-Carlson that I knew at uni."
"I dropped using the Carlson a few years ago. Does this complicate things?" I asked.
"Not really, though we better make sure we have your full name on all the documentation. Jean is our solicitor who will be representing us in the family court. You might want to get their own representation for the boys, though that is not strictly necessary."
"Don't we need representation?" Brian asked.
"No," Jean answered. "Technically you are not party to the current set of proceedings. If you want to go for adoption at a later stage, that is another matter."
"Oh, I better introduce you. Brian, this is Jean McCullock, I and two other lads shared a house with her when we were at university. She kept us all in order."
"It's Jean Sanderson now," Jean replied. "The lot of you needed controlling."
"So, you married Bobby?" I asked. "I didn't think you were more than friends."
"We weren't and I didn't. I married his brother Alex. Bumped into Bobby about three years after I qualified. His brother was with him and one thing led to another. We now have three boys, two adopted."
Mary indicated that we should be seated, so we took our places around the table. Brian put the boys between him and me.
"Just to update you all on the situation at the moment. First, Tim and Peter, your father has been charged with a number of counts of assault with grievous bodily harm and two counts of attempted murder. He's in police custody."
"Good!" exclaimed Peter. Everybody looked at him. "Well, he deserves it, he was always bashing Tim and he used to bash Jenny, when he was not fucking her."
There was a gasp, but I am not sure who it was from, it may have been me.
"Who's Jenny?" Jean asked.
"Good question," commented Mary. She looked across at Tim. "Tim, would you mind telling us who Jenny is?"
"Jenny's our sister," Tim stated. Mary looked at Miss Allsopp, who was rapidly leafing through the papers in the folder she had in front of her. Finally she looked up.
"We've got no record of a sister," she stated.
"How old is your sister?" Mary asked Tim.
"But your parents have only been married eighteen years," Miss Allsopp commented. I wondered what that had to do with it. Luke was four before Mike and Louise married.
"Dad's not Jenny's father, her old man fucked off before she was born. Dad came on the scene a couple of years later from what Mum told us," Tim informed us.
"And your father was having sex with her?" Miss Allsopp asked.
"Yes," Tim confirmed. "Said she had a tighter pussy than Mum."
"How long has this been going on?" Miss Allsopp inquired.
"I don't know, as long as I can remember," Tim replied. Both Mary and Miss Allsopp were rapidly scribbling on their pads.
"Look, we've got a lot to get through and not much time," Mr. Bolton stated. "Can you just get the current position sorted and then maybe Miss Allsopp can talk to the boys while the rest of us talk with Dr. Moore and, is it Mr. or Dr. Grieves?"
"It's Dr. Grieves," Brian responded, "Though I generally don't use it."
"Might be useful to use it in these circumstances. May I ask what you are a doctor of?" Jean inquired.
"Business administration," Brian replied. "My first degree was a double major in psychology and education. I then went on to do an MBA and a DBA."
"David, your doctorate is in materials science I think you told me," Mary stated.
"Yes, though I also have a PGCE?"
"What's a PGCE?" Brian asked.
"Post-graduate certificate in education," I told him.
"You never told me you had that," Brian replied.
"I never used it, thought I might follow Dad and teach for a bit but went back into the firm. Did it alongside my master's."
"All very interesting, but can we get on?" Mr. Bolton asked. "We do have to be in court in two hours."
"Court!" I exclaimed. "Nobody said anything about court, do we need our solicitors."
"You don't have to be in court, David, neither do the boys," Mary said. "It's Margaret and Jean who have to be, they applying for an emergency care order. Until that is in place there is very little we can do. Once we have that we can start getting all the reports and information in place for a full hearing, which will be within thirty days.
"What we do need to do is confirm things before we put them before the judge, so are you and Brian prepared to foster Tim and Peter for the time being?"
"Of course we are," Brian responded. "If we weren't we would not be here."
"Tim are you OK with being fostered by David and Brian."
Tim just nodded.
"What about you, Peter, do you want to stay with David and Brain?"
"Fucking yes! It's way better than home. They don't want me to do things with them and they feed us plenty."
I had to smile at the last comment, though I was a bit disturbed by the implications of what he had said before he spoke about the food. Mary and Miss Allsopp were busy making notes, so I gathered they had picked up on the implications as well.
"Well, at least that's settled," Mr. Bolton stated. "Now, we need formal statements from the boys for the court. Can I suggest that suggest that Miss Allsopp and Jean take the boys to the interview rooms. Miss Allsopp can do their interviews and Jean can prepare their statements. While that is going on we can go through the administrative stuff."
I was not very happy with the situation, but I realised I did not have very much choice in things at the moment, so I just indicated to the boys that they should go with Miss Allsopp and Jean. They went off with them, but neither looked very happy.
"I'm sorry, David, but this looks as if it is going to be more complicated that we thought," Mary stated.
"You mean the sexual abuse?"
"You picked up on that, did you? Good, so I don't need to spell it out to you," Mary said. "We better start getting all the paperwork filled out. For a start I better get your full, legal names and nationality?" She looked at me.
"David John Philip Moore-Carlson, British." Mary carefully filled in the details of my name and nationality and then asked my date of birth. Then she asked Brian for his details.
"Theodore William Brain Grieves, Australian, Irish and United States."
Mr. Bolton looked a bit surprised by that. "I heard of dual nationals but triple?"
"I was born in Australia, my parents are both US citizens so I got US citizenship at birth, together with Australian. My mother's parents are originally from Wexford in Ireland, so that gets me Irish citizenship, which is useful because in my line of work I sometimes have to travel in places where Americans are not that welcome."
"What is your line of work?" Mr. Bolton asked.
"I run an international sales agency specialising in high value goods and services," Brian replied.
Mr. Bolton looked displeased. "Arms dealer?"
"Not these days, though we were when my Uncle Kenny first set the business up. He pulled out of arms in the eighties, said there were too many players in the field and not all of them were gentlemen. I don't think we've sold any weapons systems while I've been with the firm and definitely not since I took it over. I admit that some of the products we sell may be used in weapon systems, but we do not sell them as part of a weapons system nor do we have specific knowledge that they are being used for such."
"That sounds like a bit of an evasive position. Can you give me an example?"
"Yes, I've just negotiated the sale of thirty Airbus A380s to an Arab prince. His stated aim it to start a low cost airline to transport pilgrims to Mecca. However, as he has ordered the plans in a shell body format, no seating or interior finishing, he could just as easily be wanting them for conversion for maritime patrol craft or AWACS."
"Isn't it a bit suspicious that he is ordering the planes unfinished?" Mr. Bolton asked.
"No, there are firms out there who can complete the finishing. He may just want to be sure that everything that is used on the interiors is halal. After all can you imagine the fuss that would be made if it was found that the leather seats in first class were pigskin?"
Mr. Bolton nodded.
Seeing a break in the discourse, Mary jumped in. "I know you work for AAC, David, but what is your position?"
"I'm the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, I stated. I heard Mr. Bolton gasp.
Mary looked at the forms in front of her. "This I think is going to be a bit embarrassing, but I have to ask for your annual income?"
Brian smiled. "As I am on commission my income varies, but can you put down in excess of one hundred thousand. That's the minimum I have ever had to declare for UK tax." Mr. Bolton looked at him and was about to ask a question. Before he could Brian explained. "I am resident non-domicile. As such I only pay tax here on my UK income."
"That implies you have a residence elsewhere," Mr. Bolton stated.
"Yes, I have a place on Long Island." That was the first I had heard about it. I looked at Brian questioningly. He gave me the later look.
"What about your house, David?" Mary asked. "You're an owner occupier?"
"What's the mortgage repayments on it?"
"There aren't any, I bought it cash," I replied.
For the next half hour Brian and I answered questions, which seemed to be increasingly personal. Finally we got to the one about our relationship. Brian confirmed that we had been together for just over ten years and that we were looking getting married next year."
"Why now?" Mr. Bolton asked.
"Because when I got to the States on the Saturday before Christmas, my Aunt Betsy wanted to know why I had not brought my man with me and told me I was a fool for leaving him behind. She also told me to tell my family to go to hell and marry him.
"I realised that she was right."
"So, you're not getting married just to foster?" Mr. Bolton asked.
"No, but the fact that it will give the boys a more stable environment was a consideration. It does not change my decision to marry David, the only difference it might make is in bringing the date forward."
"That's not necessary," Mary observed. "The fact that you are going to get married is more than enough. You've been in a stable relationship for years, what difference will marriage make?"
We then got onto the allowance we would be paid for having the boys. The amount came as something of a surprise. I could well understand those people who made a career out of fostering. Brian informed them that we did not need the allowance, but was told that they had to pay it by law.
That dealt with we just had to sign and initial all the forms, they were countersigned by Mr. Bolton.
It was now twenty past twelve. There was no sign of the boys.
"They won't be long, David," Mary assured me. Jean and Miss Allsopp have to be at the court for one and it is a good fifteen minutes away. She had only just finished saying that when the door opened, and Miss Allsopp shepherded the boys in. Neither looked particularly happy. They went directly to Brian, who gave them a big hug.
Mary and Miss Allsopp had a brief chat, then Miss Allsopp came over to me.
"They're a bit upset as I had to ask some pretty intrusive questions. Mary said you have picked up on what Peter said, well Tim has confirmed he was sexually abused by his father. We'll have to get the police involved. Would it be possible for me to bring them to your place in the morning, as I need to do a house inspection in any case?"
"Will I be able to sit in on the interviews?" I asked.
"Yes, you can as their foster parent."
"So, that's still on?"
"Of course, why shouldn't it be. Tim worships you. By the way he told me about you turning down his advances. Peter thinks you are someone special because you rescued Tim, though I think he has a bad case of hero worship on Brian."
"I can't blame him, I have as well."
Miss Allsopp laughed. Then she dropped a bombshell of a question. "How long do you think they could stay with you?"
I had not given it that much thought, for a moment I could not think of an answer. However, I did not need to, Brian answered.
"Forever, though I suppose they will want to leave home to go to university."
"It's difficult for boys from their background to get into university," Miss Allsopp stated.
"Maybe over here but we've got the wherewithal to send them to any university in the world," Brian stated. "If my sons want to go to university, then I'll get them into university, even if it means hiring the best tutors in the country to get them up to the required standard."
"You think of them as your sons?"
"Of course I do Miss Allsopp. If possible I would like to adopt them."
"What do you think Dr. Moore, would you look to adopting them?"
"Yes. I hope we can."
Miss Allsopp smiled. "We will have to work with that in mind. Though the fact that the boys are black and you're white might make it difficult. On the whole we like to place children with families that are from the same ethnic background." Brian looked at me and smiled. I did not make a comment. Miss Allsopp continued. "Now I really must get off, I can see Jean waving to me letting me know we should be on our way to the court."
By time we got out of the building it was after half past one. There had been another lot of forms to be signed. I was starting to wonder if I was signing my life away. The boys by now were getting a bit fidgety, and I suspected hungry. Once we were out of building I took them to a nearby Chinese that I knew did an all you can eat lunchtime buffet. I think both boys went up to the buffet counter at least three times, and that was just for the main courses. They also attacked the dessert counter about the same number of times.
We then had to go to the supermarket to get something for tea, which in reality was going to be an early dinner. Fortunately, on my trips to Germany I have frequently shopped in their upmarket supermarkets. There instead plastic bags, they have reusable cotton bags, which used to be a Deutschmark each, though they have now gone up to in price to half a Euro. I nearly always came back with a couple of those in my bags and now had quite a collection. Part of that collection was now carefully folded up in my messenger bag.
Peter pushed the trolley around the supermarket. Brian and I were filling it. Tim was looking puzzled.
"Why we getting so much food? There's piles of leftovers in the fridge," Tim asked as I placed three melons in the trolley.
Brian looked at me. "You didn't tell them?"
"Tell us what?" Peter asked.
"Grandma is coming to tea, which will be an early dinner," I informed them. "Sorry, I forgot. You were all so late getting ready, it slipped my mind."
"Surely there's enough in the fridge to feed one more person?" Tim asked.
"Tim, son, one important thing, you do not feed Grandma Grace leftovers," Brian stated. "At least not if you want to live. Anyway we are feeding more than one extra person."
"How many and who?" Tim inquired.
"Four," I replied. "Grandma Grace, my brother Mike, his wife and his son Luke."
"The one we got the skateboard for?"
"You told me that you did not get on with your brother, so why's he coming?"
"That Tim is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. I don't know, I don't even know if he will come. However, Grandma Grace says he is coming, so he is coming."
"Where are they going to sit?" Peter asked. "The table in the kitchen's too small and so is the one in the middle room."
"I'll show you when we get home," Brian stated, putting a quantity of fruit in the trolley.
It took us another half an hour to finish the shopping. Partially due to the discussion about whether we should have fish or meat for the main course. I must admit that Brian had a point when he pointed out that it was unlikely there had been any fresh fish brought in since Christmas. I got smoked salmon for starters and some chicken breasts to do for main.
It was getting on for three when we got home. We would have been home earlier, if Brian had not insisted on taking the boys into the local electronics entertainments outlet to get some DVDs and games. I could understand the DVDs, as I don't think that many of our collection were suitable for or of interest to teenage boys. It was my personal opinion that Brian probably had nearly every game available on the Xbox. That, though, seemed to be totally besides the point. After half an hour browsing amongst the shelves while I stood guard over the bags of shopping, Brian and the boys seemed to have purchased about half the stock in the shop. At least that is what it looked like given the number of bags they were carrying.
At that point I put my foot down and called the cab firm for a car. Fortunately, they had one in the area and we were picked up within five minutes. I was glad it did not take longer as Brian was looking longingly at the motorcycle accessories place on the far corner from where we were waiting for the car.
Once we got home I got Brian and the boys working on sorting everything out. The food had to be placed in the fridge or the pantry, as was appropriate. Brian was instructed to take the DVDs and games to the cellar, an instruction which got strange looks from the boys, so I told them I would explain later. They were then responsible for getting the clothes we had bought this morning out of the car and up to their room.
That done Brian was assigned to the job of transforming the middle room into a dining room. This involved moving some of the furniture around and bringing the dining table to the centre of the room and extending it so that the extension leaves could be inserted.
"Where are the extension leaves and the chairs?" I asked.
"Where you put them," Brian replied, which was not very much use as I could not remember where I had put them. Fortunately, my lover provided the answer. "In the loft over the garage."
I left it to Brian to sort out getting them down from the loft, cleaned up and into the dining room. There were much more pressing problems for me to deal with, namely preparing a meal for Grandma Grace.
Now do not get me wrong, I love my Grandma Grace, but she is a bit of a discerning woman. She was born in Jamaica in the 1920s, the illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner and one of his house servants. She was somewhat vague about exactly when in the 1920s. However, she had trained as a nurse out there, then on the outbreak of war joined the Navy as a nursing auxiliary. No doubt expecting to see the world. What she actually saw was the Bahamas, where she was posted to the naval hospital. It was there she met my grandfather, the younger son of one of England's minor nobility. Yes, this did mean that one of my great uncles is a Baron, though I doubt if he knows we even exist. Actually, I am certain he does not know, if he did, given the cost of keeping up country houses, even minor ones, I have no doubt he would be knocking on the door asking for a handout.
Anyway, grandad was out in the Bahamas on Winston's orders to make sure that the Duke of Windsor did not put his bloody foot in it again. Grandad had once told me that in the event of a successful German invasion of the British Isles, he and his associates were under instructions to shoot the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The last thing Winston wanted was Hitler installing the Duke of Windsor back on the throne as a puppet king.
Grandad had a reputation for being a bit unconventional. A reputation that he fully lived up to by marrying my grandmother at a time when the English aristocracy rarely married outside their own class and never married a woman of colour. Of course, this did mean that when the war was over and Granddad returned with his wife to England, he was no longer acceptable to polite society. He was, therefore, pensioned off by the family with a nice settlement and an instruction to the effect don't call us we'll call you. They never did call. Marrying outside his social class made Granddad a persona non gratis in polite society. However, as Granddad frequently had pointed out, impolite society was much more fun.
As he was no longer being received amongst polite society, those jobs normally open to the younger sons of the nobility, albeit minor, such as banking, insurance, or newspaper columnist were unfortunately closed to Granddad. Granddad had no particular interest in the church, and had had enough of the army, having been in it for all of his sojourn in the Bahamas.
Being unable to find a respectable occupation for himself, Granddad had set upon a disrespectable occupation. He became a bookmaker, who spent most of the nineteen-fifties taking bets from his social contemporise in the American Bar of the Savoy Hotel and similar establishments around London where he old school chums and there associates gathered.
Of course, given that maintaining a book off course, was illegal, Granddad was occasionally arrested by some young copper who was still a bit wet behind the ears. However, as soon as he was hauled before the desk sergeant at Charing Cross Road police station, the young officer of the law was quickly informed that there were some petty criminals who one simply turned a blind eye to. After all Granddad may no longer be a member of polite society but he was still a member of the minor nobility. There was always the chance that he could still end up in the House of Lords, if both his brothers died, and start asking awkward questions.
Of course, the 1961 Gaming Act changed everything for Granddad. He could now openly conduct his business affairs. Before long he not only had three betting shops, well located for his old customers, but also a couple of casinos, well frequented by his old customers. So, by the time his father died, and the title passed to his older brother, Granddad was infinitely better off than the respectable members of his family. Though he made a point of not flaunting this fact. As he said, he had no interest in funding a draughty and damp old pile of a family seat in Lincolnshire.
While Granddad had been busy making what, in those times, was a not inconsiderable fortune, Grandma, when not raising her children, managed to get herself a degree in law from Birkbeck. That was followed with her getting admitted to the bar, and becoming a successful barrister. So, successful that in due course she was made a QC, then appointed to the bench. I have no doubt if the powers that be had not brought in a compulsory retirement age for judges, Grandma would still be sitting in the Court of Appeal. Instead she spent her time heading a series of public enquiries.
Of course, as soon as Granddad died, the family had terminated the pension that they had been paying him. Not that this had made much difference to Grandma Grace, she had more than made up for the loss of income in the royalties she received from the publication of Granddad's diaries.
When a number of members of the establishment threatened to sue her for libel, she quietly pointed out the material from Granddad's diaries that she had not published. So pleased were they with the fact that she had not published, they went to extreme lengths to offer her the use of villas, hunting lodges, yachts and other forms of transport, so Grandma could travel the world. They were keen to ensure that she was anywhere but close to London society where she might spill the beans.
It is my understanding that the French did consider giving Grandma a medal for services to tourism. This was due to the fact that after she published Granddad's diaries, a number of young men from good families, suddenly found it better to be resident in France, where privacy laws were a lot stronger.
Of course, all this had meant that for most of her life, my Grandma Grace had been able to enjoy a standard of living far above that of her husband's relatives, who were scrimping and saving to maintain the Lincolnshire pile, that was the family seat. It had also given her a taste for good food and wine accompanied by good service. Although we could not possibly provide the level of service Grandma might get at the Savoy or the Ritz, I intended that the food would be just as good.
While I was preparing the meal, Brian and the boys were busy moving stuff around in the dining room, then they were traipsing through the kitchen, carrying items from the loft over the garage. I just hoped that they had cleaned them well before bringing them in.
I was in the process of shelling soft boiled quail eggs when I became aware of a figure standing by my side looking at what I was doing.
"Can I help?" Peter asked.
"Of course you can, son. First, though, you need to wash your hands."
He went over to the sink and washed his hands. I then showed him how to shell a soft boiled quail egg and got him working on getting them done. That left me with the job of removing the skins from the peas. I know, nobody in their right mind would do this, but it does make a difference to the resultant pea puree. It is just that little bit smoother and a little bit more vibrant. The difference between a good plate of food and a Michelin star plate of food.
At half-past four I sent the boys and Brian up to their rooms with instructions to shower, change and to be quick about it. One thing I was fairly certain of what that Grandma Grace would be punctual.
At quarter to five, having moved the chicken breast to the warming oven to rest, and having the smoked salmon starter all plated up and stacked in the fridge, I followed the instructions I had given the boys. Went up to our bedroom in the loft and had a quick shower and change. I was halfway back down the stairs when I heard the doorbell chime. There was a temptation to rush down the rest of the stairs, but given their steepness and the fact I knew Brian was down in the sitting room waiting, I resisted the temptation. As I got to the bottom of the stairs I heard Brian opening the door and a young voice stating, "You're not my Uncle David."
"No, I'm not, I'm Brian, but if you would like to go in you should find him just coming down the stairs."
I stepped off the bottom step into the small connecting hallway that led from the sitting room at the front of the house to the rear dining room. As I turned towards the sitting room, a blond twelve-year-old ran up to me, stopped, looked me up and down then asked, "You're my Uncle David?"
"Yes I am."
He immediately threw his arms around me, giving me a hug and started to thank me for the skateboard and things.
"You really need to thank Tim for them, he choose them," I told Luke.
"And you can do that after all the introductions have been made," Grandma announced from behind Luke.
He turned and looked at her. "Yes Grangran."
Luke stepped to one side, Grandma stepped forward, opened her arms. I stepped into the hug that was offered. Kissing her on the check.
"Now, David, where are these boys you've taken on?"
"They should be here, somewhere." I looked around the sitting room but there was no sign of them. I called them, Tim put his head around the door to the dining room.
"Come on, Tim, I want you to meet somebody, you too, Peter." The two boys made their way into the sitting room, somewhat sluggishly, both with their eyes down. It hit me as they came into the room that they were shy. Something I would never have thought they were.
There again, they were about to meet Grandma Grace. Grandma is something of an imposing woman. Even in her nineties, she still stood ramrod straight, and touched six feet in height. In her younger days she had been even taller. I had seen photos of her towering over Granddad, and he was a good six feet.
"Tim, Peter this is my Grandma Grace, Grandma the tall one is Tim, the one trying to hide behind him is Peter."
Grandma lowered herself down in a gentle squat, the type of squat that would have my knees screaming in agony, and opened her arms.
"Come here, you two, I'm David's grandmother, so your great grandmother, you can call me Grangran, like Lukey does." The two boys edged slightly closer to her. Before they had time to think, Grandma Grace pounced, pulling both boys into a hug. "Now, let's find a seat and the two of you can tell me all about yourselves, you can join us too, Luke."
With that statement, Grandma guided the boys towards a large black leather Chesterfield chair that was in the corner of the sitting room. It was by far the most comfortable chair in the room, so it was always claimed by Grandma when she came.
With Grandma out of my direct line of sight, I found myself looking at Louise, my sister-in-law, and my brother Mike, who did not look happy. Louise stepped forward quickly, and gave me a hug, I kissed her on the cheek.
"You're looking good, David," as she stepped back, holding me in front of her at arm's length. "It's good see you again, it's been too long."
"I know, but it was not my doing."
"I know, it was this lump's doing," she stated, indicating my brother Michael, who was standing behind her, looking distinctly like a fish out of water.
Well, at least he had spoken to me, which was something after eight years of virtual no communication.
"It's getting crowded in here, come through to the kitchen, I'm just finishing dinner," I said to Louise.
"I thought it was tea," Mike commented.
"That's a mistake," Louise said.
"What's a mistake?" Mike asked.
I led the way to the kitchen with Louise following. I was not sure what Mike was doing. Once in the kitchen I started to get the starters out of the fridge and lay them out on the kitchen table. It would be a good fifteen minutes at least before we could look at sitting down at the table, if not longer, considering that Grandma would be pumping the boys for information first. That would give the starters time to lose the chill of the fridge and get more up to room temperature, which would result in the smoked salmon tasting better. Too often people serve smoked salmon directly from the fridge – that is a mistake. The aromatics from the smoking only become fully developed at about eighteen degrees Celsius. Serving smoked salmon below that temperature is a crime. One I knew Grandma would not let me get away with.
As I laid the dishes out on the kitchen table I looked around for Mike, but could not see him.
"He's sulking," Louise told me. "Grandma laid down the law and he knows he has to obey it even if he does not like it."
I nodded, put the last of the starters on the table, then removed the tray of chicken breasts from the warming oven, transferred them to a serving dish, then poured the white wine, cream and mushroom sauce over them, before placing the dish in the warming oven.
"I've never been certain why he was upset with me," I stated.
"It's not you, it's your father he's upset with," Louise stated. "He's just taking it out on you because your father's not around."
"You need to talk to Mike about that, but you need to understand that the way things worked out shattered Mike's plans."
"Probably better if Mike tells you."
I nodded, wondering what Mike would be telling me.
I was just about to put a pan of water on the heat to bring to the boil, when Peter came into the kitchen.
"Grangran would like a glass of water," he stated. I got a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water from the tap. Grandma hated bottled water, saying it was a massive scam. Peter thanked me for getting it and took the glass back to the sitting room.
"She's got them twisted around her little finger," Louise said.
"Didn't expect anything less," I replied. Louise laughed. "I notice she's already got him calling her Grangran. You've got to admit it is better than Great Grandmother."
That I had to admit. Though I did express interest where it had come from.
"Aunt Linda's granddaughter," Louise informed me.
I had forgot about Aunt Linda. My mother's sister. She and her husband had moved out to New Zealand before I was born. I think I had only met her a couple of time in my lifetime.
"I did not know she had a granddaughter," I admitted.
"She's actually got two, the oldest one's at university in the States," Louise informed me.
"I got rather out of touch with things."
"Men usually do, it's women who keep the family together."
Louise had a point there.
We chatted a bit longer, Louise telling me about her latest book, due out in March, aimed at the holiday market. You know the type of book you buy at the airport bookshop but would normally never be seen dead with. Louise had cheerfully been turning one of these out a year for the last ten years or so. She then went on to tell me about the novel she had just finished, based around the character of Henry Grey, the 1st Duke of Suffolk.
"A bit of a change, do you think your readers will go for it?" I asked.
"No way. They want simple girls who fall for dashing men, who are totally wrong for them, but see the light at the last minute and marry the steadfast young man they have known for ages. That's why this one is being published as by L.A. Moore-Carlson, not as Louise Taylor."
"David, I think it is time to rescue the boys. Can I announce tea?" Brian asked from the kitchen door.
I looked at the clock. It was nearly twenty past. "OK, Brian, get everyone seated."
Once everybody was seated I started to take the starters in. Tim was seated on the far side of the table, looking down at his place setting with something approaching horror on his face. It suddenly occurred to me he had probably never sat down to a meal with a formal place setting before. In fact there was a high probability he had not sat down to a meal like this before. As I placed the smoked salmon starter before Grandma, I tried to catch Brian's eye to let him know of the problem. No such luck. However, Grandma must have caught on.
"Now which of these do I use?" she asked. Her hands hovering over the cutlery on each side of her place setting."
Brian and Mike looked at her mystified, knowing full well that she had eaten with far more complicated place settings in the past. Louise caught on immediately.
"Grandma, you start at the outside and work in."
"Thank you, Louise, I keep forgetting, the doctors tell me it's my age."
I returned to the kitchen to get the next lot of starters. As I returned with the last four starters, Brian was pouring wine for the adults, and sparkling grape juice for the boys. Louise declined the wine, going for the grape juice.
"I'm the designated driver," she stated. "Anyway, I'm pregnant."
There was a moment pause. Luke looked horrified. Confirmation that one's parents are having sex does not sit easily with your average teenager.
"Congratulations," Brian said. "When is it due?"
"End of June. We've known for six weeks but we did not want to say anything till now. I've lost a couple through miscarriages in the first trimester."
"I am sorry to hear that," Grandma said. "Losing a child is hard for any mother, whether the child has been carried to term or not."
We continued with the fairly inane conversation that is normally made over dinner. When it was clear that everybody had finished their starters, I got up to collect the plates. I do not know if Brian had said anything to Tim, who was seated next to him, but Tim stood up and started to collect them as well, and came through to the kitchen with them.
"That was nice," he told me as he placed the plates in the rinsing sink. I had to tell him to put the cutlery in the bowl on the draining board.
"I'm glad you liked it."
"Is there anything I can do to help."
"You could get the salad out of the fridge. Wash your hands before you do, then put a handful of salad into each of the side bowls on the table." I indicated the line of bowls along the back of the kitchen table.
I took the lid off the rice cooker and checked the rice. It was perfect as I expected. With what I paid for the rice cooker it should be. I filled a footed bowl with rice, knifed off the top so it was flat, then took it over to the kitchen table, where I took a plate and put it over the top of the bowl. Inverting the whole lot, I returned the plate with bowl to the table, then carefully lifted off the bowl using its foot. That left a nicely rounded mound of rice on the plate.
I noticed Tim was watching me closely.
"Want to try?"
"Try with this plate," I told him. "It's mine so not a problem if you mess up."
He tried, and he did not mess up. He must have been watching me very closely. He had even got the trick of taking the knife across the rice one way then bringing it back the other. I told him that he could do the other six plates. The smile on his face was unbelievable.
With Tim doing the rice, I started to serve up the chicken breasts in mushroom sauce on top of the mound of rice. We quickly got everything ready to serve. I asked Tim to take the salads through, while I followed with the main course plates.
"Good to see you've learnt to cook rice properly, Davy," Grandma said. Brian looked at me and smiled. He had bought me the rice cooker after Grandma's last visit, when I had tried to serve rice and beans without success.
"I can never get my rice to come out like this, you will have to let me into the secret," commented Louise.
"I'll show you after dinner," I told her.
Except for acknowledging me when he came in, Mike had not said anything to me. I decided to take the initiative and open some dialog.
"Haven't see much of you on TV the last few months, Mike, what have you been up to?" I knew from the note that Louise had put in the Christmas card that Mike had been working on a major project.
For a moment I was afraid he would just ignore me, but then he took a deep breath. "I've been doing a documentary series about Harold Wilson. It's going to be aired in the new year."
"Wilson?" Brian questioned. "Wasn't he one of your prime ministers."
"Yes, he was," Mike replied. "He was PM from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976. The interesting thing was he resigned halfway through his government's term and Callaghan took over. It never been fully explained why he resigned when he did."
Mike was clearly enthusiastic about his subject and answered questions from Brian, Grandma, Louise and me about the subject. Even Tim got a couple of questions in.
Both Tim and Peter helped me clear the plates at the end of the main course. I had not done a dessert, knowing Grandma was not keen on them. Instead, I had a cheese board and a bowl of fruit. Peter carried in the cheese board, Tim followed with the bowl of fruit and a basket of breads and crackers. I followed with the plates and the dishes of butter.
Over the cheese and biscuits Grandma was talking to the boys and Luke about school. She wanted to know what they were doing at school, how they liked it, what subjects they liked. While all this was going on I was chatting with Louise and occasionally asked a question of Mike or replied to a question from him. In the main though Mike was talking to Brian.
I vaguely heard Tim say that he did not want to change schools.
"Why not?" asked Grandma. "I'm sure my grandson can arrange for you to go to a really good school."
"I don't want to go to a good school, I want to go to the same one as my boyfriend."
There was a sudden silence around the table. Why there should be I could not think. Grandma, Louise and Mike had never had any problems with my relationship with Brian. I knew Mike had no problems with homosexuality, his two best friends were a gay couple. The three of them had been something of a gang at school and I wondered if Mike had ever joined in games with the other two.
"Who's your boyfriend?" Luke asked, breaking the tension around the table.
"Clemmy. We're in the same form at school."
"How long have you been together?" Luke inquired.
"A couple of years now. We came out to each other at his thirteenth birthday party."
"Well, we'll have to meet this Clemmy," Brian announced. "We need to see if he is suitable for our boy." As he said this, Brian put a protective hand on Tim's shoulder.
"But you know him," Tim announced.
"How, where from?" Brian asked.
"He goes to the Centre."
I rapidly scanned my mental list of all our regulars, then it hit me. "Mark Clements?"
"Yes," Tim replied.
"He's a good lad," I stated. "Comes into the Centre to give his foster parents some peace and quiet."
"Is he that noisy?" Luke asked.
"No, in fact he is one of the quiet ones," Brian stated.
"Pity, I could do with some noisy friends, everyone at school is so well behaved it's sickening."
"Luke!" Mike exclaimed.
"It's true, Dad, they are a load of boring old frumps or into things I don't want to get into."
"Like what?" Tim asked.
"Drugs, sex, you know the usual."
"There's drugs in your school?" Mike asked.
"Of course there is, Dad. You put four hundred teenage boys from some of the richest families in the city in one place, they are a honeypot for anyone selling anything illegal. We've got money, which is more than can be said for most of the lads at the comprehensive."
Mike's face had showed all the signs of mounting anger. Grandma noticed.
"Michael, why don't you grab your coat and go into the garden and smoke one of those revolting cigars you so enjoy. David, you can go with him to make sure he does not get lost."
Mike got up from the table and made his way towards the sitting room, where the coats had been placed. I followed him, grabbing my coat from behind the door to the cellar. I also grabbed a torch from the shelf beside the cellar stairs. Then I showed Mike the way out to the garden, grabbing a bunch of keys on the way. The extension had not been built last time he was here.
Once we were through the back door I switched on the torch and illuminated the path down to the summer house.
"We can use the summer house," I informed Mike. "You can smoke in there and it will be a bit warmer than out here."
I started to lead the way down the path.
"You know what she's up to?" Mike asked.
"Trying to get us to talk."
"It's probably about time. It was time years ago, but I could never get myself to contact you."
"Why not?" I asked as we came to the summer house. I handed Mike the torch, so that I had both hands free to deal with the lock and open the door. Once I had the door open, I stepped inside, switched on the light and then went over and switched on the fan heater."
Mike went to take his coat off, but I suggested he kept it on till the room warmed up a bit. I also hunted around for something he could use as an ashtray and started apologising for not having one.
"Don't bother Dave, I'm not really in the mood for a cigar."
"What are you in the mood for?"
"To talk, to make an apology I should have done years ago. The problem is I don't know where to start."
"Maybe saying why you were so angry," I suggested.
"Well, Dad had gone back on his promise to me," Mike said.
"What promise? When did he make it."
"The Sunday of the week before he died. I came up from London to see him. I needed his help to raise five million. I came to ask him to loan me some of his shares in AAC so I could use them as security for a bank loan. It was then he explained about the shares being in a trust, so they were not his to lend. That upset me but Dad assured me that he would sort it out and it would be sorted by next week. Then he died. I thought Dad would have undone the trust but then it came out that the trust was still intact."
"But what did you need the five million for?"
"It was when the broadcasting licence structure changed. Ofcom wanted to see more local broadcasters and specialist broadcasters. I had been asked to join a consortium to set up an independent rolling politics channel. An alternative to BBC Parliament. There were ten of us, we each had to put in five million. We were aiming to provide twenty-four seven political coverage to London and the Home Counties."
There was a silent pause between us. Suddenly, what had seemed inexplainable to me made sense. I could see why Mike had been so upset. He had been banking on using those shares to buy into the consortium. The thing was there was no way that Dad could have undone the trust. I started to explain this to Mike when a thought hit me.
"Oh shit! Herr Schmitt."
"What and who's Herr Schmitt?" Mike asked.
"Herr Schmitt is one of the partners of the firm in Switzerland that manages the trust. He turned up at the works on the Wednesday after Dad had died. He was very upset about it, Dad had phoned him the previous week and asked him to fly over."
"But you said that Dad could not have unwind the trust, so why would he come over."
"Dad could not unwind the trust Mike, that's correct, but you never asked about the provisions of the trust, did you."
"No, Dad had outlined the details of the trust to me when he had explained why he could not loan me the shares. What's this about?"
"Herr Schmitt is the investment manager for the trust. Dad had phoned him to come over to discuss some investment he wanted the trust to make. Under the trust deed half the income of the trust has to be made available to the qualifying beneficiaries. The other half of the income has to be invested for the benefit of the trust."
"Yes, Dad explained that, but I don't see where this is going, Dave?"
"There is a provision in the trust deed that where possible the trustees should give preference to investing in property, businesses, projects or other investible products that were of benefit to the beneficial family or any member of the beneficial family as defined by the trust.
"That is what Dad was up to. He was going to make the investment for you through the trust. That's why he had Herr Schmitt fly out to give him the instruction to do it."
Mike leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath.
"Fuck me, the old man hadn't let me down, he was trying to sort it."
"Yes he was, and if you had spoken to me about it, I would have known why Schmitt was over and could have sorted it out."
"Actually, Dave, it's probably a good thing you didn't."
"The whole thing went belly up. The consortium, without me, put the proposal for a broadcasting licence to Ofcom. They liked the idea of an independent rolling politics broadcaster, but they wanted it to be national and to cover the devolved authorities. There was no way the consortium could fund that, so it folded. By that time they had spent over ten million getting everything set up to make the licence application. They all lost over a million each."
"A lucky escape for the trust. You know, Mike, you should really find out about the provisions of the trust, you are a beneficiary."
"What do you mean? I thought from what that solicitor said you were the only one who could get any of the income in the trust."
"Didn't you read the papers you were sent about the trust?"
"Sorry, Dave, I was so upset about things, I just binned them."
"Mike, there are two classes of beneficiaries under the trust. The primary beneficiaries are any member of the defined family who is employed by AAC, any company wholly owned, directly or indirectly, by AAC, or any company that might come into being through the takeover of, merger with, or consolidation with AAC. The primary beneficiaries have first call on half the disposable income of the trust up to a maximum of two million Swiss francs in any one year. The secondary beneficiaries are any member of the designated family who is not a primary beneficiary. They have no right of call upon the income of the trust but can apply to the trust for assistance with a range of expenses. I can't remember them all, but they include medical, education, housing, etc., etc., and there is a catch all about any other expense which in the opinion of the trustees is a reasonable call upon the reserves of the trust."
"Who are the designated family?"
"At the moment, Mike, it is you, me, Louise and Luke. Your child will become a member when he or she is born. Brian will become a member when we marry. However, spouses are only members during the period of the marriage. Should they divorce, then their designation as a member of the designated family ends."
"So, Tim and Peter will become members of the designated family when you adopt them."
"You're presuming we will adopt them."
"Dave, I have seen the way you and Brian interact with them, of course you're going to adopt them if you can."
"Yes, we will, but they will not become part of the designated family."
"Because Michael, our dear father put in an of the blood clause into the definition of the designated family. Even if we adopt the boys, they will not be deemed to be of the blood."
"Why on earth would Dad do that, it seems unfair."
"If you remember, at the time Dad did his will, so when he set the trust up, I was going out with Tom Collier. Tom if you remember had a four-year-old son, who was adorable. Dad never liked Tom."
"I know, Dave, he said a few times that he thought Tom was using his son to get to your wealth."
"I think that is why Dad drafted things the way he did. To stop Tom from being able to get at the funds in the trust."
"What happened to Tom? I know you were buying a place out Sutton way, but then it was all over."
"I started to come down with a cold one afternoon at work. Dad's secretary insisted I go home, rather than infect the works. I walked in on Tom fucking a couple of fourteen-year-olds in the living room."
"What did you do?"
"Called the police. Of course the two boys scarpered, and Tom denied everything, said I was making it all up. He had though forgotten about the CCTV system I had in my old place. I believe he got ten years."
"So that's why you sold your place in the city centre and moved here?"
"Yes. Could not face moving back into the Bromsgrove house full time, so I got this place."
Mike stood up. "We probably should get back."
I agreed, switched off the fan heater, then followed Mike out of the door. Fortunately, he had remembered to pick up the torch. Once I had locked up we made our way back to the house.
When we got in I found that the dining table had been cleared. Tim, Luke, Brian and Louise were playing Monopoly on it. Louise told me that Grandma was in the sitting room with Peter. Mike and I went through, we needed to let Grandma know we were talking again.
"By the looks of you two you have sorted things out," Grandma stated as we entered the sitting room. She was sitting in the corner chair with Peter in her lap.
"Yes, Grandma, it was all a big misunderstanding," Mike informed her.
"It usually is, it usually is," Grandma said. There was a hit of deep sadness in the way she said that. "Now this young man has informed me he has a sister. Do you know about this?"
"Yes, Grandma, we found out about Jenny this morning. Social Services will have to find her as she is their nearest relative and if she is suitable they will place the boys with her."
"No way am I going to live with Jenny, she's a whore," Peter declared.
"Peter, that is no way to talk about your sister," Grandma told him.
"But it's true," Peter protested.
"That may be but there is no need to publicly broadcast the fact. Now, David, Social Services will take ages. You have the resources, get somebody to find this Jenny. What's her full name, Peter?"
"Jennifer Susan LeRoy."
Grandma visibly paled, Mike and I looked at each other. Susan LeRoy was our mother.
"That's a nice name, Peter," Grandma stated. "Do you know why she was called Jennifer Susan?"
"Oh yes, mummy told us. Mummy's name was Susan LeRoy, her mother was Jennifer LeRoy."
"Do you know her father's name?"
"No, mummy said he was killed when she was a baby. Grandma Jennifer never talked about him, said it brought bad memories."
"Is your grandmother still alive?" I asked.
"No, she died when I was eight, we all had to go to her funeral."
Us three adults all looked at each other. I do not know what the others were thinking but my guess is that it was probably something close to what I was thinking.
"It just coincidence," Mike assured Grandma. "The chances of them being related is a million to one."
"As Prachett points out, the problem with million to one chances is that they turn up nine times out of ten," I pointed out.
"That's not helpful," Mike commented.
"It's not important," Grandma announced. "What is important is that we have to find out if they are related, to do that we need to find Jenny."
"But what makes you think that they might be other than the shared surname?" Mike asked.
"You know your mother had an older brother?"
"Yes, Grandma, Teepee," Mike said. "Mum said he died in a car crash when she was sixteen."
"That's right. The thing is that TeePee was short for Timothy Peter. We had a disagreement when he was eighteen and he left home, the next thing I next about him was three years later with the police arriving at the door to tell me he was dead. The car crash was in Handsworth, Birmingham."
It could all be coincidence, pure chance, but I kept remembering Prachett's comment about chance. We had to find Jenny and we had to find out who the boys really were.
As if nothing special had happened, Grandma announced that it was really time they got underway. Luke complained like mad, he was winning at Monopoly, having hotels on all the high-priced properties, owning all the utilities, and the railway stations with the exception of Fenchurch Street. However, a look from Grandma convinced him that the game was over.
As they were leaving, Mike said we needed to speak more. I agreed. Mike then suggested we should go over to the Bromsgrove house for Sunday lunch. Then he remembered to check with Louise.
"It's fine Mike, just means that you will have to do some shopping on Saturday. Come for lunch, David, plan on being over for one, we'll lunch at two. I can show you and Brian all the changes I've made before lunch. I'm sure Luke will love the chance to show your boys the stuff he has in his room."
It was agreed that we would go over about twelve on Sunday, Louise stated that Sunday lunch would be about two. Brian said we would be there.
Even though a lot had gone on, it was still quite early, not yet half past eight, so after we had cleaned up in the kitchen, the boys and Brian giving me a hand, then Brian took the boys down to the cellar so they could watch one of the DVDs they had got. I decided to spend an hour or so reading before we had to get the boys to bed.
Just after nine on Friday morning, the phone rang. It was Miss Allsopp, calling to arrange the home visit, also to tell me that two police officers would be calling at eleven to interview Tim. I suggested she might like to be in on that interview, so why did she not come ten-thirty, so she could do the house inspection prior to the police interview. This she was agreeable to.
I then had to go and tell Tim about the police interview. He was not happy about it, but knew it had to be done. Miss Allsopp had told him yesterday that the police would want to talk to him. I also spoke to Brian. He agreed that if Miss Allsopp or the police did not want to talk with Peter, Brian would take him out somewhere, while the interview with Tim was taking place. Brian also suggested doing the interviews in the summer house.
"Look, David, Tim is likely to find it distressing. I would prefer it if he did not associate the distress with part of the house that he is in every day."
Brian had a point there, so I went down the garden and switched on the heat in the summer house. It was a good idea to anyway, as I would need to show Miss Allsopp the space anyway.
Miss Allsopp arrived slightly early and apologised profusely for being early. Not that it mattered, she was only a few minutes early, and I could understand her reasoning for not wanting to stand around outside. It was bloody cold.
"I know," Miss Allsopp said. "The thing is people tend to think that if I arrive early, I am trying to catch them out, do a surprise inspection or something. So, I try to arrive on time. Unfortunately, I do not have the control over my travel today that I normally do."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Car won't start," she replied. "My father is trying to sort it out but says it looks like the starter motor has gone. I'm having to do my rounds via taxi."
"Annoying. I am very much at the whim of the gods as to when one is available for me and what time it gets me to where I am going. I was in the office before coming here so booked a taxi for ten past, it turned up at ten." I appreciated the problem. The same happened to me a number of times.
I showed Miss Allsopp around the house. The only concern she had was the two boys sharing a bedroom.
"We are arranging to move my office down to the summerhouse and then one of them can use what is now my office as a bedroom," I assured her.
"That's fine and as they are brothers there is no problem with them sharing a bedroom. I recall from interviewing them they said they shared a bedroom at home."
"They told us that as well," I replied. "I probably should take you down and show you the summer house. Actually, I was planning on using it for Tim's interview with the police."
"It gives him a bit more privacy. Peter is not likely to come barging into the room, which could happen if we use any of the rooms in the house."
Miss Allsopp nodded indicating she appreciated the problem. I took her down the garden and showed her the summer house.
"By the looks of things you will have more space down here than you have in your office at the moment. Have you any idea when you will get the move done?"
"At the moment no. I can't really sort things out till after the holidays. Before I can move I need to get the telephone installed down here, and an internet connection put in. I do not have any idea how long that is going to take. At the moment I can't even find anyone to do the work, they are all on holiday till after the New Year. So, my earliest guess for us moving the office would be the weekend after the New Year."
"As long as it is being planned and is not delayed too long, it's no problem. Now, I better sort out the paperwork."
"More paperwork?" I asked.
"Yes, Dr. Moore, this job generates paperwork." She took a sheaf of papers from her bag, then extracted two pages from the sheaf. "This is the home inspection report. I'll just fill them out and sign them. Once that is done you can have these." She indicated a set of papers she had put on the coffee table beside the chair she was using.
"What are those?" I asked.
"Interim custody papers. We presented our application for a care order to the judge yesterday, stating that you currently had temporary fostering custody. The judge issued an emergency care order and granted temporary fostering custody to you and Brian for ninety days, subject to a satisfactory home inspection."
"And it's satisfactory?"
"More than." She signed another set of papers, then gave me them to countersign. "I'll get Dr. Grieves signature when we go back up to the house."
My mobile rang. I answered it. Brian informed me that the police had arrived. I asked him to send them down to the summer house. I also told him I would call when we were ready for Tim to come down.
About a minute later two police officers walked down to the summer house. They both clearly knew Miss Allsopp. They introduced themselves to me as Detective Inspector Susan Hartmoor and Detective Sergeant Peter Richards. They questioned why we were holding the interview down in the summer house, but Miss Allsopp informed them of the problem of Peter coming into the room if we were interviewing in the main house. Although she never said it was her idea, the way she presented it, suggested it was. I got the feeling that Miss Allsopp was more on our side than I had originally suspected.
I offered them all coffee or tea, but they declined, so once we had sorted out the ground rules for the interview I phoned Brian and asked him to send Tim down.
Tim was very on edge when he came down, but seemed relieved to find that I would be staying for the interview. As the questioning went on, he became more relaxed. This might be because they were just asking him to confirm what he had already told Miss Allsopp yesterday. No doubt he thought Miss Allsopp would have told me the details of what Tim had revealed. That though was not the case.
What I think made a big difference was the way that DI Hartmoor asked the questions. She seemed to be able to obtain a lot of information from what seemed like fairly iniquitous enquiries. It is probably a good job that I was sitting behind Tim and he could not see me. By time they got to the end of the interview, I was fuming. It seemed that Tim's father had started to use him sexually from when the boy was thirteen. However, it was not only Tim's father. The man had loaned him out to his friends for their enjoyment.
"Thank you, Tim," DI Hartmoor said. "That was very useful. We may require you to come down to the station later to make a formal statement, but there is no need for that for the moment."
The interview over, I asked Tim to show the two detectives out. Once they had left I asked Miss Allsopp what she thought of it.
"Well, there was nothing that I did not already know and I think Tim handled it very well."
I had to agree with her.
"Before I go Dr. Moore, have you thought about where the boys should go to school. I will have to arrange for their enrolment and to get their records transferred."
"Actually, we thought we might keep them where they were, at least for the time being," I stated. "It seems to be one of the better schools in the city."
"Oh, it is," Miss Allsopp confirmed. "Since the current headmistress took over there has been a massive improvement."
"Was it bad before?"
"Let's say it was not what it could be. The old headmaster was a bit lacks in certain areas, though I can understand why."
"Why?" I asked.
"The school has a large black and South Asian student body. All too often if a disciplinary issue raised its head the student would claim they were being racially discriminated against and the headmaster would back off."
"And that does not happen with the headmistress?"
"No, she's of Trinidadian and Indian descent, and does not allow any of the students to get away with those sorts of games. As a result, she has pushed up the standards quite a lot in the last six years. So much so it is now one of the more popular schools in the area with parents. It's quite a distance from here though and, as you're outside the catchment area, there will be no help with transport costs."
"It's not a problem. We can arrange transport to and from the school each day. Until we know what the long-term situation is going to be I thought it best to disturb the current set up as little as possible. Also, Tim's missed a lot of schooling last term, so I think he will need some support to catch up. There is an after school tutoring programme that is run by the Centre, I was hoping to get Tim involved with that. The Centre is only half a mile from the school."
"I can see your thinking. You realise of course that if we can find the boys' sister, she would be the primary person we would aim to place the boys with?"
"We realise. Actually, we are looking for the boys' sister ourselves," I informed Miss Allsopp.
"It seems that we may actually be related."
"The boys' mother's family name was LeRoy. My maternal grandmother has the same name. Her son was living in the Birmingham area when he was killed in a car crash. As far as my grandmother was aware he was not married. However, it seems more the coincidental that both the boys and their sister carry first names which have particular meaning in my mother's family."
"That puts a different complexion on things," Miss Allsopp announced.
"Good or bad?"
"Mostly good. If you can show you are related, it will make things easier if you go for adoption later."
I nodded. Then I turned off the heating, showed Miss Allsopp out, locked up the summer house and made our way back to the main house. Once there, Miss Allsopp got Brian to sign all the forms I had signed previously, then handed one copy of each to me.
Having mentioned the possibility that the boys were related, I thought I better do something about it. The main thing I needed to do was get copies of the boys' birth certificates, and their mother's. I was not sure how I should go about doing that, then I remembered Ian. So, I went up to my office and started to do some research on social media.
Ian and I had been at school together. I cannot say we were friends but at least we were not enemies. In fact, we were a bit more than nodding acquaintances. He was very much into the humanities while I was more into sciences, so except for core subjects we had very few classes together. One thing I did remember about Ian was he was very interested in genealogy. So much so that after he left university he joined a firm of heir hunters. I would usually bump into Ian every couple of years at some event or other, usually the old boys' day at our school. I recalled that last time I had seen him he told me he had had set up his own heir hunting firm based in Sutton.
The main part of heir hunting is getting copies of birth, marriage and death certificates, so I had no doubt that Ian would be able to get them for me. I just had to hope that his firm was open today. First, though I had to find the name of the firm. Thank the gods for LinkedIn. I was able to find Ian and the name of the firm he was listed as CEO of. Their website gave their phone number so on the off chance they might be open, I called it.
I was somewhat surprised when Ian answered it. Once I had introduced myself and reminded him who I was, I expressed surprise that they were open.
"Actually, David we're not, the office is closed till Wednesday, but I have the number diverted to home in case something urgent comes up."
"Well, this is urgent, if you can help."
"What do you need."
I explained about the boys and that we thought they might be the descendants of my uncle, but we needed proof.
"If it is all based around the Birmingham area, should not be too much of a problem," Ian informed me. "I can get someone on it on Monday, though it will cost."
"A grand a day or part thereof. Shouldn't take more than one or two days. In the worst case three."
"Fine, go ahead. I suppose you want all the information we've got."
"That would be useful."
I gave Ian all the dates and other information I had. He thanked me and said he would have somebody on it on Monday.
I made a light lunch, using some Christmas dinner leftovers. Peter helped me in the task of making the lunch, turkey sandwiches with a cauliflower and stilton soup. He seemed to like being in the kitchen with me. When I mentioned this to Tim he told me that Peter said that I reminded him of his mother.
Friday evening, I did not feel like cooking. Brian went down the road to the chippy and got fish and chips for us all. After that we watched some adventure film in the home cinema, with popcorn, cola and ice cream.
I had only just got up Saturday morning when Grandma phoned. She asked that we meet her in Cooper and Tom's at one, giving precise instructions as where in that department store we were to meet. As I had nothing planned for the day I said we would be there, also I knew it was a waste of time arguing with Grandma. If she made plans, you just fitted in with them.
I informed Brian of the directive when he came down.
"What's she up to?" he asked.
Brian nodded. He knew better than try to put up a protest to one of Grandma's summonses. Brian did suggest it might be better to go in using his car than mine, on the basis it had more room. I got his point.
Brian had a BMW 6 series, which was far more roomier than my old Porsche 928. Its boot would hold more than I could get in the Porsche, even if I used the back seat space in the Porsche. It was just a bigger car than mine. That was one of the reasons it was not in the garage. There was just not enough room in the garage for my Porsche, his motorbike and his car. As he rarely used the car, he kept it at the works. After all they were only a few minutes' walk away.
"I suppose I better go and get the car," he said, reaching out for yet another round of toast.
"You can do, though it might be an idea to wake the boys first."
He looked at me with those puppy, do I have to, eyes. I answered with my, yes you do, eyes. After all it was he who had said the boys could watch another film, which meant it was gone midnight before we got to bed.
"Ok, but pour me another coffee will you?" Brian asked.
I did, and I made him some more toast. Once he had consumed both, he went to wake the boys. Then he went to collect his car. He had not got back when the boys came into the kitchen.
"What's for breakfast?" Peter asked.
"What do you fancy?" I asked.
"Do we have any?" I asked.
"Yes," Tim informed me. "I made sure to put some in the trolley on Thursday."
"Then you better find them, you and Brian put the shopping away."
Tim went to look for them while I got some milk out of the fridge. By time I was back at the table, Tim had found the Coco Pops for Peter, he had also found some Weetabix for himself. He had also got them both bowls and spoons. I placed the milk on the table. The two boys filled their bowls with cereal, then looked at me. I looked back at them wondering what they wanted, as they clearly wanted something.
"Is there any sugar?" Tim asked, after what seemed to be an age of us looking at each other.
It took me a moment to understand the import of the question. I then went and looked in the cupboards for sugar, and a bowl to put some in. I found both, which surprised me. Neither Brian nor I took sugar in our tea or coffee. If I am cooking anything that needs added sweetening, I usually use honey.
Placing a bowl of sugar on the table, I observed a devouring of food which would have left a swarm of locusts envious.
"David, if Grangran is black, how come you're white?" Peter asked as he finally finished his attack upon packet of Coco Pops, which was now seriously depleted.
I sat down at the table, across from him. "Actually Peter, under the racial laws of South Africa, before apartheid was abolished, and under some of the laws that existed in the southern states of the United States, I would be classed as black."
"But you're white!" Peter exclaimed.
"Actually I'm not. People tend to think I am white with a good tan, maybe Italian or Spanish. I am actually one eighth African Jamaican. That though is not important."
"What do you mean not important?" Tim asked.
"Tim, is does not matter if you are black, white, yellow or green, what is important is who you are, not what you are."
Peter was laughing. I asked him what was so funny.
"There's no green men," he stated.
"Are you sure?"
"Then I must get my eyes tested.
"Why?" Tim asked.
"I am sure the youth I saw vomiting his guts up outside the Horse and Plough last weekend looked green."
Tim laughed. Peter looked puzzled. Before he could ask any question Brian came in.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
"We've been discussing race," I informed him.
"He said there were green men," Peter announced.
"There often are, when they have been out drinking," Brian replied.
Peter looked puzzled, Tim said he would explain.
"Any plans for this morning?" I asked Brian.
"I've got some, but they can wait until you have finished feeding these two."
I looked at the two boys. They still looked hungry, so I put more bread in the toaster.
Just before nine, with the boys feed, washed and dressed smartly, after all we were having lunch in Cooper and Tom's restaurant, we set off in Brian's BMW. I was wondering what Brian had planned. When I asked him, while the boys were showering after breakfast, all he had said was I would see. That worried me.
I was somewhat surprised when Brian drove into the multi-story car park by the Birmingham Arena. Then it became clear what Brian was planning, he took us to the Sea Life Centre, across from the Arena. I think the boys would probably have liked to spend the whole day in there. Unfortunately, I could only allow them a couple of hours. Shortly after twelve I had to remind them that we were due to meet Grandma. I finally got them out at quarter to one. Fortunately, it was not that long a walk to Cooper and Tom's location in Corporation Street.
Cooper and Tom's has been described as the Liberty's of Birmingham. Though unlike Liberty's, Cooper and Tom's did not have black timbers showing in its walls. It had solid mild steel beams, being one of the first steel-framed buildings constructed. Its construction being a series conjoined steel boxes, each such box being an effective eighteen-foot cube. The result of this was that Cooper and Tom's was a maze of interlinked rooms, each eighteen by eighteen, which looked outward onto the surrounding street or inward to the light well of the atrium.
Once we got there, we made our way up to the sixth floor restaurant, where there were no dividing walls down one side of the building, giving an open space some forty-eight yards long and six yards wide, interspersed with wrought iron columns.
Grandma was already ensconced at one of the tables, located close enough to the kitchen doors to ensure one's food was hot, but far enough away not to be disturbed by the clatter of the kitchen. My nephew Luke was with her.
We joined her, taking our seats at the table.
"No Mike?" I asked.
"No, he and Louise had to go to London for the day, they will be back early evening," Grandma informed me. I wondered what had caused Mike to go to London. He had not said anything about going yesterday.
Before I could ask about it, the waitress came to take our orders. A bit embarrassing as none of us had looked at the menu. I noticed the boys were looking very nervous about something, then I realised the menu was in French. I ordered for them. I was fairly certain they would enjoy langoustines aux frites, that is scampi and chips, even if it did have a fancy French name on the menu.
Once the waitress left, Grandma informed us why she needed us to be there.
"Cirque du Solei are opening at the Albert Hall in two weeks," she stated.
"I know, wanted to get tickets but all the decent seats were sold out before they were even advertised," Brian stated.
"Well, I have twelve for the first Saturday evening performance," Grandma announced.
"How?" Brain asked.
"It's one of the perks that comes with owning a box at the Albert Hall, I can always get tickets for what I want to see."
"Err, Grandma, how come you own a box at the Albert Hall?" I asked.
"Well, it's the LeRoy family box," Grandma stated, clearly enjoying something but I was not sure what.
The Albert Hall was the vision of Prince Albert as The Central Hall of Science and the Arts. Queen Victoria decided to rename it The Royal Albert Hall, in memory of her late husband when she opened it in 1871. Its build was funded by public subscription. A large part of which was the sale of seats in perpetuity. The original seats were sold at eight pounds each, they now sell for somewhere around a quarter of a million. Even allowing for inflation, that is still a very good investment. Especially given that seat owners get tickets for most of the performances which take place in the hall. If the seat holders do not want to make use of the tickets, they return them to the Box Office, which then sells the tickets on the same terms as the promoter's tickets. That means a seat can easily generate over ten grand a year for its owner. Grandma was sitting on a box of twelve.
"But surely that would belong to the Baron?"
"You see David, your Great Grandfather had some financial problems back in the 1970s. There were some major repairs required to that monstrosity they have up in Lincolnshire. Why they don't demolish it I don't know."
"It's grade one listed," I informed her.
"That's stupid, it's… Well it's ugly. Anyway, your Great Uncle asked your Grandfather for a loan. Your Grandfather obliged, against security, in this case the Albert Hall Box. Your Great Uncle could not maintain the repayments so," she shrugged her shoulders and spread out her hands.
I was doing a quick piece of mental arithmetic. "So, you have twelve grand tier seats in the Albert Hall. A grand tier seat usually sells for about a hundred pounds for anything in the Hall. That's twelve hundred pounds a performance, that must work out…"
"Don't bother trying to work it out, David. Just accept I get a considerable income from it."
"As I said, one of the perks is that I can get tickets for what I want to see, and I want to see Cirque du Solei. So, I have kept the tickets for the box on the first Saturday of the run. Now, I want the boys to see it, they will, of course, be in a box with me, so I want them to be correctly attired."
Now meeting in Cooper & Tom's made sense. It was one of the few places around these days where you could get a fully tailored suit – I don't mean an off the peg suit that was adjusted to fit you – I mean a suit a made to measure suit. Grandma no doubt wanted the boys to have suits for when they were in the box with her.
I was just about to make a comment that I thought suits would be a bit over the top, it was after all a circus performance they were going to, even if it was the best circus in the world. That comment though was not made. The waitress returned with our orders. As I had guessed the Peter and Tim liked scampi with chips.
I did not get chance to raise the issue about suits after lunch because Grandma started to interrogate Tim about Jenny and me about what we were doing to find the girl. The only thing Tim could supply was that she was working in a massage parlour somewhere off the Hagley Road. The only thing I could say was most places were closed for the Christmas break and I doubted I could get much started before the New Year.
Grandma was not all that pleased with that information. However, she let it rest and insisted that we get a move on and get to the men's wear department, which was two floors down.
Just as we were leaving the restaurant, an elderly lady got out of the lift and walked towards us. As she looked towards us, a smile of recognition appeared on her face.
"Grace, my dear," she said, extending her hand to my Grandma. "What a surprise, you so seldom leave London these days."
"Edith, it's so nice to see you out and about after your… accident," Grandma said, taking Edith's hand. "It's true I don't get out as much these days as I probably should, but family matters brought me North. May I ask what brings you to this part of the world?"
"Now then, a young friend who helped out my great nephew has been having some problems, which my family have been helping to sort out. We are having a bit of a conflab about it at Manston and I have found myself staying somewhat longer than expected, so needed a few extras."
"I just know how unexpected stays can stretch one at times," Grandma replied. Can I introduce my grandson, David, and his partner Brian, and these are my great-grandsons, Tim, Luke and Peter.
"Boys I would like to introduce you to an old friend of mine, Miss Edith Jenkins."
We all religiously shook hands with Miss Jenkins, who then excused herself stating that she was due to meet an old friend for tea. With that, she left us proceeding down the hallway towards the restaurant. We piled into the lift, to go down to the fourth floor.
"A nice lady," Brian commented.
"Don't let looks deceive you, Brian," Grandma stated. "Edith Jenkins is one of the most dangerous women in Europe."
"Really! But she's…"
"She is the head of the most successful crime families in London. They used to rob payroll vans until Miss Jenkins and her partner Albert took over. Now they steal information. I'm told it is far more valuable."
Grandma had just completed this statement when the lift doors opened and we walked out onto the fourth floor of Cooper and Tom's.
"How come you know her?" I asked.
"David, I was a top criminal defence barrister for nearly thirty years. Who do you think I was defending, car thieves?"
I had not thought of that and followed Grandma as she led the way through to the tailoring section. As we entered, an elderly gentleman, who clearly knew my Grandmother approached.
"Dame Grace, it is so nice to see you again. What can we do for you?"
"Mr. Henry, it is a pleasant surprise to find that you are still in post."
"Why shouldn't I be, at my age there is not much to interest me outside my work."
"Understandable, my three great-grandsons will be attending the Albert Hall and Covent Garden for various events this coming year. They will need an evening suit each, also two more suits and some casual outfits for such events," Grandma stated.
Mr. Henry clapped his hands twice and assistants appeared, apparently out of the woodwork, as there had been no sign of any around before the hand clap. They quickly got to work. First, measuring the boys, a process which I suspect the boys found somewhat embarrassing.
I remembered how embarrassing it was for me the first time Dad brought me here to be measured up for a suit. Thinking about it I realised that Mr. Henry had been here then, he had been the one doing the measuring. That was thirty odd years ago. I wondered how long he had been with the place. I commented on the fact to Brian.
"Probably since it was built," he replied.
After about half an hour, all the boys had been measured, and Peter had chosen the style of suits he wanted and what material he wanted them made in. Luke and Tim were having much bigger problems. That was, in part, due to the fact that Grandma was putting her foot down over certain choices the two boys wanted to make.
While I was watching the discussions that were taking place, mainly between one of the assistants and Grandma, the assistant trying to persuade her that the style the boys wanted was fashionable, I sensed Peter at my side wanting something.
"What is it Peter?"
"I need the toilet," he informed me.
Although I had been coming to Cooper and Tom's since I was ten, one thing I have never been able to work out is where the customer toilets are located. There are customer toilets on every floor, the only problem is that they are for specific customers. I caught the attention of the nearest assistant, who informed me that the nearest gents was on the sixth floor, otherwise it was down to the first floor. The toilets on this floor and the ground floor being for disabled customers.
I informed Brian about the situation and then took Peter up to the sixth floor in the lift. As we got out of the lift, Peter turned and started to walk towards the restaurant, I had to grab hold of his shoulder and turn him round, in the direction of the gents.
I felt a bit awkward standing around in the gents, waiting for Peter to finish whatever is was that he was doing in the cubical. However, I did not want to risk him getting lost in Cooper and Tom's. I had years ago, when I was just a bit younger than Peter was now, and had nightmares about it for months. Eventually Peter finished whatever it was that he had been doing and exited the cubical to the sound of a flushing toilet. I made sure that he washed his hands, then we exited the gents.
"That's him," a voice called out.
I turned and saw a large black woman pointing at me. With her were two Cooper and Tom security staff. One of them dashed over to me and grabbed my arm.
"You're coming with me yo… Ahrgg," he screamed as I applied a nerve lock to his wrist forcing him to the ground. I then changed the lock and pushed him across the hallway. He bounced off the opposite wall. As he fell to the floor, the lift doors opened and two uniformed police officers came out. They immediately came over to where we were standing.
"All right, what's going on here?" the one officer asked.
"That whitey pulled that black boy into the toilets and they were in there for some time. I'd called security when I see it and they come. They go to arrest him but he threw security man into the wall," the large black woman announced.
By now a crowd had started to collect. The police officer who had asked what had happened spoke to his associate, who went to move them on. Then he came over to me.
"Can I have your name please sir," he asked.
"Thank you sir, and what is your name?" he asked Peter.
"So, what happened here?" the officer asked the security guard still prostate on the floor.
"He resisted arrest," the guard stated.
"So, you were arresting him," a familiar voice stated from the side.
"Yes, he's a honky pervert," the guard, who was black, shouted.
"Who are you," the police officer enquired, turning towards Grandma.
"Their lawyer," Grandma stated, opening her handbag and pulling out her purse. I wondered which of her ID cards she was going to show. She did not show one, though I suspect she allowed the police officer a glimpse of her Department of Justice ID. What she did do was remove one of her business cards. I wondered which one she had given him. No matter which one it was he was not happy.
"Right, you better talk to your client. We'll deal with the boy."
"You will do no such thing. You are not going to talk to my great grandson, without me being present." Grandma looked across to where Peter stood. "Come here, Peter."
"That honkey pervert dragged that boy into the Gents," the black woman shouted at Grandma. "He was in there doing perverted things to the boy."
"I very much doubt that," Grandma replied.
"How do you know? They were in there for ages."
"He's my grandson," Grandma replied.
"But he's white!" the black woman exclaimed.
"No, he is light coffee, just like his uncle."
By this time Brian and Tim had arrived.
"I'm sorry sir but I am going to have to arrest you on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 16 and of resisting arrest." He proceeded to inform me that I could remain silent and warned me that anything I said could be used in evidence against me. After going through the formal rigmarole he continued. "You will need to come down to the station with me," the officer stated. I looked at Grandma, who nodded.
"Brian, take the boys home. They are not to speak with anyone unless I am present, understood?"
"Why is he taking the boys?" the other police officer asked.
"He's the boys foster father," Grandma informed him.
There was a few minutes wrangling, but the police realised they were out of their depth. They did though get assurance from Grandma that the boys would be available for interview when required.
Grandma came with me to the police station. We were stuck there for a couple of hours before I was finally interviewed. I explained that I was Peter's foster parent and that we had been ordering suits for the boys when Peter had needed to go the toilet. I also explained that I had waited by the sinks in the gents, while Peter had done whatever he had to do in one of the cubicles.
By the time they interviewed me the police had already obtained copies of the CCTV from Cooper and Tom's and had viewed it, as had my Grandma. The question that was raised was whether or not I was resisting arrest. As Grandma pointed out that rested on two things. First, did I know I was being arrested? On that point she submitted that I did not. She pointed out that the CCTV footage showed no sign of the guard actually speaking to me when he grabbed me. The second point was whether the arrest was lawful?
On this, she pointed out, that it would only be lawful if an arrestable offence had been committed. As she pointed out, a citizen, unlike the police, could only arrest if an arrestable offence had been committed. The police could arrest on the reasonable suspicion of an offence, the citizen could not. As we were maintaining that no offence had been committed, then the arrest, if one had been made, was unlawful, so I was perfectly within my rights to protect myself from an unlawful arrest.
This having been stated, in some detail by Grandma to the interviewing officers. They pointed out that until they had interviewed Peter they could not determine if and offence had been committed. That would be their next step, interviewing Peter. Grandma said that was fine, so long as it was done at the house.
That sorted I was searched, then placed in a holding cell without any of my possessions, shoes or tie. Grandma was going with the investigating officers to interview Peter. It was some four hours later that the door to the holding cell was opened and I was told I was being released.
When I got to the custody sergeant's desk I was told no charges were being brought against me for the charge of sexual activity with a minor. The police stated they were confident that this was a misunderstanding around the sequence of events. On the charge of resisting arrest, there were further investigations to be made. In the meantime I was being released on police bail.
Grandma was waiting for me when I was released. She called a cab and took me home.
"What happened with Peter?" I asked.
"Well, they asked him why you took him to the gents, and he said that he asked you to as he needed to take a dump. They then asked him what had happened in the toilets and he said you had taken him in, directed him to find a cubical and said you would be waiting for him by the sinks. They wanted to know why it took so long. Peter told them he had not gone to the toilet for two days and it was all very hard and painful to push out, so he had done it slowly."
It was well past eleven when we got home. Grandma stayed in the cab, pointing out that she still had to get to Bromsgrove. I got out and went in. Brian, Tim and a very sleepy Peter were waiting for me in the kitchen. They all seemed very worried about me but were assured that I was home, and I was safe. Once I had given them an account of events at the police station, Brian got the boys up to bed. We then spent the next half hour going over events again.
As a result of our late night, it was gone nine on Sunday morning before I got up. Not that it was that unusual. Sunday mornings were my days to lay in, usually to have a round or two of good sex with Brian, if he was at home. However, that was before we had two boys living with us. Somehow, I just knew that I needed to be down in the kitchen arranging some sustenance for them. So, I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower.
When I did get down to the kitchen I found Peter there, sitting at the table, drinking a glass of milk, and waiting. The look he gave me as I walked in was almost one of despair. It was certainly one of hunger.
"You know you could have helped yourself to come cereal," I pointed out.
"Couldn't reach," Peter informed me. I looked at him puzzled for a moment, then realised. Peter was only just over five foot tall. The cereal boxes were in the cupboards over the work area. They were at least five foot six above the floor. The handles were a good foot higher. However, the work area below the cupboard projected a good two feet in front of the cupboard, putting them beyond the reach of the boy, especially as I had told him off the other day for standing on a chair to get to a cupboard, something which was definitely unsafe. It was clear that I was going to have to do some reorganising of my cupboard space, so that in emergencies like this Peter could get at essentials.
However, I was pleased that Peter had taken my instruction not to stand on chairs seriously. He could have done so and got his cereal if he had wanted to before I came down. The fact that he had not was a good sign that he had listened to me. I thanked him for not doing so.
"If you had been much longer I probably would have done," he told me.
Once I had got some food in front of Peter, an exercise that I regarded as an emergency, given the pleading look he had given me for it, I set about getting breakfast for the rest of us. I knew Brian would not be that far behind me. It depended on how fast the aroma arising from the coffee pot took to get up to the master bedroom.
It did not take long. Both Tim and Brian arrived in the kitchen about three minutes after I had poured the boiling water onto the coffee grounds in the filter. They had to wait for the filtration to finish before I could provide them with mugs of coffee.
"What's planned for today?" Brian asked, buttering a slice of toast.
"Sunday lunch at the Bromsgrove house," I informed him. "Got nothing else planned."
"What time do we have to leave here?"
"Just after twelve," I informed my husband to be. Leaving then would give us plenty of time.
"Good, I want to get some laps in, thought I would take the boys."
"Take us where?" Tim asked.
"Swimming," Brian replied. "I try to go a couple of times a week, the sports centre is not far, and I usually go there."
Both the boys seemed enthusiastic about the idea and were rapidly stuffing the remains of their breakfast into their mouths.
"Slow down, it's Sunday. The place does not open till ten and it is only a ten minute walk," I informed them.
They slowed. Brian asked if I was going with them. I declined, stating that I had to reorganise the kitchen. At the very least I had to make sure the cereals where somewhere that Peter could get at them. I also wanted to get the book I was reading finished.
Another factor in my declining the invitation is that I just do not like swimming in winter. It is not that I do not like swimming, I enjoy swimming when it is warm. When it is cold, even though the swimming baths are heated, I do not like it. For me, I need to be able to climb out of a pool, step over to a recliner and lie there, drying in the sun.
Added to that, of course, is that I am not that good a swimmer. Oh, I can swim, in fact I can swim for hours and hours, it is just I do not get that far when I do swim for hours and hours. In the time it takes me to swim the length of a fifty metre pool, Brian has done at least six lengths, if not more. I do not mind playing around in the water but have never really got into Brian's scene of swimming length after length of the pool. There again, Brian has never got into my habit of standing out on the back lawn and doing an hour or so's practice with a katana. Somehow, he seems to fail to understand the concept of doing a thousand cuts with a samurai sword. Not that I was likely to be doing that today, not given the weather. It was not the cold that was the problem, it was wet. I knew from experience that ten minutes of doing sword kata on the wet lawn would turn it into a mass of mud.
That was one thing I did miss about the Bromsgrove house. It had a large multi-car garage. Dad had converted the part of the garage loft into a do-jo for me. The other half was an apartment. That had been just after my twelfth birthday. I had been doing martial arts for just over two years by then and had got into the sword and bo katas in a big way.
Brian, after checking the boys had everything they needed, herded them out of the front door just before ten. It took me about half an hour to swap the contents of two kitchen cabinets over, so that the cereals where now in a cupboard that Peter could access. I then sat down to read.
I had just finished reading when Brian and the boys got back, a few minutes before twelve. I told them to get changed into something a bit more formal, Grandma would be at lunch, then went to do the same.
"How'd it go?" I asked Brian as we changed in the master bedroom.
"Very well, both boys swim, though Peter is a lot better than Tim."
"Yes, Peter's a natural swimmer and he's got good speed. If he went to a school with a swimming team I suspect he would be on it. Tim is more like you, a fun swimmer. He can swim but that's it. He just likes to play around in the water."
"So, we need to get Peter into a school with a swim team?"
"We need to get him into a good school," Brian replied. "However, I think we should let him finish this school year where he is, even if it does mean a big taxi bill."
It was not quite one when Brian turned the BMW into the drive of the Bromsgrove house. Yes, the house had a drive, quite a long one. The house stood in some five acres of grounds just outside of Bromsgrove. At least, it had been just outside of Bromsgrove when it was built. Now Bromsgrove had extended out around it. However, the house still stood at the centre of its own grounds.
The house had originally built in the late 1840s by a Black Country Ironmaster. In the 1890s his grandson, by then a Baron, had remodelled the house in the Arts and Crafts style. He had also extended it considerably. How my mother's family had got the house I do not know. It had been given to my parents as a wedding present by my mother's parents. There had been some speculation on the part of Mike and me as to how the grandparents had got it. One view was that that Granddad's family had given him the house as part of the payoff to stay well away after he had married a coloured woman. They probably hoped that giving him a house in Bromsgrove would keep him well away from polite London society. If that was the hope it never worked as he never lived in it. The other view was that he had got it as a result of a gambling debt. A view which I suspected was far more likely.
"Fuck! How big is this place?" Tim asked as we drove up the drive.
"Tim, please try to curb your language," I instructed. "To answer your question I am not sure. When I lived here there were eight bedrooms in the main house. There was a two-bedroom apartment over the coach house and there are two two-bedroom apartments in the servants' quarters."
"They have servants?" Peter enquired.
"Not these days, I don't think there have been servants here since the war. There weren't any in my days."
Brian brought the car to a stop just to the side of the steps up to the front door. As he did so, the front door opened, and Luke ran out. He was by the car before either of the boys had time to get out. Louise followed Luke at a more sedate pace.
"Good to see you back here at last," Louise said as I got out of the car. "Mike and Grandma are down in the greenhouse, no doubt totally oblivious to the time."
"Orchids?" I asked.
"Yes, apparently one has come into bloom. It only does that every ten years or so. Mike's very excited about it."
That I could understand. Mike had a passion for orchids and from what I heard he was regarded as something of an expert in the field. He had got that passion from Grandma, who also grew orchids.
We followed Louise back into the house. Luke immediately dragged Peter and Tim off to show them his room. Louise called after him an instruction to show the boys the rest of the house. She then offered Brian and me a drink, before proceeding to show us the changes she had made to the house. It was somewhat strange to be back in my childhood home and find it was not like I remembered it.
What had been the kitchen had been knocked through to the dining room to make what was one large dining living space. A conservatory type structure connected what had been the kitchen to the dolly house, which used to be separated from the main house because of fear of fire. I had to explain to Brian that the dolly house was where the laundry was done in the old days. Dolly house being a Black Country term for a laundry, from the fact they used dolly tubs to do the laundry in. I remembered from my childhood days there used to be a big copper boiler in the corner of the dolly house in which the staff boiled up the water for the laundry. Not that I had ever seen it done. By my time living here the place had been used for junk storage. It was now a luxury kitchen.
A door had been knocked through from the old dolly house to what I remembered had been the coal store. It was now a utility room, with a ground-floor bathroom with shower in the room beyond it. Effectively Louise, in her alterations, had brought the whole row of outbuildings into use for the main house.
Looking out across what was now a patio courtyard I observed what looked like a massive conservatory sticking out from the back of the old coach house, now garages.
"What's that?" I asked Louise.
"Come on I'll show you. She opened the door from the kitchen and led us out across the courtyard and into, what I had assumed was a conservatory. I was mistaken, it was an indoor swimming pool.
"A bit extravagant," I commented.
"Not when the alternative is getting up at five in the morning and taking Luke to the sports centre so he can get in an hour's training before school," Mike said, coming in behind us.
"Luke's a swimmer?"
"Yes, according to the coaches at the swimming club he is a very good one. He already holds a couple of national records for under thirteens. It is one thing he is going to miss when we move."
"Yes, David, it is one thing I need to speak to you about."
Luke, closely followed by Peter and Tim, ran into the pool area. Mike shouted to them about not running. Luke looked apologetic, but did slow down. Peter and Tim came over to us and were babbling away about what they had seen. I wondered what had happened to my old rooms. Louise must have been reading my mind.
"David, your rooms are as you left them, except I've put dust covers over everything. I always hoped you and Mike could sort things out between you and you would be using them again."
"Well at least they are speaking to each other, Louise," Grandma stated from where she was standing by the door. I had not noticed her come in. "So, why don't we give Mike a chance to speak with Brian and David. I am sure we can find things to do in the kitchen. Lunch should be ready soon."
Grandma and Louise went off in the direction of the main house. Luke and the boys went out into the courtyard. Mike mentioned that Luke probably wanted to show them his tree house. I looked at Mike questioningly.
"It's the one we built," he admitted.
"What is it we need to speak about?" I asked.
"Sir Robert is standing down as chairman of Channel 9 in August. They've asked me to take over as chairman," Mike informed me. "It will, of course, mean moving to London. To get anywhere decent I need to sell this place and get somewhere near top end of the price scale."
"So, what's the problem?" Brian asked. "Houses around here go like hot cakes, I know I had a look at a couple." That information surprised me. I looked at Brian questioningly. "David, I was going to suggest that we foster but I knew we really needed somewhere larger if we did."
"Do you want to tell him, Mike, or shall I?" I said.
"I'll tell him," Mike responded. "Brian, the house was left to me by Dad. However, the was a condition in the gift. If I or my estate ever wanted to sell the property during David's lifetime, it first had to be offered to David at half current valuation."
"What is the current valuation?" Brian asked.
"Two point two-five million," Mike stated.
"That seems a bit on the high side," Brian replied. "I would have thought a bit shy of two million."
"It probably would be without the apartments," Mike said.
"What about the apartments?" I asked.
"I have had them modernised and made fully self-contained. They are now let and bring in just over fourteen grand a year. That pushes the property value up by about three-hundred-thousand."
"Would you like to live here?" Brian asked me.
"Of course I would, it would be great for the boys."
"Then we better buy it."
"But I can't afford to sell it to David," Mike pleaded. "I need at least two million to get something down south."
"I know, Mike," Brian stated. "However, if you offer it to David, and David turns it down, I can then buy it from you for two million."
Both Mike and I looked at Brian.
"Look, you two, it makes sense. Once you turn down the offer of buying the property, David, Mike can offer it on the open market at full price. We all know in the current market he is not likely to get the asking price, but will get close to it."
"The agents suggested I should list it at two-point-four and accept anything over two-point-two."
"Have you listed it yet?" Brian asked.
"No, not yet."
"So, you will save listing fees," Brian pointed out.
We discussed things a bit longer and nothing was formally agreed but it was understood that Brian would be buying the property.
Louise came through to tell us that lunch was ready and told Mike to go and collect the boys, and make sure they cleaned up.
"What's going to happen to Luke when you move?" I asked. "It will be his GCSE years starting in September."
"He's going to board where he is now," Louise informed me. "Actually we were thinking of boarding him next year anyway, as I'm going to be away a lot."
"Why?" I asked.
"I've been appointed to the main board as of the first of January. Replacing Paul Linton as Director of Development. So, I am going to have to visit most of the development centres and that means a lot of travelling."
Louise, when not writing, worked for an international software company and had been on the board of the UK division for many years. I suspected that she may have been offered promotion to the main board some time ago but had turned it down. Given the change in circumstances it made sense for her to accept now.
Mike arrived back with the boys. They must have come in through the utility room as they all looked pretty clean. Once they arrived Louise told us to seat ourselves at the dining table. She then started to serve dinner.
Over dinner Mike and I explained the deal we had come up with about the house.
"Very good," Grandma stated. "A perfectly logical solution. The only thing David, is when you reject the offer, make the rejection conditional on Mike selling to Brian."
Mike gave Grandma a questioning look, but Grandma did not expand.
"You know, Mike, you can always apply to the trust for help with your housing costs," I told him. "You can also get help with Luke's school fees."
"We can?" Louise asked.
"Of course," I replied. "Luke is one of the designated family, so he qualifies for help with his education."
"I don't suppose that covers our two?" Brian asked.
"No, we will have to pay for them ourselves," I stated.
"I'm not so sure," Grandma stated. I looked at her. "I presume you are talking about the family trust?" I nodded. "If the boys are Timothy's grandchildren then they would be covered by the trust."
I expressed surprise but Grandma continued to inform me. "The trust is open ended, so it was set up in Switzerland." That I knew. "However, your mother and father, David, needed to be able to draw upon it. So technically the trust was set up by your Grandfather and me. It is our descendants who are the designated family."
"You mean…" Brian started to say.
"Yes Brian," Grandma interrupted. "If the boys are descended from Timothy LeRoy, as we think, they are covered by the trust, as is Jenny, if we can find her."
"What trust?" Tim asked.
"We'll tell you later," Brian responded.
"What's this about you being arrested yesterday?" Louise asked.
I spent the next twenty minutes explaining the sequence of events. Peter had to tell his take on things.
"Well, at least it is sorted now," Louise commented.
"I hope so," Grandma said. "Unfortunately I don't think it is. I suspect there are going to be consequences that we will have to deal with."