Christmas Present

Brian and David

Story 3: Problems and Solutions

The Monday After Christmas

by Nigel Gordon

nigelgordon1948@gmail.com

To say that I was livid, was an understatement. I was furious. I was in the middle of washing up the breakfast things when the doorbell rang. I went to answer it and found Miss Allsopp and a man I did not know standing on the doorstep. I naturally invited them in. If I had known why there were here I would not have done so.

As she entered Miss Allsopp pushed some papers into my hand, but before I had chance to look at them she announced, "Dr. Moore, could you call the boys please and ask them to pack, we will be removing them from your care with immediate effect," the bitch said.

"I'm sorry but that is not possible."

"Why not?"

"The boys are not here."

"Where are they?" Miss Allsopp demanded.

"My husband has taken them out for the day."

"Where have the gone?"

"To be honest, I do not know. I know that they were going to buy some rackets, then meeting Luke to have a try at playing badminton or squash. I'm not quite sure which as the boys arranged it been themselves yesterday. I have no idea where they are meeting."

"And you did not go with them?" the man, to whom I had not been introduced, asked accusingly.

"No, I have to go into work this morning, it is the year end and there are certain technicalities that have to be undertaken, like authorising the payroll." Why I said I had to go into work I do not know. I could do all the procedures that were necessary from my office upstairs. For some reason it just seemed better to say that I had to go into work.

"Can you phone Mr. Grieves and ask him to bring the boys back please?" Miss Allsopp said.

I had to agree to that. It would have been difficult not to. The request was reasonable. What was not reasonable was what came next… from the man.

"Put the phone on speaker so we can hear what is said," he commented.

"May I ask who you are?"

"Police constable Wrighton. Police liaison officer with Children's Services."

I got my phone out and open my contacts list, selected Brian, then pressed call. As the phone started to connect I clicked on the speaker symbol, switching it on. The phone rang six times, then switched through to voicemail.

"This is Brian Grieves of Grieves and Haslam Associates. I am sorry I am unable to take your call at the moment. Please try again later."

With that the call was terminated. No chance to leave a message. There was no chance that Brian would answer it. I had dialled his business phone, which I knew was sitting upstairs in the office on its charger.

Miss Allsopp must have suspected something, so she pulled out her phone and opened up the folder she was carrying, then dialled a number. Both Brian and I had given our business mobile numbers when we had filled out the forms for fostering. Normally those were the best phones to get us on. Though not over the Christmas Holidays.

"When do you expect them back?" Miss Allsopp asked.

"We haven't set a time. I know Brian is taking the boys for lunch and Luke wanted to take them somewhere but where I don't know. All we had arranged was that I would have dinner ready about six."

In actual fact I knew full well what Luke wanted to show the boys, it was his school. If we moved to Bromsgrove, as was on the cards, it would be the logical place for boys to go. I also knew they were due to have tea with Grandma at three, but I was not going to let Miss Allsopp and her sidekick know that.

"Does this boy Luke have a phone?" Miss Allsopp asked.

"I don't know."

"Can you call his parents and find out? If he has, get his number and call him. He can tell Brian to contact you."

I noticed she had not asked if either of the boys had phones. I was not about to enlighten her on that point. I called the Bromsgrove house, knowing full well that Mike and Louise were out. Once more the phone was on speaker phone.

The housekeeper answered. I did not know her as she had replaced the old housekeeper a couple of years ago and I had never met her. She had not been at the house on Sunday, having weekends off. I asked to speak to either Mr. or Mrs. Moore-Carlson.

"I'm sorry, sir, they're in London today and not expected back till late."

Of course they were in London, they had gone down to look at the property that Mike had his eye on. It was a lot more than he had expected to be able to pay but once I had assured him that there were funds in the trust he could use, he had decided to go for it.

I thanked the housekeeper for the information and said I would call back tomorrow. Then I disconnected the call and looked at Miss Allsopp.

"Now perhaps you would like to tell me why you are removing the boys?"

"We have been notified that you were arrested on suspicion of a sexual offence with a minor on Saturday. "

"I wasn't charged. It was all a mistake made by one prejudiced woman."

"That does not matter, until the allegation is disproved you cannot remain a foster parent."

"But how do you disprove an allegation if you are not charged?"

"That Dr. Moore is your problem," Miss Allsopp stated. "My job is to protect the boys."

"I see. Look the boys will be here around six, until then I can't do anything. Anyway I have to be at my office in ten minutes, so could I suggest you come back then."

There was a short, and somewhat heated, discussion about this but in the end Miss Allsopp and her sidekick decided that they did not have much option but to go along with the suggestion. Five minutes after they left, I left and walked up to the works. I could not help feeling that I was being watched as I walked up the road.

There was no real reason that I had to go into my office at the works today. To be totally truthful I could have done everything I had to do from my home office. The works were closed down, as they are every year, from the day before Christmas Eve to the day after New Years Day. However, the senior departmental staff have to come in on New Year's Eve to do an end of year check, which includes a stock check. Actually we have a very efficient stock control system, which means that most New Year Eves we will be finished doing all the counting by about noon. Then, by tradition, I take the senior departmental staff, all fifty odd of them, down to the Barleymow for lunch and a pint. This was a tradition which my father had started when we only had three departments and only one senior staff member in each department. He had kept it going over the years, even though the number of departments and senior staff grew. I had continued the tradition.

Unfortunately, this year I was going to have to break it. I would not be going down to the Barleymow with them. I would be too busy sorting things out regarding the boys. Not that the staff would miss out, the lunch had already been booked and Albert, the landlord of the Barleymow, knew where to send the drinks bill. Anyway Mrs. Baxter, my secretary, always ran things at the Barleymow, so it would all go without a hitch, even if I was not there.

Mrs. Baxter and Mrs. Taunton were in the outer office when I had arrived. Mrs. Baxter had been my father's secretary and then mine after father died. She was due to retire in March and Mrs. Taunton was taking over the post, which accounted for Mrs. Taunton being in today. Mrs. Baxter took responsibility for the end of year figures for the administration department.

"Problems?" she asked as I walked into the outer office.

"Yes," I replied.

"Jill, would you mind making some tea, we are nearly finished here, and I am sure we could do with a break."

Mrs. Taunton went off in the direction of the staff room. I looked at Mrs. Baxter.

"Now tell me what's wrong? Be quick about it, Jill will take about five minutes to make the tea."

I gave her a quick run-down on the events of the last week, as they concerned the boys. The telling had just got to an end when Mrs. Taunton returned with a tray of tea. Mrs. Baxter poured me a cup, handed it to me and then gave instructions.

"Now get in that office and phone your grandmother. Don't worry about the figures, I'll deal with them, we'll be finished in here in half an hour and I can start collecting the information."

As you may gather Mrs. Baxter was a secretary from the old school. She never allowed her boss to make a decision until she had decided what it was to be.

I phoned the Bromsgrove house, this time asking for Grandma. When I got her I told her about this morning's events.

"Where are you, David?" Grandma asked.

"I'm in my office at work."

"First, stay there, do not go back to the house until I tell you it's ok. Second, can you contact Brian without it being traced back to you?"

"Yes," I stated.

"You better contact him and let him know what is happening, tell him to bring the boys directly here when they have finished at the ice rink."

"Ice rink! I thought they were playing squash or badminton."

"That was the original idea, but Luke phoned Peter this morning and I think they decided they would prefer to go skating.

"Now, David, don't worry, I am going to phone Sir John and see what we can sort out."

"Sir John?"

"Yes, David, Sir John Lassiman, one of the best family court lawyers in the country."

I vaguely remembered meeting a Sir John Lassiman years ago, a small, grey man, who had to be about my Grandmother's age. I wondered how much use he could be.

My Grandmother gave me a list of other instructions, then she rang off. I went to my safe, opened it and withdrew a small black notebook. After closing the safe I left my office and went down the corridor to the office Brian used. As expected his business laptop was on his desk. I opened it up and switched it on. While waiting for it to boot, I opened the notebook and looked through it for the required passwords. One thing that Brian and I had set up a few years ago was a provision so that either of us could access the other's passwords, in an emergency. This I counted as an emergency.

Windows opened, asking for Brian's password. I checked it in the book and then entered it, amused by the fact it was where we went on holiday together after we first met and the date of our first date. Once in I opened up Skype. I knew Brian had a top of the range subscription to Skype, it gave him worldwide calls to both mobiles and landlines. More importantly it gave him a virtual phone number. In Brian's case it was a virtual phone number associated with his Bermuda office. If anyone was to check Brian's phone log, it would show a call coming in from Bermuda. I called Brian.

"Whoever this is you better have a good excuse for using my Skype account," Brain said as he answered.

"I have, Social Services are going to remove the boys from our care."

"WHAT!"

I told him about this morning's visit from Miss Allsopp.

"That's ridiculous," Brian stated. "There was no basis for the accusation."

"I agree, but it seems that those are the rules," I replied.

"What are we going to do?"

"To be honest Brian I am not sure. Grandma is contacting somebody she knows, who is an expert in family law. Until I hear from him I am not sure what we can do."

I then told Brian about taking the boys to the Bromsgrove house as soon as they were finished.

"I better take them to MacDonald's first, otherwise they might eat me," Brian responded.

"Where are you?"

"We're at the open air ice rink, the boys wanted to skate."

"Can they?"

"Well, Luke can, and Peter seems to be getting the hang of it. Not sure about Tim."

"What about you?"

"I'm not stupid enough to go on the ice. Had enough of that playing ice hockey for the school. Never want to go on the ice again."

We discussed what was going on a bit more. Brian suggested I take his laptop into my office, then if he needed to contact me he could phone the Bermuda number and it would come through on Skype. I followed his suggestion once we had finished the call.

Mrs. Baxter came into the office with another mug of tea with some biscuits for me, and the information that we were on schedule for the stock take to finish by one. She then told me that I did not need to do anything as everything was under control and I should deal with sorting things out for my boys.

One does not argue with a secretary like Mrs. Baxter, you always lose. So, I did as instructed. Was about halfway through my mug of tea when my private mobile rang. It was Ian, the heir hunter who I had asked to trace Tim and Peter's genealogy.

"David, got some news for you," Ian said after I identified myself.

"Good I hope?"

"Well, one thing I can say is that Tim and Peter Martin are definitely descended from Timothy Peter LeRoy. Can't link Timothy Peter back to your grandmother as the records for that are in London, but I can say that Timothy Peter LeRoy was your boys' grandfather."

"Can we prove that?" I asked.

"Certainly, my agent is at the Registry Office at the moment waiting for copies of the relevant certificates. They should be ready within the hour, where do you want them delivered?"

I gave Ian the works address and told him to get them to me here. He said he would. Once he rang off I called Grandma to give her the news.

"Well, that makes things easier," she stated, once I had given her the information. "Can you scan and email me the certificates as soon as you get them."

"Yes Grandma."

"Also, Sir John should be with you about two. I told him you were at your office."

"Sir John's coming here! I thought I would have to go to his chambers," I stated, though I had no idea where his chambers were.

"David, I don't think solicitors have chambers these days, they call them offices, and like most sensible people Sir John's are closed today. He should be with you in about an hour."

I finished the call, then informed Mrs. Baxter that I was expecting visitors and asked if she could arrange for somebody from security to be in reception and to show them up to my office when they came.

"No need, sir, I'll just put the intercom on and go down and collect them when they arrive."

"But you'll be down at the Barleymow," I pointed out.

"Not this year, sir, it's Jill's time to run things down there, I can have a break from it, been doing it for the last thirty odd years. Time for a rest I say."

The printer at the side of her desk sprang into life and proceeded to print five sheets of paper. Mrs. Baxter picked them up, glanced at the headings, then handed them to me.

"Materials warehouse, that's the lot in." She glanced at the clock. "Ten past twelve, we've done well this year."

"Yes, they have, but everybody has all year. Did you get the bonus list off to payroll?"

"Of course, I did. Now I better tell Jill that she is in charge of the Barleymow lunch as neither of us will be there."

With that she stood up and walked in the direction of the directors' offices. Jill Taunton was the directors' secretary. Had been for the past ten years, but for the last six month she had also be understudying Mrs. Baxter while training up her own replacement. Now was clearly handover time.

"'member what I've told you Jill, don't let them get too drunk too fast. They've got to last the meal and at least an hour of socialising," Mrs. Baxter was telling the younger woman as they came into my outer office.

After a few last-minute instructions from Mrs. Baxter, and a fifteen hundred pound cash float from me. Jill Taunton was let loose to take charge of the annual senior departmental staff lunch at the Barleymow.

I went back into my office to look through the papers that Miss Allsopp had thrust upon me this morning. There were two sets of papers, the first addressed to me, the second addressed to Brian.

The papers addressed to me informed me that my custody of Tim Martin and Peter Martin was being terminated with immediate effect, due to the fact that I had been accused of a sexual offence involving a child. The papers addressed to Brian was basically the same except the reason given was that the boys were living in a property also occupied by a person accused of a sexual offence involving a child. Beyond that they quoted the relevant sections of various rules and statutes.

Mrs. Baxter buzzed me to say that there was a young lady to in reception to see me and she was going down to collect her. I put the papers I had been reading in a folder on my desk and awaited whoever it was that was coming up and praying it was not Miss Allsopp. I really did not want to put Mrs. Baxter to the task of getting bloodstains out of the carpet.

Mrs. Baxter showed a smartly dressed young lady into my office about three minutes later. I stood and introduced myself.

"Margaret Krafter, I work for Ian Tyman," she stated. I indicated that she should take a seat, then asked if she would like a tea or coffee, she declined both.

"Don't really have much time but Ian said you needed these urgently. I've got a cab on the meter waiting for me," she said, removing an envelope from her shoulder bag and passing it over to me. "There are birth certificates for Peter, Tim and their mother, their mother's death certificate and their grandparents' death certificates. I also got Jenny's birth certificate. Could not find Timothy LeRoy's marriage certificate, so it may have taken place outside of Birmingham or they may not have been married. The fact that the grandmother was using the name LeRoy does not automatically mean they were married. There are three copies of each."

"Three copies?"

"Yes, Ian thought you might need them and it makes no difference to our fee."

I thanked Miss Krafter for her work and asked Mrs. Baxter to show her out. I then phoned Ian and thanked him for having such efficient staff.

That done I laid the certificates out in an order of generations. I was surprised to note that on both Tim's and Peter's birth certificate, no father was named. There was also no father named on their mother's birth certificate.

Then it struck me. If there was no father named on the birth certificates then their mother and the man that they had been living with had not been married. That would mean their name would be LeRoy not Martin. I was pondering this when Mrs. Baxter buzzed to let me know that I had another visitor, and she was going down to get him.

It was about five minutes later when she showed a man who could not be much older than me into the office. He introduced himself as John Lassiman.

"Thank you for coming, Sir John," I said. "Though you are not who I was expecting."

"John please, I tend to avoid using the title. You were probably expecting my grandfather. Now he is Sir John."

"I met him many years ago, he's a friend of my grandmother's.”

I know, which is one of the reasons I am here. Not obliging your grandmother would bring my grandfather’s wrath down upon me. To be honest I always suspected my grandfather had a crush for your grandmother.”

I am surprised you were able to visit me as I would have thought your practice would have been in London, I recall your grandfather's was."

"It is, I have now taken over grandfather's practice. The knighthood came at just the right time. It saved us a fortune in having to reprint all the stationary.

"The main office is in London, but we now have branches in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. For me that is convenient, as my wife holds a chair at the university, so we decided to live up here. A lot cheaper than down London. I commute down to the London office when required, usually a couple of days a week."

I was just about to make a comment when Mrs. Baxter wheeled in a trolley, with tea and coffee on it. There was also a good selection of biscuits. I did notice that there was no sign of my usual mug, we got china tea set. I could not remember last time that had been brought out, then again, I could not remember the last time I had a knight of the realm in the office.

Over tea and biscuits, I told Sir John about recent events, how the boys came to be living with us and what happened on Saturday. I then told him about this morning's events and handed him the papers that had been given me. He spent a good twenty minutes going over the papers.

"Well, David, it is all a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, it's one I see too often."

Just then my mobile rang, I saw it was the Centre so asked Sir John if he minded if I answered it as it might be important. He said no problem. So, I answered it.

"David, it's Carl." Carl was the supervisor for the Centre. "Sorry to have to do this but I have to inform you that you are being suspended as a volunteer pending investigation."

"What!" I shouted down the phone.

"I'm sorry, David, but there has been an accusation made against you of sexual misconduct involving a child. Until that can be shown to be false, you cannot work at the Centre."

"But I have not been charged."

"So, I understand, that does not remove the fact that an accusation has been made. Now if you are charged and acquitted, that will be fine but until the accusation has been disproved, it stands, and we must act upon it as if it were true. You know the child protection guidelines as well as I do."

I did know the guidelines and understood where the Centre was coming from. That though did not make it any better. Carl went on to inform me that I should put in an appeal against suspension so that the board could hear about what led to the accusation and then make a judgement on it. I asked how long that would take and Carl informed me that it would be at least three months more likely six. After I had thanked him for the information, I rang off. Then told Sir John about developments.

"It's not surprising, David. To be honest you are caught in something of a Catch 22 situation," Sir John stated.

"How's that?"

"You have been accused of an act of sexual misconduct involving a minor. However, you have not been charged and all the indications are that you will not be. Unfortunately, due to the fact that are not being charged, you also have no opportunity to be acquitted. As a result, the accusation stands.

"Now Social Services and the Centre are required to abide by the Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Guidelines. These make it clear that if a person is accused of a sexual offence, whether or not that offence involves a minor, they are not to be allowed unsupervised access to a child or vulnerable adult until such time as they are either acquitted of any charge brought in connection with the accusation or convicted. The strange thing is even if they are convicted, they can still be allowed access to a minor if it is thought they are not a risk to the minor. The problem arises where you are not charged. You cannot be acquitted. As a result you are deemed to be guilty of the accusation. You then have to find a way to show that you are innocent."

"That's not fair!" I exclaimed.

"I fully agree it is not fair, but that is how the system has been constructed. What we have to do is find a way to prove that you are innocent of the accusation."

"But what about the boys? They will be devastated if they are moved, especially if they are split up."

"Are they likely to be split up?" Sir John asked.

"It's highly probable. At the moment there are no spare places in the county, so Social Services are placing kids outside the county. Even there places are limited, so it is likely that the boys will be split.”

Would you say keeping the boys together is your top priority?”

Yes, John, it is.”

Good, then I have a suggestion which may work. Though we need to find a High Court Family Division Judge we can see in Chambers.”

Sir John asked if there was a computer he could use to access his office network. I pointed him in the direction of Mrs. Baxter’s computer, as I knew that could access outside networks. Once he had explained what he wanted, Mrs. Baxter quickly sorted it out. Then Sir John got busy filling out forms and getting them sent to various people.

Mrs. Baxter, somewhat against her protest, went home just after three. Sir John was working on the computer till nearly four, but then shot off, saying he would be back before six. I told him I would be at home by then.

Right, I suggest you get packing, in case this works.” With that comment he left. I made a phone call to Kathy, who I worked with at the Centre, then I made sure the offices were locked up, checked in with security to let them know that there was no one left upstairs, then walked home. Once I got home I went up to the master bedroom and packed a couple of suitcases with enough clothes to last me a week. Then I took the suitcases out to the garage and placed them in the Porsche. That done I went to my office and packed another case with my laptop, iPad, phone chargers and other stuff that I thought I might need. That case was also taken out to the garage and placed in the Porsche.

Having completed that, I got started on preparing a meal for Brian and the boys. Personally, I did not feel like eating, but knew that they would require some food.

The doorbell rang just after five. When I answered it, I found Sir John standing on the doorstep, smiling.

Come in. By the look of you, you have some good news.”

Well, it is better news than I hoped, David.”

What?” I asked as I directed him to a chair in the sitting room.

We have got permission to apply for Judicial Review, we have also got an emergency injunction. There will be a hearing in chambers over it on Wednesday. In the meantime the boys are to remain here, that though will be on the conditions we discussed.”

I nodded.

Good. Now, David, are you set up?”

Yes, I spoke to Mike and he has no problems with things. Just hope it does not go on too long.”

Can’t promise anything on that front, lad. These things have a way of working out on their own time schedule, which is impossible to know in advance. Now I need your signature on some things.”

For the next fifteen minutes or so I was busy reading and signing papers.

Exactly what have I signed up for?”

Well, David, as of now, you are suing Cooper and Tom’s for assault and false arrest. We have asked for damages of one million.”

That sounds a bit high,” I commented.

Oh it is, we will be lucky if we get ten grand. However, I need to make sure it was heard in the High Court and not passed down to the County Court or referred for arbitration. I also needed to make sure they were not tempted to pay you off for a quick settlement.”

Why?”

The important thing is to get this into court. For a citizen’s arrest to be valid an arrestable offence must have been committed. If we can show that an arrestable offence was not committed, then the arrest was illegal. We also have a court finding that there was no truth to the allegation, which Social Services cannot ignore.”

I acknowledged that I understood the thinking behind this. Sir John continued. “The second set of papers are an action for Malicious Falsehood against Lorretta Harris, she is the woman who accused you. The wife of the minister of an independent evangelical church in Small Heath.”

How much are we claiming?” I asked.

We are claiming one million again. Malicious Falsehood was a criminal offence, though it is rarely prosecuted, it is now a civil one, mores the pity. If we were bringing a private prosecution we could get the case heard in the first instance at the Magistrates Court on Friday as it is we will have to wait for a civil hearing.

Again, we are after the same thing. A finding in a court of law that no sexual misconduct took place, therefore, there is no basis for the accusation that Lorretta Harris made. Therefore, the accusation was a falsehood. Once that is established we only have to show it was malicious.”

Can we do that?”

I am fairly certain that we can. The statements from your grandmother and the attending police officers all agree that Mrs. Harris used racist language, which by its use, shows malice. That combined with the fact that we can show falsehood, gives grounds for our case.”

Sir John had just imparted that piece of information when I heard the buzzer announcing that either the side gate or the garage door was being opened. I guessed it was the side gate, as there was no room in the garage for Brian’s BMW until I had moved my Porsche. Either way it had to be Brian and the boys, so I went to open the back door for them.

Once Brian and the boys were in, I guided them through to the sitting room to introduce them to Sir John, explaining to the boys that he was their lawyer. He briefly went over what was planned. Then told the boys to go up and pack some bags, just in case what we planned did not work out. That done, the boys and Brian had the meal I had cooked for them. I did not join them as, to be honest, I just did not feel like eating. Sir John refused an offer of a meal, informing me that it would not conform to Kashrut, so would not be Kosher. I had not realised that Sir John was Jewish.

The boys had just finished eating and were in the process of clearing up when the doorbell rang. It was ten to six. I went and opened it. It was Miss Allsopp and her policeman sidekick.

Are the boys here?” she asked the moment I opened the door.

Yes, you better come in.”

Don’t see much point in that, just tell them to get their bags and come with me.”

I don’t think so,” I replied. “There is somebody you need to see.” I stepped back into the hallway, allowing them to enter. PC Wrighton looked distinctly unhappy. Miss Allsopp puzzled me, it almost looked as if she was smiling.

I shepherded them into the sitting room, where Sir John was waiting for them.

Sir John, this is Miss Allsopp from the Children’s division of Social Services and PC Wrighton. Miss Allsopp, PC Wrighton, this is Sir John Lassiman, lawyer for the boys.” The moment I said the name Miss Allsopp looked somewhat surprised.

Good afternoon, Miss Allsopp, PC Wrighton, may I suggest that you take a seat, this is likely to take some time,” Sir John said.

What do you mean some time? We’ve just come to collect the boys and take them to a place of safety,” PC Wrighton stated.

That is not going to happen,” Sir John stated. He opened his folder and removed a sheet of paper, which he handed to Miss Allsopp. “That is a High Court injunction which prohibits the removal of the boys from the custody of Mr. Brian Grieves prior to the emergency hearing of the application for Judicial Review, which is set for Wednesday at two post meridian.”

But that would have to be served on Social Services to be valid,” the PC commented.

I can assure you it was. Service was recorded at four fifty-five this afternoon.”

They close at five,” Miss Allsopp said. “Nobody would have looked at it.”

That, is unfortunate Miss Allsopp,” Sir John responded. “It is also beside the point. My staff delivered it to your place of service during your opening hours. We have a receipt for its delivery. The fact that your organisation was unable to process it is solely a matter for your internal affairs, it does not affect the validity of the injunction.”

But we can’t leave the boys in the residence of a person accused of a sexual offence against a minor,” Miss Allsopp stated.

I quite agree,” Sir John said. A look of confusion spread across Miss Allsopp’s face. “Doctor Moore has agreed to reside at his alternative accommodation in Bromsgrove while this is sorted out. While he is resident there, he has agreed, as per the terms of the injunction, to have no unsupervised contact with the boys.”

Miss Allsopp leaned back in her chair, absorbing the information that had been given. I would swear she had a slight smile on her face.

But he is here with the boys now,” PC Wrighton pointed out.

Yes,” agreed Sir John. “As you will note, I am also here, and I can assure you Dr. Grieves is also present in the house, so he is supervised. The terms of the injunction state that there will be no unsupervised contact. It does not state who is to supervise. As long as there is another person present who is over the age of eighteen, he is deemed to be supervised.”

But we rescinded Dr. Grieves fostering of the boys,” Miss Allsopp pointed out.

Sir John asked me if I could get Brian, which I did. He was sitting in the dining room in case he was needed. So, I opened the door through to the dining room and asked Brian to come through. When Brian was seated Sir John proceeded to question him.

Dr. Grieves, have you been advised that your fostering of Tim and Peter has been rescinded?”

No, I haven’t,” Brian responded.

But we handed the papers to Dr. Moore this morning,” PC Wrighton stated.

Dr. Moore, were you handed papers this morning by Miss Allsopp or PC Wrighton?”

Yes, I was.”

Where are these papers?”

They are the papers I gave you earlier this afternoon.”

Just for clarity, Dr. Grieves, can you state if I am your solicitor or not,” Sir John asked Brian.

No, you’re not. My solicitor is Miss Quinn from Quinn and Jones in Wednesbury,” Brian replied.

Thank you, Dr. Grieves,” Sir John said. “As the papers in question were handed to Dr. Moore this morning, it is clear that there was a failure in service. As you are well aware, Miss Allsopp, Dr. Moore and Dr. Grieves are not married nor are they in a civil partnership. If they had been they would have been jointly named as foster parents. As it is they have been individually and separately named. As such, service of the papers on the one party cannot be deemed to be service upon both parties.

There clearly has been no service made upon Dr. Grieves, so his fostering status has not been revoked. Any attempt on your part to make service now would be a breach of the injunction which clearly states that Dr. Grieves shall remain guardian and foster parent to the boys until the emergency hearing.”

Fucking lawyer!” exclaimed PC Wrighton.

Mark!” snapped Miss Allsopp. “I think we should leave.”

But what about the boys?”

They are in the custody of Dr. Grieves and, provided the requirements of the injunction are maintained, I see no reason to fear for their safety,” Miss Allsopp stated, as she stood up.

PC Wrighton, got up from his chair and without saying anything or giving me or Brian the chance to see him out, went out into the hall and then opened the front door and exited the building. Miss Allsopp stood there a moment.

He is such a pain to have to work with,” she stated. “I will bid you good evening gentlemen.”

I escorted her into the hallway and to the front door. As we reached it she turned to me and in a very quiet voice said. “I expected you to get the lawyers involved, but did not expect you to get them in quite so fast or get such big guns. We have to work by the rules, but sometimes the rules are plain stupid.” With that she gave me a smile and left.

I suddenly felt sick and had to make a dash to the toilet at the back of the utility room. When I got back Brian was in the sitting room by himself.

Where are the boys?” I asked.

Repacking their stuff, I got them a couple of cases while we were out.”

Why are they repacking?”

It’s New Year Eve. Mike’s invited us to spend the night at the Bromsgrove house. You, of course will be in your apartment, the boys will be in the main house.”

I laughed. This had to be Grandma’s doing. The apartment, that I had spent my teenage and college years in, was over part of the garage, formally the coach house. The back part, no doubt it had once been servants’ quarters, had become a two-bedroom apartment for me, with my own sitting room and kitchen. The front part, formally the hay loft for the coach house had been converted into a do-jo for me years before. The building stood about six metres from the main house, to which it was connected by a conservatory. Technically though it was a separate residence, evidenced by the fact that Dad had complained about having to pay a separate Council Tax bill on it.

Where will you be?” I asked.

Well, Mike said there is a guestroom for me that shares a bathroom with the room the boys will be using. However, he did say it was up to me if I used it or not. Now I better go up and get my packing done.”

With that he left me. I went and made myself a mug of tea and grabbed some biscuits to dunk. Suddenly I felt peckish, very peckish. By the time I had consumed a handful of biscuits, I realised I was hungry.

Tim and Peter came downstairs, each carrying a small case.

Are you going to be OK?” Tim asked.

Yes. Why?”

You looked so ill when you dashed in the back.”

It was just a reaction to the stress, Tim. I’ve been under a lot of it today.”

Both boys put down their cases, then they hugged me. They were still hugging me when Brian came downstairs with his overnight case. As he put the case down he looked at the clock.

We better get off, otherwise we might not be there for midnight,” he said.

I looked at the clock. It had just gone quarter past seven.

The boys are going with you?” I asked Brian.

They have to, David, they can’t be alone in your car with you driving.”

I nodded. I knew that. I just had not thought it through.

I’ll see you there, I should get there about nine.”

Aren’t you following us?”

No, Brian, I need to see Kathy and explain what is going on.”

Brian nodded, understanding. More often than not, Kathy and I shared shifts and the Centre. If I missed a number of shifts, she would start to ask questions. I wanted to tell her about events myself.

Right, lads, get your bags and let’s get on the road,” Brian instructed. The two boys picked up their cases and followed Brian out of the back door. A moment later the buzzer went off, indicating that either the garage door or the side gate had been opened. I guessed Brian must have parked in front of the garages.

I checked the house, locked up, then exited by the back door, locking it as I left. Some twenty minutes later I pulled up outside a semi-detached house in a cul-de-sac about a mile and a half from the Centre.

Kathy opened the door when I rang the bell.

You look like hell, David,” she said, pulling me into the hallway.

I feel it.”

Come through to the kitchen. I’ll make you a cuppa with a kick.”

Cuppa would be nice, but no kick, I’m driving.”

Fine, what’s going on? You were all mysterious over the phone.”

Sorry, but things are a complete mess.”

Well, unless you tell me what’s going I will not ken what’s up.”

So, I told her, in detail, everything from the incident on Saturday until the events of this evening.

Fucking bureaucrats!” Kathy exclaimed. “Everything by the rules and to hell with the damage it might do. How are the boys?”

Scared stiff. They’re worried that they might be broken up if Social Services place them.”

Aye, likely will be,” Kathy agreed. “And you can nay work shifts at the Centre.”

No, not till everything has been investigated and it has been found that the allegation is false.”

And how are you going to do that.”

I explained Sir John’s approach.

That’ll cost a penny or more.”

Well, I’m not short of a bit, neither is Brian.”

That I kenned but you’re not that lush that can afford cases in the courts and support the Centre.”

I looked at Kathy questioningly.

David, I know full well that you and Brian make donations to the Centre. In fact, I think most of their non-grant income comes from you two. Well, you can stop them for a bit.”

But the kids…”

The kids will have to manage. It’s time that Carl and his lot learnt what keeps the place going, and it’s not them.”

Kathy, I don’t…”

I know you don’t, you’re a good man, David. Too good for some of the stuff that goes on around here. There’s no reason for Carl to act as he has. He could easily have asked you to take on non-client-contact work, or arranged it so you did times when you were supervised, like when you were training.”

I don’t want to cause trouble.”

But you will. You have to. I’ve seen this happen before, you are pushed out and then they never get around to reinstating you. As long as they do not, there will be the shadow of the accusation hanging over you. You need to put them under pressure.”

What if they just decide to get rid of me and sack me?” I asked.

Then David you can sue the pants off them.”

I really did not feel comfortable with what Kathy was suggesting. That she had worked out that Brian and I were major contributors to the Centre’s funds surprised me. I thought we had taken steps to keep ensure that we were anonymous, so I asked Kathy how she knew.

You forget, I also do the books for the Centre,” Kathy pointed out. I had forgotten. Although now a full-time career for her father, Kathy was, and a far as I know still is, a chartered accountant. One of the ways she helped at the Centre was to do their books for them. This was something she could do while at home looking after her father. “It struck me as strange that we seemed to get donations to the funds when I was on duty, but I did not recall the donation coming in. Then I realised that either you or Brian were on duty with me. It did not take much investigation to realise that about seventy percent of the donations to the Centre came in when either you or Brian were on duty. Also I noted that the entry for the larger donations was always Bankers Draft drawn on Midland and County Bank. Each month there are two such drafts, each for one thousand pounds. One from you no doubt and one from Brian. I know you both bank with that bank.

Then there was the odd three hundred in cash that kept appearing in an envelope marked for the discretionary fund. How many people outside the Centre know about the discretionary fund? Again, they always came in when you or Brian were on duty.”

I saw no point in denying the truth, so confirmed the facts. Shortly after Brian and I qualified to work at the Centre, we became aware of how precarious their funding was. After that we agreed to make some funds available for them. We just thought it would be better to keep the funding anonymous. It seems we were not as successful as we had thought.

Kathy and I chatted a bit more about the Centre. During it she informed me that she would not be doing any more sessions at the Centre until I was reinstated.

Why?”

Because I trust you and Brian. I don’t have a problem working with either of you, which is why I arrange to do shifts that you have already committed to. If you’re not doing shifts, I’m not going to as I won’t feel safe.”

But can’t you do them with Brian?”

David, Brian is a known associate of a person under investigation. He’ll not be allowed to work either.”

That had not occurred to me. It had not occurred to Brian either. At least I did not think it had.

We chatted a bit more, then I left. Kathy walked down the path with me, mainly to see my car. I had never taken it to the Centre but had spoken about it to Kathy on a couple of occasions. She spent a good ten minutes looking the car over.

We’ve got its little sister in the garage,” she stated.

What, a 944?”

Yes.”

But you don’t use it,” I commented.

Can’t afford to, the insurance around here is crippling. It’s all mothballed up in the garage. If something happens to Dad and we move again, we’ll get it back into use.”

I nodded, then got into the car and drove off, leaving Kathy standing on the pavement, looking at the departing car.

It was nearly ten by time I got to the Bromsgrove house. Louise greeted me at the door.

You look awful, David.”

Thanks, Louise. Did Brian and the boys get here OK?”

Yes. They are in the games room. Brian and Mike are playing pool, your boys and Luke are battling aliens on the PlayStation. Take your cases up to the apartment. Mrs. Tallker removed the dust sheets and vacuumed this afternoon. I made the bed up for you. So, you just need to dump your stuff. By the time you get back down, I’ll have a hot drink ready for you. It will be waiting for you in the kitchen.”

I did what I was told and took my bags up to the apartment. That was something of a surprise. To my knowledge nobody had used the place for the last eight years. I had expected it to be dusty and musty. However, the place had clearly had a good clean and to top it all, some fresh flowers were in a vase on the coffee table in the small sitting area.

Brandy, Amaretto or Mandarin liquor?” Louise asked as I entered the kitchen. There were a couple of mugs of hot chocolate on the table.

Mandarin.”

She poured a glug of mandarin liquor into one of the mugs, which she then passed to me. Then she put a glug of brandy into hers.

How did things go in London?” I asked.

Not that well. If we want anything decent at a price that we can afford we will need to go way out.”

How far out?”

East Barnet.”

That’s far,” I commented. “I thought you would be looking at something around St. John’s Wood.”

That’s where we wanted to look but for what we want we it’s not doable. We looked at a couple of places in the two to three million mark but to be honest, they were all too small. There was one place we liked but it was way over budget.”

How much over?”

It was four point two million.”

I’m sure that can be managed,” Grandma’s voice stated from the doorway. She entered the room, looked at the mugs of chocolate then continued. “That’s what I could smell.”

Would you like one?” Louise asked. Grandma. Grandma nodded. Louise got about making Grandma a mug of hot chocolate.

What do you mean you are sure that could be managed?” I asked.

Mike told me you said he could get some funding from the trust your father set up.”

Yes, but we were talking about a million. I am sure the trust could put up more, but it would take a bit of time for them to liquidate assets. I know they always keep just over a million available in easily convertible investments.”

Well, I heard Mike and you talking about a place earlier,” Grandma said to Louise. “You said there was a three room annex, is that correct?”

Yes,” Louise replied. “It got a granny annex, there’s a bedroom, living room and kitchen, plus bath. Why?”

My place in Bermondsey is really getting too much for me these days. I was wondering if you might consider letting me have the annex to live in?”

You’re selling the Bermondsey house?” Louise asked.

Goodness no Louise, I can get more in rent for it in a year now than we paid for it fifty years ago. I’ll rent it out. Will be easy to get a buy-to-let mortgage on it for a million, which I could put into the pot so you could get a nice place. It would be an advance on what Mike will get when I pop it.”

I’ll have to talk to Mike about it,” Louise stated.

Do so, girl, I ain’t that young anymore and don’t fancy waking up dead one morning and no man find me till Mrs. Turner come in to do the cleaning on Wednesday morning.”

There was some sense in what Grandma was saying. As a retired judge she was kept busy sitting on various committees and chairing various inquiries. That meant she was stuck, living in London, but the Bermondsey house, with its views over the Thames, was not the ideal place for her. Granddad had bought it in the late sixties as a wreck of a place. An old shipping merchant’s offices, squeezed between two warehouses, which he had converted into a house. Everybody had thought he was mad. Now, of course, the warehouses had been converted into luxury apartments that sold for seven figure sums, ’eing within walking distance of the City. I dreaded to think what Grandma’s place was worth. Though guessed it was getting on for nine or ten million. Given that a three-bedroom apartment in the conversion next to them rented out at over three grand a week, I could understand what Grandma was getting at. Her place was six-bedroom, four reception room house with garage. Christ, in that part of London the garage parking must be worth a grand a week!

We chatted about the idea of Grandma helping with Mike’s purchase of a London house and her moving in with Mike and Louise. Of course, it would all have to be discussed with Mike, but the feeling was that it would be a good idea. Louise though said it was probably best left until tomorrow for a discussion.

We had just about got to that point in the discussion when Mike and Brian walked into the kitchen.

What can be left over till tomorrow?” Mike asked, clearly having heard the tail end of the conversation.

Grandma’s got a proposal that mean we could afford the St. John’s house. However, it is not something for tonight, we can all sit down and discuss it tomorrow,” Louise stated, giving Mike the I have laid down the law look. Mike, understandably, nodded in agreement.

Since when have you had a games room?” I asked.

Since Luke got old enough to ask friends back to play after school,” Mike replied. “It’s the old boiler room. We lost the laundry room when Louise extended the kitchen. That gave us direct access to it, rather than having to go out through the yard to get to it. So, made it into a room for Luke and his friends to play in. After all, it was not being used for anything else since we got rid of the coal-fired heating system.”

We really do need a games room for the boys,” Brian stated. I saw my idea of a pottery studio in the summerhouse rapidly receding into the most remotest of possibilities.

Louise removed a couple of trays of snacks she had been cooking from the oven and moved the contents to a cooling rack, swatting Mike’s fingers as he reached for one.

They’re not cool yet,” Louise snapped.

But I’m hungry,” Mike simpered.

You’re male, you’re always hungry,” Louise laughed. “There’s some crisps in the cupboard, get a packet, better still take one of the multipacks and give the boys some.”

While Mike was delivering the crisps to the boys, I filled Brian in on what Grandma was thinking.

Well, if you do decide to let it I know somebody who might be interested,” Brian told Grandma.

Who?”

My cousin Hailey. To be more precise her husband, he was posted to London back in August and they are paying a fortune for a four-bed apartment in the City. They need somewhere larger.”

I’ll keep that in mind,” Grandma said.

Hailey was Hailey Haslam, Brian’s cousin and business partner. It was Brian’s uncle Kenny Haslam who had started the firm, Hailey was his daughter. I had not realised that she was now based in London, Brian had not said anything. A fact I commented on to Brian.

To be honest, she’s not there much,” Brian responded. “It’s more for George and the kids that I am thinking. Not sure that Hailey will stick with him much longer. I think he needs somewhere over here which can be a base for him.”

What about the kids?” I asked.

Oh, Samantha the nanny will look after them, she’s been doing that since they were born and what Hailey does will make very little difference to her looking after them.”

I vaguely remembered Samantha. A tall black woman, in her late thirties, from Louisiana I understood from what Brian had said. Met her a couple of years ago when they visited London and Brian and I had gone down to meet Hailey and her family.

Look, David, Hailey is a crap mother. The good thing is she knows she is a crap mother. That’s why she recruited Samantha when the twins were born. Samantha’s more a mother to those boys than Hailey ever has been or will be.”

When Mike returned, Louise pushed us all out of the kitchen into the living room, saying we were in the way in the kitchen. It was starting to approach midnight. Grandma told Mike he should get the boys to come through. Mike made a comment that it would be a bit difficult to get them away from their game. Just then Louise came through with a tray of tit bits. Grandma instructed Mike to tell the boys that there was food in the living room. He suggested we stay clear of the doors, otherwise risk being trampled in the rush.

It was good advice, about five minutes after Mike had left, the three boys dashed into the room, making straight for the table with the food on it.

Louise, who had been standing next to me, looked at them askance as they proceeded to devour elements of the repast set thereon.

Do you think I made enough, Dave?”

They’re teenagers, there is never enough food,” I commented.

True, very true,” Mike agreed as he came through the door, following the boys.

Well, we better join in if we want to get anything,” Grandma stated. Brian quickly took the hint and pushed through the boys to get to the table, followed by my brother and me. Grandma and Louise just looked at us, with that look which just said ‘men!’. Then they joined us.

For the next hour or so the boys sat on the floor playing some card game that none of us adults understood. The four adults spent the time discussing London property and the current prices of it. It had, by default, been agreed that Grandma was going to move in with Mike and Louise when they made the move to London.

Just before midnight Mike went through to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of champagne and a tray of glasses. The lights in the living room were dimmed and the curtains opened. From its position on a rise outside of the town, the house looked out over Bromsgrove. At midnight, Mike opened the champagne and we poured glasses for all of us, including the boys, and we toasted the new year while watching the fireworks going off over the town.

It was gone nine when I woke up in the morning. Surprisingly I found myself alone in bed. I was not certain if Brian had gone back to the bedroom in the main house after I had fallen asleep or had just got up early. At least earlier than me. Overall I thought the possibility was that he had done the latter.

Once I was showered, shaved and dressed, I made my way to the apartment’s kitchen. I was pleased to find that Louise had put some basic essentials in the kitchen for me. At least I was able to make a pot of tea and some toast. That consumed I then went through to the main house, to find Brian and Louise in the kitchen. No signs of the boys, Mike or Grandma. When I mentioned this to Louise she informed me that the boys were in the pool. Apparently they had been up for a Couple of hours. Mike had taken Grandma to the station so she could get the train to Northampton. Apparently she was due to meet a friend there, but she would be back for dinner this evening. Mike was then going on to play a round of golf with some friends.

I wondered for a moment who Grandma could know around Northampton, then I remembered the elderly lady she had bumped into in Collins and Tom. She had said she was staying at Manston. If I recalled correctly that was not far from Northampton. That though gave rise to the question of why Grandma would want to visit a person who she, herself, had stated was a crook?

That information imparted to me, Louise informed me she had to sort a pile of things out and suggested we deposited ourselves in the sitting room. Brian and I followed her suggestion. I took a seat on the sofa but Brian went over to the window and stood there looking out.

What’s so interesting?” I asked, after about five minutes.

Oh, nothing really, I was just thinking about something.”

What?”

What it will be like living here,” he commented. “The boys are going to love it.”

I have no doubt they will Brian, just hope we can hang onto them.”

We will,” Brian stated with a conviction which I did not have.

We got into a conversation about what would have to be done to the place when Brian bought it. On the whole we did not think there was much that we would change. Brian did suggest a steam room and sauna would be nice additions, though he was at something of a loss to suggest where to put them.

Sometime around eleven the boys came into the living room complaining of hunger. They were still dressed in their swimming trunks. Actually, I think they were Luke’s swimming trunks as I did not think we they had bought any and the ones on Tim looked rather small for him.

Brian suggested that they should get dressed and that he would sort them out some food when they came down. Louise must have heard us from the kitchen as she shouted that she was on it. I went through to the kitchen to give her a hand but found that she did not need one. She had a tray of party snacks already set out for the boys.

I was somewhat surprised that Mike was not back and mentioned this to Louise. She informed me that he had texted her that he was driving Grandma down to Manston. Apparently, the train she had been intending to catch had been cancelled. He would be bringing her back later, so did not expect to be home till around six.

Even though the boys had devoured a tray of snacks just after eleven, they were famished by lunchtime and quickly devoured the offerings that Louise laid before them. Offerings of chicken and mushroom pie and chips. I must admit that both Brian and I also devoured such offerings, though not as quickly as the boys did.

After lunch Brian said he should get the boys back to the Tipton house. This came as a bit of a shock to me as I had assumed they would be staying tonight as well. Brian pointed out to me that if any questions were asked in court tomorrow, we could, with all honesty, say that they boys were sleeping at a different location to me. On that point I had to agree, but was not happy to see the Brian and the boys leave.

Mike and Grandma got back just before six. They both seemed rather pleased with themselves. Over dinner, a joint effort from Louise and me got their stories from them. They had both spent the day at Manston.

Ben Carlton was there,” Mike informed me. “So, I was able to pitch an idea to him that I’ve had floating around for ages.”

And what was that dear?” Louise asked, passing the gravy boat to Grandma.

A documentary series about the history of the classic martial arts. Read a paper, ages ago, which suggested they originated in Greece."

"Greece!" I exclaimed. "I thought they started in India and got taken to the Shaolin temple in China."

"That's what most people think, but this chap pointed out that Indian boxing tradition that the Shaolin tradition is based on, originated in the Greek cities of India."

"I did not know there were any Greek cities in India," Louise stated.

"Oh, there are, darling. Alexander the Great established them. If you look at the classic statues of the Buddha, he is wearing Greek robes."

That was something I had never thought about.

"How did Ben Carlton react?" I asked. I was interested to know what a film star who was well known for his martial arts expertise would react to the suggestion.

"Actually, he was interested," Mike replied, surprising me. "It seems he studied under the teacher who put the idea forward originally, so he did know it. I got him to agree to meet with me when he's finished his present filming commitment to discuss the project."

"How did you get on, Grandma?" Louise asked.

"Quite well," Grandma replied. "Edith was most helpful."

"In what way?" I asked.

"I have no doubt that we will know how to contact the boys' sister fairly soon."

"What are you up to Grandma?" I asked.

"Well, I asked Edith's help in finding the girl," Grandma stated. "With her contacts amongst the less desirable sections of society, she has a much better chance than those people you've got looking for her."

I had to admit to myself that Grandma was probably right in that.

Not long after dinner Brian rang. We spoke for the better part of half an hour, then the boys wanted to speak to me. Tim was concerned about how I was, and I had to reassure him that I was OK. Though, to be honest, I am not sure how successful I was in that. Peter just kept apologising for causing all this trouble, which meant that I had to assure him that it was not his fault.

Wednesday morning was hectic. To be honest I overslept and did not wake till nearly eight. Given that I had to be at the courts for nine thirty, that was not a good start. In the end it was getting on for twenty to ten by time I made it to the courts, then I had to get through the security. In the end, I need not have bothered to rush. Sir John met me in the foyer and informed me that we were listed for the fourth case that morning which meant we were unlikely to get in till at least eleven. We were listed in a court room on the third floor. When we got up there I found Brian and the boys had already arrived and were waiting, with a young man who was wearing a barrister's robe, though he did not have his wig on.

"This is Simon Spencer," Sir John stated as he introduced me to the young man. "He's our barrister for the hearing."

Looking around the waiting room I spotted Miss Allsopp seated across the other side of the room, with two women I did not recognise. I mentioned this to Sir John.

"Ah yes," Sir John said. "The older woman to Miss Allsopp's right is the solicitor for Social Services. I suspect Jane Sanderson has recused herself due to her connection with you. No idea who the younger woman is." Just then another woman, this one wearing a barrister's robe, walked up to the three women. Sir John turned to Mr. Spencer and asked him if he knew her?

"That Jennifer Smolet, she does a lot of work for Social Services," Simon informed us.

Shortly after ten, one of the clerks came over to Sir John and asked if he and Mr. Spencer could meet with counsel for the Defendants. Sir John agreed and Simon and he left us for some meeting somewhere in the bowels of the court.

"No doubt they have some decent coffee back there," Brian stated as he handed me a cup of something from the vending machine. I suspected he might be right.

About half an hour later Sir John returned and asked me to confirm that I was happy to abide by the condition that I did not have any unsupervised access to the boys and that I resided at a separate address from the boys. I confirmed that I was.

"Right then, we have a settlement on offer," Sir John informed me. He explained that Social Services were willing to give an undertaking that the boys would be left in Brian's foster care provided that I was not resident at the Tipton house until such time as a resolution could be obtained to the accusation of sexual misconduct with a child that had been made against me. They also undertook that if the accusation was disproved, they would reinstate me as the boy's foster parent.

I agreed to everything. Sir John went off to pass the information back to the barrister for the other side. Twenty minutes later we were being ushered into the court room. Once the court was in session the barristers identified themselves to the court. Simon then informed the judge that the parties to the case had reached a settlement. This was then explained to the court. The judge asked Ms Smolet if the Defendants were in agreement with the terms and she confirmed that they were. That done the judge stated that the court would make an order in accordance with the settlement reached. We were then dismissed.

Once we were outside the court Brian said he better get the boys over to school, they had already missed the morning.

"Do we have to go?" Peter asked. "Luke does not go back till Monday."

"Lucky Luke," Brian observed. "You are going now, though we will stop for some lunch on our way. Remember I will pick you up at three thirty." Both boys nodded.

I needed to sort some things out with Sir John, so Brian left with the boys. It did not take long to sort out some formalities with Sir John and I was back in my office by twelve thirty. Once I was back in the office Mrs. Baxter, of course, wanted to know what had happened. I filled her in on everything. One thing I had learnt early on, never try to keep a secret from your secretary. Remember the first part of their job title is secret. They tend to know them all, whether you want them to or not.

That done, I phoned Herr Schmitt, the man who administered the trust and explained that Mike needed help buying a property.

"I'm surprised he has not sought assistance before now," Herr Schmitt commented. I did not bother to enlighten him about the reasons Mike had not contacted him for help.

Brian arrived at the offices about an hour after me. Seeing he had left the courts a good twenty minutes before me I was a bit surprised. Even allowing for him going to the other side of Birmingham to drop the boys at their school, he should not have taken this long. I looked at him questioningly.

"I had to take them to lunch," he stated.

"Just where did you take them for lunch?"

"Nando's." That explained why it had taken them so long.

We spent the next half hour or so discussing how we were going to make things work. Basically, the boys would be taken to school each morning by taxi. Brian would leave about three to pick them up from school at three-thirty. He would then take them to the Tipton house. I would finish work about four-thirty and join them at the Tipton house, where I would cook dinner, the last thing I wanted was the boys having to live on Brian's cooking. I strongly suspected Brian was not too keen on the idea of living on his own cooking.

I would stay at the Tipton house until about eight-thirty or nine, then I would go over to the apartment at the Bromsgrove house. Brian and the boys would come to Bromsgrove on a Friday night and stay till Monday. They would be staying in the main house.

I had doubled checked this arrangement with Sir John and he assured me that it complied with the requirements of the arrangement agreed with Social Services. It may have complied with the letter of the agreement, but I had a feeling that it probably did not comply with what Social Services intended.

"One thing, Brian, what's going to happen when you go to Australia?" I asked.

"I'm not going. Called Hailey and explained the situation. She's got to see some customers in China, so we agreed that she would do Australia as well. In fact she is going to split it, so she flying out to Shanghai for ten days, then she will fly to Oz and spend three weeks there, before returning to China for another week. Then she is off to Abu Dhabi for a bit."

"Christ, she's going be away from the family for a stretch," I commented.

"I suspect she is not going back," Brian observed. "Things have not been good for a bit. I suspect that is why George took the job over here. Hailey will probably go after the Newport house. After all her grandfather built it. This way the kids won't be thrown out of the home they are living in."

"Bit hard on the kids still."

"Not sure they will notice much difference, Hailey is hardly every there for them. They have Samantha to look after them and, of course, George is devoted to them. Just hope that they can settle in London."

"Why? Is it likely to be long term?"

"In theory it is a two-year posting," Brian informed me. "However, when I spoke to George before Christmas he indicated that he had let the local head-hunters know that if a suitable permanent position came available with one of the UK-based banks he would be interested."

"You seem more on George's side than Hailey's and she is your business partner."

"I probably am. For a start I know George better. He was my roommate at college. We shared accommodation for the whole of our four years. I did not meet Hailey until about a year after I started working for Uncle Kenny. She's Uncle Kenny's daughter by his second marriage."

"How many marriages did he have?"

"Only three, but only one divorce. His first wife, Mary, died of septicaemia a couple of years after they were married. She was a wildlife photographer and was taken ill while on a photographic expedition to Belize. He married Hailey's mother about two years later and admitted it was a mistake from the start. They divorced after eighteen months. Hailey was not even one. Mildred, Uncle Kenny's third wife came along four years later with Dean, who was four and in need of a Dad."

"I'm surprised Dean did not join the business," I commented.

"He's got no interest in it, though he has a block of shares in it, Uncle Kenny made sure of that. When Dean was about seven he found a book of Mary's wildlife photos. Got hooked onto nature there and then. When he was old enough to use them without breaking them, Uncle Kenny gave him Mary's cameras and equipment. He's been into wildlife photography ever since. Made quite a name for himself.

"Anyway, I was telling you about George. He came out to stay with me one weekend about eighteen months after I started to work for Uncle Kenny. It was a 4th of July weekend so Uncle Kenny was holding a barbeque. George went with me to it and met Hailey there. The rest, as they say, is history. They married two years later when Hailey was four months pregnant."

We spent a bit more time going over arrangements with regards to the boys. It seemed best for us to keep them in their current school, which had a good reputation, at least for the time being. Brian suggested to the end of the school year. By then we should be moved to the Bromsgrove house, and they could start as day boys at Luke's school.

I raised the question of the amount of school Tim had missed. Brian informed me that he had an appointment to see Tim's form teacher about things on Friday afternoon.

"Hope that goes well. Will be glad when this is all sorted out?"

"Well I hope things get settled before the middle of June," Brian stated.

"Why?"

"I have to be at the Paris Air Show at the end of the month. One of the Saudi princes is looking for a couple of planes."

"A couple?"

"Yes, one for him and his entourage, the second for the luggage!"

I was not sure if Brian was joking or not, though I did know he usually went over to the Paris Air Show. After all a lot of our customers were there, so it made sense for him to be there. That was one thing that worried me a bit. If Brian was looking after the boys who would be running the sales for ACC. I put that point to Brian.

"I was thinking of letting Mark handle a lot more than he does at the moment. It would make sense for me to take over some of the office-based work that Mark does at the moment and he could do more of the face-to-face selling work. He's been doing enough shadowing of me for the last five years."

Mark was Mark Truman, he had been Brian's assistant for at least eight years if not more. At one time I had thought Brian and Mark had something going between them. That was until I met Mark's boyfriend, when it became very clear that anything that there had been between Brian and Mark had finished a long time before I met Brian.

Brian left the offices just after three to go and pick up the boys from school. I finished off dealing with the things that Mrs. Baxter had decided were urgent, then I went home. That felt strange, thinking of it as home. It was no longer home. It was my house and it was the place I used to live but now I was only a visitor.

It was just gone half past four when I got into the house. As I entered I was immediately pounced on by Tim, who hugged me. He wanted to know if I was staying.

"Look Tim, I can stay for a few hours, but then I have to go over to the apartment. I can't stay overnight until this mess is all sorted out."

"That's fucking stupid, you'd never do anything with me or Peter."

"Tim, you know that, I know that, the problem is they do not know that and they have to act on the basis of what they do know."

I made dinner for them, a chicken stir fry, served with saffron rice. After dinner the boys cleared up, without being told to. We then talked about what had happened at court this morning and how it affected them. That done, Peter asked if I could help him with his homework. Something I was more than happy to do, until I found out that they were simultaneous equations, something I have never been fond of. Fortunately, Brian was able to help.

It was quarter to nine when I left the house and made my way over to Bromsgrove. When I got there Mike seemed to be in a very good mood.

"What's cheered you up?" I asked.

"We put an offer in on the St. John's Wood property, offered three point nine million and they accepted. Now I just hope we can sort the funding."

"There should not be a problem. I spoke to Herr Schmitt today and he is expecting a call from you. He assured me that he could make funds available at short notice."

Once he that information Mike seemed a lot more relaxed. He pulled out details about the house they were buying and showed them to me. He also informed me that they had received a written offer for the Bromsgrove house from Brian. All told it seemed that everything was falling into place.

"The only worrying thing, David, is we do not know how long it will take for Grandma to get a buy-to-let mortgage and the vendors want to close as quickly as possible. That's why they were prepared to accept a reduced offer."

I told him not to worry. For a start I was fairly certain that Grandma would not have a problem coming up with a million if it was needed quickly. What I had not told Mike was Herr Schmitt had assured me that they have just over two million in convertibles on hand which could be moved into cash within twenty-four hours. So, if things came to the worst, the trust could come up with the funds Mike needed. Not that I was going to tell Mike that.

Thursday was normal, except for the fact that Brian was in his office when I arrived at quarter past eight. He told me that he had put the boys in a taxi to take them to school at eight, so had decided to come straight into work after he had seen them off. We chatted for a bit, then I went to my own office to face the pile of paperwork which I had no doubt Mrs. Baxter would be producing for me to deal with.

I was wrong, she would not be producing it, she had already produced it. She must have worked late last night. There on my desk was a pile about fifteen centimetres high, which I was expected to deal with. I sometimes thought that Mrs. Baxter subscribed to the maxim, 'Always keep the boss busy, that way they cannot interfere with the running of things.'

Just after nine Mrs. Baxter made an appearance bearing a mug of tea and some biscuits for me. As I consumed my treat she informed me what I would be doing during the day, which she had efficiently planned out for me. Amongst the list was sending some fruit to Jamie Lees, the apprentice from the pattern shop, who was currently in hospital with appendicitis.

"When did he go in?" I asked, as I was sure I had seen Jamie in the works yesterday.

"Three this morning," Mrs. Baxter informed me. "They were operating on him first thing this morning."

I did not bother to ask Mrs. Baxter how she knew. It is what top-notch secretaries do.

By lunch time I had got the pile of papers down to about six centimetres, so decided it would be all right to go out to lunch. Brian and I went down to the Barleymow for a pint and a pie. It was a mistake, by time I got back the six centimetres had increased to over ten. I glared at Mrs. Baxter through my office window. She smiled back, which was frightening.

Brian left to get the boys just after three, but it was gone five before I felt I could leave the pile of papers that were still on my desk. They were now down to less than three centimetres. I counted that as a victory, and left a note for Mrs. Baxter that I would not be in in the morning.

When I got to the house I found Brian on the phone and clearly not in a good mood. Once he finished his call I asked what the problem was.

"I'm suspended from volunteering at the Centre."

Of course he was, Kathy had said he would be but with everything that had been going on I had forgotten to mention it to Brian.

"I've just been on to Carl and he says that so long as you are under investigation, David, I am suspended as being a known associate of a person under investigation."

It took me half an hour to calm Brian down and make him understand that they were just following rules. The fact that they were interpreting the rules as narrowly as they could was neither here nor there. Once Brian had calmed down, I set about making dinner. At the same time I had to assure Peter that he had done nothing wrong. He was worried that he was the reason that Brian had been suspended from the Centre.

After dinner, neither of the boys having any homework, we watched a film on TV. Then I had to leave for Bromsgrove.

Friday morning, I had an appointment with Sir John at his offices. Brian called me as I was on the way in to tell me how the boys were. He assured me that they were fine. He kept the call short, knowing I was driving. Although I had hands-free in the car, I was not happy talking on the phone while driving.

I was shown into Sir John as soon as I got to his office. He spent a good half hour talking me through all the cases we were setting in motion. One was a private prosecution of one Thomas Grant the security guard for assault.

"Is he worth going after?" I asked.

"Yes," Sir John replied. "We've got the CCTV from the Coopers and Tom's of the incident. It clearly shows his actions, the fact that you defended yourself in the way you did, shows that you were in fear for your safety. That alone makes it assault. His only defence is that he was in the process of executing a lawful arrest. To show that the arrest was not lawful all we have to do is show that no offence had been committed."

Sir John went on to explain he was applying for an expedited hearing of the civil cases against the minister's wife and Coopers and Tom's. He was hopeful that both would be expedited given the circumstances. In addition, he informed me that once all the papers were served, which would be later today, he had no doubt that the other side would try to reach some form of settlement.

"So, what do I do?"

"David, you wait. If they approach you to discuss a settlement you refer them to me."

"OK, I just hope this works out."

"It will, though it will take time. By the way, papers are served on Cooper and Tom's later this morning. I expect we will hear something from them sometime next week."

"That fast, I thought they had twenty-eight days from service to reply."

"They do, David, but they will want to look as if they are being co-operative. You must remember we have a directly opposite aims in that case. They will want to settle as fast as possible and keep it out of court. We want it to go into court. I need to force them to defend the action in court. Only then can we get a decision which exonerates you."

I got to the office just after one, to find that the pile of papers had grown to about fifteen centimetres again. It was clear that Mrs. Baxter was determined to keep me busy.

I popped into Brian's office to give Brian an update on events at the court this morning.

"Spoke to Alice Quinn this morning. Needed to brief her about the house purchase and thought I better give her the background about the boys. She said we would be lucky if we could get a hearing at the court before June."

"By the way, how is the house sale going?"

"Fine. The funds I need will be in my bank on Monday, so I am ready for exchange of contracts any time after Monday. That's why I had to call Alice, as she will have to deal with Mike's solicitors.

"By the way, David, she did say that Sir John was probably the best person we could get to deal with the issues around the boys. It seems she has a high degree of respect for him."

"That's good to know."

That done, I returned to my office. I was sure the pile of papers had grown while I was talking to Brian. Mrs. Baxter was smiling, never a good sign. She did though bring me through a mug of tea with biscuits.

Actually, the pile was not as bad as I had feared. Most of it was only information briefings, no action on my part was required. On the few that needed action, Mrs. Baxter had attached a note outlining the possible actions to take and indicating which was the best option. I am not one to disagree with my secretary.

Shortly before two thirty Brian came by to let me know he was off to the boys' school. I was surprised he was leaving so early, until he reminded me that he had an appointment with Tim's form teacher. Brian said he would see me at the Bromsgrove house this evening. I pointed to the pile of papers and stated I might be a bit late getting out of the office this evening.

"Don't be too late, Louise is doing dinner for seven and I would not want to try keeping a horde of boys away from food much past then."

I acknowledged the difficulty he would be facing and agreed to try and get out of the office by five at the latest. A promise I did not manage to keep, though I did get out by five-thirty and got to the Bromsgrove house not long after six-thirty.

"Glad to see that I did not have to keep the horde away from the table waiting for you," Brian commented as I arrived.

"I am sure Mrs. Baxter is inventing work for me."

"Of course she is, David, that's what secretaries do. Miss Taunton does it to me all the time."

"But she's not your secretary," I pointed out. Although head of our sales operation, as an independent consultant Brian was not on the board. Jill Taunton was secretary to the directors.

"You may know that, I may know that, but try telling her that. Some of us have more sense."

On that point I had to agree.

Dinner that evening was just Mike, Louise, Brian, myself and the three boys. Grandma had gone back to London that morning. Apparently she was due to sit on a public enquiry starting on Monday. She also wanted to sort out getting a buy-to-let mortgage on the Bermondsey house.

"I hope she gets it," Mike commented.

"I don't see why she shouldn't," was Louise's response.

Mike did confirm that he had been in touch with Herr Schmitt and that things were looking OK for funding from the trust. It turned out that he had completed the funding application that afternoon and posted it back by special delivery, after scanning it and sending Herr Schmitt the scanned copy so that he could start work on things before the hard copy arrived.

The weekend was quite enjoyable. On Saturday we all attended a swimming gala that Luke was taking part in. He did well, coming first in his age group for the fifty metre freestyle, and his team coming in first in the four hundred metre medley relay. He also managed a good second place in the one hundred metre butterfly.

Peter later told Luke that he wished he could swim like that. Luke told him there was no reason why he could not if he put in the practice. I am not sure that Peter was too happy hearing that reply.

After the swimming gala we took the boys to Nando's for a meal. Mike and Louise tagged along as well.

That evening Luke wanted to take Peter and Tim to meet some of his friends from school. There was a disco or something on, which they would all be at. I was a bit worried, but Louise assured me that they would be well supervised, so we let them go. Louise did though insist on driving them to the event and told them to phone when they were ready to come home and she would collect them, even though the hall where it was taking place was only about a five-minute walk away.

Louise and Mike went on to a restaurant in Stratford once they had dropped the boys off, which left Brian and me to look after ourselves, which we did. To be more correct we looked after each other.

Sunday Luke introduced the boys to horse riding at a local riding school. Both Mike and Brian went along as well. Louise said she was too busy preparing Sunday lunch. I declined. It is not a case that I cannot ride. In fact I had riding lessons when I was younger at the same riding school that the boys were attending. There I had learnt the most important lesson about horses. You must make absolutely certain from the very start that the horse and you knows who is the boss. I always did. The horse was the boss.

The riding party got back a bit after one, in plenty of time for lunch, which Louise was aiming for two. The moment they came in via the kitchen door, Louise told the lot of them to go and get showered and changed as they smelt like horses. They all obliged.

From what the boys said it seems the thoroughly enjoyed riding. I wondered how much they would be enjoying it the next day. There was no doubt that both Tim and Peter would have some aching muscles. I thought Brian probably would as well. So, far as I knew he had not been on a horse for at least ten years.

Brian and the boys left shortly after Sunday lunch. Brian explained that both boys had some homework to finish and he had a pile of washing to get done. That, of course, had been one of the pieces of housekeeping that I normally did.

Hoping to beat Mrs. Baxter and clear my desk I got into work early on Monday morning. There was no sign of Mrs. Baxter but the pile of papers to be dealt with had grown since Friday. She must have come in over the weekend.

Brian arrived a few minutes before nine. He dropped into my office and handed me a pile of post.

"Must have come Friday or Saturday," he stated.

"Right," I responded, taking the first letter from the pile he had put on my desk. "How did things go on Friday with Tim's form teacher?" We had not discussed it over the weekend due to the fact that when the boys were not around we had been too busy with other things.

"Fine. Tim is quite intelligent according to his teacher."

"We knew that," I pointed out.

"Well, it seems he was in the top five percent of all his classes. At least he was till the start of this school year, he had dropped down quite a bit. The teacher says it is mostly due to the amount of school he has missed."

"Any suggestions what we should do about it?" I asked, skimming some advertising bumph that had come in the post.

"They are sending me a list of tutors who they recommend. Will probably get a couple to get him caught up with what he has missed. There is also the tutoring sessions at the Centre, but that might not be a good idea with us both suspended. "

"Fuck!"

"What is it?" Brian asked, looking at me as I held the contents of the letter I had just opened.

"It's a notice before action from a firm of solicitors in Brum. They are suing me on behalf of the security chap in Cooper and Tom's that I floored."

"How much are they after?"

"Twenty grand."

"Well, I would be tempted to say pay it without admission of liability, just to save time and money. However, given the circumstances you need to let Sir John know. I think he will want to fight it."

"Somehow I think you are right," I stated.

I phoned the Birmingham office of Sir John's firm. Luckily Sir John was in the office and he was available to talk to me. When I told him of the contents of the letter he asked me how much they were asking for.

"Twenty thousand," I informed him.

"They're bluffing. It's high enough to make it a worthwhile action for them but low enough that it is cheaper for you to pay than to fight. We will fight. Can you scan and email me a copy of the letter. Get the original in the post to me."

I informed Sir John that I could and that I would. Then called Mrs. Baxter in, handed her the letter and gave her the instructions with respect to what was to be done regarding it. Well, if she was keeping me busy I could keep her busy.

The Tuesday morning when I opened my emails I found one from Sir John with a copy of a letter he had sent to the solicitors of the security guard. Essentially, he was adding the security guard to the action against Cooper and Tom's, which, if my claim was successful, would make him jointly and separately liable for any damages. The claim, of course, was for one million pounds.

There was a note in Sir John's email asking me to phone him on his mobile before ten thirty if possible. As it was not yet nine o'clock I called him. He was on the train going to Manchester.

"There's pretty good coverage on this section of the line," he informed me. "If I get cut off I'll call you back OK."

I confirmed it was OK, then we discussed the state of affairs. On the whole, it seemed that things were going fairly well. Sir John again advised me that I was likely to get an offer of settlement from Lorretta Harris's solicitors, that when I did I was to get a copy to him as soon as possible.

Sir John was right about the offer of settlement. When I got back to the Tipton house that evening to cook dinner for Brian and the boys, there was a letter from a solicitor's firm stating they were acting for Mrs. Harris and suggesting a meeting to come to some settlement of my action against her. I scanned it and emailed a copy to Sir John, then put the original in the post to Sir John.

I had just finished prepping dinner when my mobile rang. The call was from a number I did not know, which was a bit of a puzzle as only a few people have my private number. I answered it without identifying myself.

"Good evening Dr. Moore," a female voice said. It sounded like an elderly voice, having that thinness about it you associate with those getting on in years. "You do not know me, but my name is Edith Jenkins. Your grandmother is an acquaintance of mine. She asked me if I could find somebody who I believe you have an interest in. Well, I wonder if you and Dr. Grieves could meet me this evening about eight thirty. It might be best if you brought the boys as well. I will be at the Costa Coffee in Central Square, which is just off Broad Street."

I was a bit worried about taking the boys to meet someone I did not know and for a reason I did not know.

"Can you tell me what this is about?" I asked.

"I can give you the details when you are there," she replied. "Might I suggest that you call your grandmother and discuss my request with her. Then call me back on this number to confirm that you will be here."

I thought that was a good idea, so finished the call. Brian was in the kitchen and he asked me what the call was about, so I told him.

"You better call your grandmother and ask what is going on. I am not too keen on taking the boys to a meeting we know nothing about."

I phoned Grandma and told her about the call.

"David, if Edith Jenkins tells you to be at a place at a certain time with Brian and the boys, you are to be there."

I passed the message onto Brian. He said that in that case we better be there.

With a bit of pushing on the cooking times, I had dinner on the table by half past six. The boys had consumed it by quarter to seven. Brian and I were a bit behind them. However, we still managed to get the clean-up finished by half past seven and were on our way to Birmingham by quarter to eight. Brian parked in the multi-story by the Birmingham Arena, then we made our way across Gas Street Basin to Central Square. When we got into the Costa Coffee there were about half a dozen people at different tables and four more in the queue at the counter.

I looked around for a moment, then caught sight of an elderly lady who was sitting at the table closest to the door. She indicated I should go over and join her. I gave my order to Brian and told him to get the boys hot chocolates, then went and joined the lady at the table, taking the boys with me.

"Dr. Moore, I am so glad you could make it," she said as I approached the table. "I'm Edith Jenkins. Now these must be Tim and Peter, which one is which?"

I introduced the boys to Miss Jenkins. Brian called to me to ask if the lady we had joined wanted anything. I passed the request onto Miss Jenkins.

"Oh, no, no thank you. I'm fine, I've just had a very pleasant latte and still have some brownie to consume. Now can I suggest the boys take the seats by the door."

I found it odd that she should be so precise about seating the boys. However, the boys took the suggested seats with no prompting from me. There was something in the way this elderly woman said things that just made you want to comply with them.

"I did not want to say anything on the phone, but your grandmother came to see me. I've been staying with some friends at Manston. She asked me if I could do a favour for her."

"So you and Grandma are friends?"

"Oh no, I would not say we are friends. Acquaintances maybe, but not friends. It's just my business interests and her professional activities have brought us together on a number of occasions."

I was about to say something when Peter squealed, "There's Jenny." A moment later he was off his perch and running out through the door. Tim was right behind him, I followed Tim.

As I exited the coffee shop I saw Peter run up to a young woman who was crossing the square with a much older man. Peter threw his arms around the young woman. The woman looked down at him in surprise.

"Peter! What are you doing here?" she exclaimed.

Just then the man grabbed hold of Peter, I was too far away to do much and before I could get closer, a large Costa Coffee container, with its lid on, hit the bloke squarely in the face. The container burst open, spilling hot coffee over him. He screamed and jumped back, then pulled a knife out from under his jacket.

"I wouldn't Ronnie, if I were you," a somewhat menacing voice said from behind the man who I assumed was Ronnie. He turned, there were three men there, all of whom looked like they knew what they were doing. "Now why don't you go home and forget all about the young lady."

"But…"

"No buts, Ronnie, Mr. David is returning a favour."

With that Ronnie just turned and walked away.

"Please give my thanks to Mr. David," Miss Jenkins’ voice said from behind me. "Inform him that I am fully satisfied."

"Of course, Miss Jenkins, will you require us anymore?"

"I doubt it. I believe the gentleman got the message."

"Well, we'll just follow on behind him to make sure." With that the three men turned and walked off in the direction that Ronnie had taken.

"Friends of yours?" I asked.

"The grandsons of an old acquaintance, who I believe is also acquainted with your grandmother," Miss Jenkins stated. She walked over to Jenny. "Now, Jenny, why don't you go with your brothers and this man. I'm sure your brothers have a lot to tell you.

"Dr. Moore, can I offer you a lift to your place. Dr. Grieves BMW will be a bit full with Jenny and the boys in it."

I had to agree that Miss Jenkins had a point there, anyway somehow I had the feeling that one did not disagree with Miss Jenkins. She seemed to come from the same school as Mrs. Baxter. Efficient, organised and quite deadly.

Miss Jenkins led me down one of the side roads to a somewhat wider road. There, parked on double yellow lines, was an X-Type Jaguar. As we approached a driver got out and opened the door for Miss Jenkins. He indicated that I should go around the other side and get in, opening the door for myself.

As we started to pull away from the curb I made a comment about being parked on yellow lines.

"It's not a problem, Dr. Moore, I have a disabled parking permit," Miss Jenkins stated. I had to think for a moment if I had ever seen anybody less disabled than this woman, then again there were hidden disabilities.

"Just what went on back there?" I asked.

"The man Ronnie was Jenny's pimp, he was moving her from the massage parlour where she works during the day, to the club where he has her providing services in the evening. We were reasonably certain that the girl was the person you were looking for, but we could not get a positive identification. That's why I asked you to bring the boys over. I was hoping that they would identify Jennifer."

"So, that's why you had them sitting by the door, so they could run to her?" I asked.

"Oh no, I never expected Peter to do that. As such it was a failure on my part. I sat them there as it gave the best view out across the square. All I expected them to do was see her and probably call out to her. Mr. David's grandsons were there to separate the girl from her pimp the moment we had a positive identification."

"I see, so Peter's action took you all by surprise?"

"Most definitely. It is a good job that Dr. Grieves acted when he did, otherwise it might have got nasty."

"What did Brian do?"

"He was still holding the tray with the drinks on it when that man made a grab for Peter. Dr. Grieves grabbed one of the coffees and threw it with surprising accuracy. Given that he is an American, I suspect he probably played their version of rounders as a pitcher."

I could not help myself, I had to correct her. "I believe it is called baseball, Miss Jenkins."

"Maybe, maybe, but it is still a version of rounders. I played it as a girl you know. It was rounders or hockey and I always thought hockey was somewhat vicious, not to say that rounders can't be sometimes.

"Now, Dr. Moore, we need to discuss Jennifer. Are you aware what has been done to her?"

"Not precisely but I think I can guess," I informed Miss Jenkins.

"Well, the essential facts are that she was forcibly addicted to drugs by the man her mother was living with. I have little doubt that he had previously done the same with her mother. Once she was addicted, he pimped her out, that is until he passed her on to Ronnie."

"Why would he do that?"

"That Dr. Moore is something we will probably never know, though it might well be that he owed Ronnie a gambling debt or similar, or it might be that he just sold her to another pimp.

"The thing is Jennifer is badly addicted to drugs, she has also been badly abused. She is going to need a lot of support and treatment. Now I know a very good rehabilitation unit just outside of Oxford. There have been a couple of times when I have had to use it for members of my family, so I can vouch for the effectiveness of its treatment and the support it gives to its patients.

"However, it is not cheap. Are you prepared to fund Jennifer being admitted to Rosall Hall?"

"Of course I will, she's the boys' sister, they need her."

"I think you will find that she needs them as well."

We got to the Tipton house. The driver pulled the car up in front of the house, again on double yellow lines, got out of the car and walked round to open the door for Miss Jenkins. I was left to open my own door.

Inside the house we found Brian, the boys and Jenny in the sitting room. Jenny was sitting in the armchair close to the fire with the boys sitting on each arm. It was clear that Jenny was not well. She was holding her arms tight around herself and appeared to be shivering, though the room was warm, in fact it was a bit on the hot side of warm. Miss Jenkins went over to her, told the boys that it might be an idea to go and make some hot drinks for everybody. Once the boys had left she opened her handbag and removed a small bottle of green liquid. Miss Jenkins removed the top from the bottle and told Jenny to drink it, assuring her that she would soon feel better. Jenny drank it.

"What is it?" Brian asked.

"Probably best that you don't know. Jenny was experiencing the early stages of withdrawal, what I just gave her will ease them for a couple of hours. However, she needs to be got to a facility that can provide her with the medical support that she needs. She is in somewhat worse a condition than I had expected. Given that I would suggest that I take her to the facility tonight. It is not far from my way home."

"Where is home?" Brian asked.

"I live in a small village a few miles from Abingdon," Miss Jenkins replied.

Just then the boys came back in asking what we wanted to drink. Brian said he would sort them. Miss Jenkins told the boys she needed to speak with them.

"Tim, Peter, we have found your sister but she's ill," Miss Jenkins stated.

"She hooked," Tim pointed out.

"Yes dear, she is and a lot worse than I had expected. I was hoping that she would be able to spend at least the night with you before it was necessary to get her into a specialist treatment centre, but I do not think that would be a good idea. We really need to get her in to treatment tonight."

"That's not likely to happen," Tim stated. "All the rehab centres around here are full. I know people who have been on methadone for years waiting to get a place."

"I know dear," Miss Jenkins stated. "Fortunately, Dr. Moore has said he will cover the costs of putting your sister into a private rehab centre. There is a very good one just outside of Oxford. I would like to take Jenny there tonight."

"But I want Jenny to stay with us," Peter protested.

"Look Pete, that's not Jenny at the moment," Tim told him. "Unless she gets clean she will not be our sister, she'll just be some fucked up junkie. The quicker she is put in rehab the quicker we can get our sister back."

Peter looked at his brother, then he nodded.

It occurred to me that we had been making plans for Jenny, but nobody had asked Jenny what she wanted. I went over and crouched down beside the chair, then I told her what we were discussing.

"You'll put me in rehab?" Jenny asked me.

"Yes."

"Why, you don’t know me."

"You're Tim and Peter's sister and they are our foster sons. You are important to them, so you are important to us."

"Thank you for looking after them, they deserve a break."

"So do you. Do you want to go to this rehab place?"

"I would like too but I think it might be too late for me," Jenny stated.

"Jenny, it is never too late," I responded.

Once that had been decided it took about an hour to make arrangements. Miss Jenkins spoke to Rosall Hall to arrange Jenny's admission. Then I had to speak to them to assure them of payment and make the first month's payment. It was made clear to me that this was just the basic fee for the accommodation and medical cover. There would be additional payments to be made to cover specific treatment options and medications.

That done, I then had to set up a payment method for them to take payments as required. Once everything was set up, Miss Jenkins guided Jenny out to her car. Before she left she did assure Tim and Peter that they would be able to visit Jenny.

We took the boys down to Rosall Hall on the following Saturday. It was not that far from Bromsgrove, just over an hour and twenty minutes' drive, depending on traffic. Jenny seemed a lot better than she had been on Tuesday evening. For a start she had clearly been given a salon treatment. Her hair was washed and neatly styled. She was wearing a fresh white blouse with a blue denim skirt. She also seemed to be a lot more awake and with it than she had been on Tuesday.

The doctors, of course, would not discuss anything with Brian or me because we were not next of kin. They would not discuss anything with Tim or Peter because they were underage. However, one of the staff did suggest that as Jenny seemed to have nobody else, it might be an idea to get her to appoint us as next of kin.

When we went in with the boys to Jenny's room I was surprised how alert and interested in things she was. She got us to tell how come the boys were living with us. Also what our long-term hopes for the boys were. The thing that interested her the most was the news that we were first cousins once removed. Jenny had always thought that she did not have any family outside of her brothers.

Once everything had been explained to her, Jenny expressed delight in knowing that her brothers were now out of the home environment that they had been in. Jenny's main concerns were who was paying for the place she was in, as she knew it could not be cheap and what was going to happen to her when she got out.

"Don't worry about the cost of this place," Brian told her. "David and I are covering the costs."

"Why?"

"Because the boys are our family, and you are their family so that makes you ours. Now don't worry about what is going to happen when you get out. You will have plenty of time to sort that out. There will be a place for you to stay at a house I am currently buying. The boys will be living there."

Later I was able to ask Brain where he intended to put Jenny in the Bromsgrove house.

"Well, I thought she could have the apartment you are using. By time Jenny gets out you will no longer need it."

He had a point there, at least I hope he did.

One thing came out of that first meeting with Jenny, she named me as next-of-kin, which meant I could get medical information out of the staff. They were able to inform me that they were keeping Jenny on a maintained programme of medical grade heroin. She was likely to be on this for at least six to eight weeks, while they dealt with a number of medical problems that Jenny had. Once those were dealt with they would start to reduce the level of the maintenance dose with the aim of removing her off it completely. She would, though be using a drug substitute for some time.

"It means it will block the craving for the drug and if she should use the drug it will block the effect of the drug, so there is no point in taking it."

I thought I understood.

We left Rosall Hall shortly after three. Jenny got the boys to promise they would come and see her again, next week. Brian was happy to assure Jenny that he would bring them.

That set the pattern for the next few weeks. I was living in the apartment in Bromsgrove, Brian and the boys in Tipton. Every Friday they came over to the Bromsgrove house and stayed for the weekend. On either the Saturday or the Sunday, we would drive down to Oxford to visit Jenny.

By time half-term came around in February, Jenny was much improved. We were actually able to take her out for the day, though in practice we found half a day was the most she could manage. She got tired very easily.

The half-term holiday in February was a turning point for us in other ways. The sale of the Bromsgrove house to Brian was finally completed. Actually I say the sale to Brian, it was actually the sale of it to both of us, as Brian insisted that both our names were on the deeds. I insisted that I put up half the money for the house in that case. This did create a problem for Herr Schmitt, who pointed out that I was entitled to buy the whole house for one million. However, I pointed out that it was not me buying the house but my partner. In the end Herr Schmitt coughed up the required funding.

Even though the house was technically Brian's or to me more correct Brian's and mine, Mike and Louise remained living there. There were two reasons for this. First, and more important was the fact that they would not complete on the St. John's Wood house until the fourteenth of March. Second, Louise wanted the whole place redecorated before they moved in. There was also the question of furniture. Most of the furniture in the Bromsgrove house was stuff that Mum and Dad had purchased when they were living there. There was a bit from Mike and Louise's old place, but that had been a two-bedroom flat in Hagley, so they had not brought much to the house. Now Louise had a large house to furnish it her way. There was not much space in her plans for the old furniture that was in the Bromsgrove house. It had, therefore, been agreed that they would stay living at the Bromsgrove house until the Monday after the Easter weekend. Mike took up his new job on the first of that month, but would stay in a service apartment for the first couple of weeks till the new house was ready to move into.

In many ways this fitted with our plans. Neither Brian or I were very knowledgeable about design or furniture. As a result, we were more than happy to take over the furniture that was already in the Bromsgrove house.

The only downside on things was nothing seemed to be happening in any of the legal cases. For weeks I had not heard anything. That is not totally true, I would get the odd email from Sir John informing me that this or that document had been served or received.

I had expected the private prosecution hearing to be heard at the end of February, but the first week of February we had been served with a notice of appeal against the decision to allow the prosecution. Sir John informed me that everything would be on hold until the appeal was dealt with.

"When will that be?"

"That David is in the hand of God, better known as the listings clerk. I am pushing for am early hearing. That though is all I can do. Fortunately, we have a date for the case review on the Cooper and Tom's claim."

"Is that good?" I asked.

"Yes, it means the case is working its way through the system."

"It just taking so long."

"I know, David, but that is the way the legal system works. As they say, the wheels of justice grind slow, but they grind small. Every little detail has to be taken care of."

Beside the slow progress of our cases there was one other thing which was causing me concern, Tim. He seemed OK when he was with his brother, or with Jenny. He was fine when he was with Brian and me, but there were times, when he thought he was alone, I observed a wistfulness in his looks. As if something was missing.

One Saturday evening, after we had taken Jenny back to Rosall Hall after a day out, I was on my way to my apartment at when I spotted Tim sitting in an alcove near the swimming pool. Brian had taken Luke and Peter to a party given by one of Luke's friends. Tim had not wanted to go. I went over and knelt down in front of him. Strictly I should not have done so, as I was not supposed to be with him unaccompanied, but I felt he needed someone to speak to.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Nothing," he muttered.

"Don't give me that, something's up."

"I miss the Centre, I always went there on a Saturday."

"Not every Saturday," I pointed out, then regretted it. The Saturdays he had not been at the centre where the ones when he was with John for the weekend.

"No, but I made most, now I've not been for ages."

I almost pointed out it was only nine weeks, but something made me hold back. I remembered how it felt like ages when Brian was away.

"You're missing Mark, aren't you?"

He nodded.

"Don't you see him at school?"

"No, not really. I've missed so much they have moved me to a special class, so I don't have any lessons with him. I also have a different lunch break, so the only time I can see him is during the morning break."

"What about afternoon break?" I asked.

"We don't have one. That's why we get out early."

"So, you're not seeing Mark much?"

"No, and I miss him."

Suddenly I found I had a weeping boy held in my arms.

"OK Tim, we will have to sort something out so you can see him. Do you think he will be at the Centre."

"He is," Tim confirmed. "I spoke to him earlier. That's why I was upset. He was at the Centre and I was missing him."

I was not thinking when I told Tim to go and get his coat and phone and meet me outside. All I wanted was to do something for my boy. A boy who was hurting."

While Tim was getting his coat I went and got mine. Then got my car from out of the garage. About thirty minutes later I dropped Tim off at the Centre.

As I said I had not been thinking. A point made very clear to me when Brian got back from dropping Tim and Luke off.

"You did what?" he said after I told him that I had dropped Tim off at the Centre.

I explained Brian once more that Tim had been upset because he was not able to spend time with Mark, so I had taken him over to the Centre, as Mark was there this evening.

"I understand that, David, but you were with him unsupervised," Brian pointed out. "It's a breach of the conditions under which we have been able to keep the boys. They could be taken away from us, just because you could not wait twenty minutes for me to get back. I could have taken him to the Centre, you could have asked Mike or Louise, or you could have got a taxi for him."

Suddenly Brian's point hit home. I had been stupid. I sat down, slumping forward, my head in my hands.

"But he was hurting," I murmured.

"I know and you wanted to stop it." I nodded. "The thing is David you went about it the wrong way. We will just have to hope there are no consequences."

Tim was a lot happier when he got home, Brian went and picked him up. He told me that Carl had been on duty and asked how he had got there. Tim had told him that he had got a lift from a friend. He pointed out that I was a friend, so it was not a lie.

I mentioned that I should not have taken him over as I was unsupervised.

"I know, David, thought about it when we were in the car going over, that's why I said I got a lift from a friend."

"We'll just have to hope that they do not want more details."

"Not a problem, I've got that covered. I phoned John and he'll say he dropped me off. By the way I told him about Jenny, he wants to see her."

I did not know if there were any enquiries made but we did not hear anything. We did though arrange for John to visit Jenny, after asking Jenny if she wanted to see John.

On Wednesday the sixth of March, things started to move. I was back in court again, the security guard's appeal against the granting of permission for us to proceed with the prosecution. All in all the event was something of a non-starter, at least from my point of view. I got to the court in plenty of time for the hearing, only to find Sir John somewhat surprised at my presence.

"I thought you would need me to give evidence," I stated.

"Oh no, there will be no evidence given today, that's already been done. This is just an argument about whether or not the permission to proceed with the prosecution was acceptable. They are arguing that it is breaching their client's rights under the European Convention on Fundamental and Human Rights. They are also arguing that the prosecution is not in the public interest."

That said he introduced me to my counsel. As this was the High Court, Sir John did not have right of audience before the court. I had to be represented by a barrister. Actually, in this case two, one Queen's Counsel and a junior.

We all went up to the court room just before ten. The security guard was nowhere to be seen. As Sir John pointed out, his presence was not necessary for this stage. For the next half an hour, counsel for the defence made a submission to the court. To be honest I could not understand half of what was being said. My own counsel then made a response to what had been said. That done, the judge announced that she would give judgement in writing within fourteen days. More waiting.

In fact as it turned out it was not fourteen days. Sir John informed me that was just a standard statement that judges use to give themselves time in case there are unforeseen problems. It was seven days later when the judge gave her judgement. In it she made a lot of legal points addressing the arguments that the defence had put up, and dismissing them all. The important part from my point of view was the conclusion. She approved the permission to proceed with the prosecution.

"Is that it then?" I asked Sir John when he phoned me with the ruling. "It is now going to go to trial?"

"Hopefully yes," he replied. "I have no doubt that they will request the Attorney General to take over the prosecution, in the hope that he will then decide that it is not in the public interest to proceed. However, given the ruling the judge gave, I think he might be a bit reluctant to take on the prosecution."

"Why?"

"David, the judge in her summing up of the appeal said that considering the evidence that was available to support the prosecution she thought it had every chance of succeeding."

That was on the Wednesday, Sir John phoned me on the Friday to inform me that the case was to be heard before the District Judge, who had heard the original application for permission to proceed with the prosecution. The hearing was to be a week on Monday."

That weekend was special for the boys. Jenny visited us. I went down on the Friday to pick Jenny up from Rosall Hall and bring her back to the Bromsgrove house. She was going to stay till Sunday. However, before that I had to be briefed by the Rosall Hall staff about all the does and don'ts. The main one being that Jenny was allowed to visit us at the Bromsgrove house, but she was to stay at the house the whole time. No going out anywhere, unless supervised by a responsible person. Fortunately, they classed Brian and I as responsible persons.

The young woman I collected from the rehab centre was very different from the one we had taken there back in January. She was also quite happy to discuss her dependency on drugs. The rehab centre had supplied her with sufficient medication to get her through to Sunday.

"The boys' father got me hooked, just like he got mum hooked, then he pimped me like he pimped my mum," she told me. "Tim was lucky to get out, the old man had him marked for the same treatment. He probably had customers lined up for Peter as well."

"For his own sons?"

"They aren’t his sons. Their fathers were some man who was paying to fuck mum for an hour or so. Some of them did not use rubbers or were not too careful about putting them on."

We had chosen this weekend to have Jenny at the house because Mike, Louise and Luke were away. It was only Brian, me and the boys in residence, though strictly speaking I was in residence in the apartment.

I think Jenny was a bit overwhelmed by the place. She was more overwhelmed by the fact that we were related. By this time Ian had been able to come up with evidence that their grandfather was my Uncle Timothy, who I had never met, due to the fact that he had died before I was born. More importantly, Ian had found the marriage certificate for Uncle Timothy, which proved that Jenny's mother had been born in wedlock. Something that surprised Jenny, who admitted she had always thought the story of her granddad dying in a car crash was something that had been made up by her grandmother rather than having to admit that he had left her.

Jenny had asked if would be possible for John to come over and visit her while she was at the Bromsgrove house. I had no objections, neither did Brian. In fact we were interested in meeting John, who we had only spoken to on the phone so far, though we knew he had been down to Rosall Hall a couple of times to visit Jenny.

I do not know who I had expected from talking to John on the phone, but it was not who turned up. Probably somebody large and burly given his pronounced Scouse accent and the fact he was a delivery driver. The man who turned up on the doorstep just after eleven on Saturday morning could not have been further my impression of him over the phone. He was a very thin, short, Chinese man.

"Hi," he said as I opened the door to him. "I'm John Lee, cum to see Jenny." The strong Scouse accent I had heard on the phone was missing, though there was still a hint of it.

I invited him in and showed him through to the kitchen.

"Jenny's delayed, she should be here shortly. My partner took her and the boys to the supermarket. They just texted to say they were still there." That said I offered John tea or coffee. He opted for coffee. Fortunately, Mike and Louise have one of those fancy coffee makers in the kitchen, so that request was soon satisfied. I made myself a tea. I mentioned the lack of accent.

"Only put that on when I am at work or with the lads," John informed me. "Dad's from Liverpool and I spent most of my school holidays up there with the grandparents, so picked up the accent. I do agency driving work as it fits around my studies, but found that it did not go down to well with some to the lads I was working with if they found out I was a graduate. Better sounding working class."

"What's your degree in?" I asked.

"Computer science and robotics," John replied.

"Why the hell are you driving delivery vans then?" I asked. "Even with a third class or unclassified degree you'd get a job in that field."

"Doing a masters," John informed me.

"What in?"

"Production robotics," John replied. "Having to do it part-time, so the driving work fits around studies and pays me to live and manage the fees."

"I would have thought the student loan scheme would have covered it," I stated.

"They only cover four years of higher education," John replied. "Fucked up my first year, too much partying and booze. They let me retake it, but it meant it took me four years to get my degree, so no funds available for my masters. Having to pay my own way."

"Parents don't help?"

"Dad helps but I don't want to push him for too much. Forced early retirement has left him a bit short of funds. He paid my share of the deposit on the house can't really ask more. Mom is a total waste of time."

We carried on chatting. I learnt that his father was a general practitioner, but had been forced to take early retirement due to ill health following a stroke. Once he retired there had been a considerable drop in income, which had resulted in John's mother going for a divorce. Apparently, it had been in the cards for ages, but she had never tried for it, as it would have cost her too much. As part of the divorce settlement John's father had been forced to sell the family home. He had moved up to Shropshire, where his sister, also a GP, lived.

I had just got this information out of John when Brian, Jenny and the boys arrived back, with all the shopping.

"Sorry luv," Brian said as he came into the kitchen. "Bloody delivery lorry broke down in the entrance to the supermarket car park."

I introduced Brian to John, then suggested that John and Jenny go through to the living room, the boys and Brian could sort out the shopping.

"Well, what do you think of him?" Brian asked.

"Who?"

"John, of course."

"He seems OK. Did you know he's doing a masters at Aston?"

"No, nobody's said anything about it. Why?"

"It's in production robotics," I stated.

"We need to speak to him," was Brian's answer.

There are some alloys which were not only difficult to cast but downright dangerous. Metals like sodium and potassium are highly reactive. Some, like mercury, are bloody dangerous. One of the major problems for us with respect to increasing production was the safety of our workforce. This had resulted in us having to turn down some specialist work that was being offered to us. The problem was that these special alloys were becoming increasingly demanded by customers.

Brian had suggested that I should look at automating parts of the production process, thereby making it safer for the workers. To date I had not had time to look into it. Here though was an opportunity on the plate.

John joined us for lunch, but declined an invitation to dinner informing us that he was doing an overnight shift, twelve hours, starting at eight. He had to get home soon to grab some sleep, before going to work.

"If you don't mind I would like to come over tomorrow afternoon to see Jenny before she goes back."

"What time?" Brian asked.

"Well, I need to get some sleep, so it would be late afternoon, probably around four," John stated.

"That's a bit late," Brian informed him. "Jenny has to be back by six, so we would be looking at leaving just after four to be on the safe side." John looked a bit depressed by this news.

"Look, why don't you come over at four and come with me when I take Jenny back. Hopefully I can borrow Brian's car. Would be a bit of a squeeze if the two of you were in the back of mine," I said. I hoped Brian would agree to this as it was a spur of the moment suggestion. Fortunately he did.

It was agreed that John would come over around four on Sunday and go with me when I took Jenny back to Rosall Hall.

John left just after two stating he hoped to be able to get four to five hours rest before going into work.

"Fortunately the weekend night shifts are not too bad, we can usually get a quick nap between jobs, it's the weekday night shifts that are killers. They are non-stop," he informed me before he left.

It was actually a bit before half-three when John turned up on Sunday. He looked as if he could have done with another couple of hours sleep, a fact I commented on.

"Probably could. Was supposed to finish at eight but there was a crash on the M6 and I was stuck in a jam for two hours. Did not get back to the depot until gone nine, it was ten before I got home."

I sympathised with him, told him that Jenny was out with Brian and the boys and they would be at least another half-hour before they were back. Given that I suggested John came through to my apartment and crash out on the sofa for half an hour. An idea he went along with.

Fortunately for John, Brian was a bit longer bringing the boys and Jenny back than I had expected. It was nearly half-past before they got back. While that may have been good for John, it was going to make getting Jenny back to the rehab centre a bit tight. I know it is only just over an hour's drive, but you must allow for delays. So, once I had awoken John, I pushed to get us into Brian's car and on the road as quickly as I could, nearly pushing John and Jenny into the back of the Beamer so we could set off. Fortunately, Brian had topped up the tank, so I did not have to stop for petrol on the way. Better still we did not have any serious delays either, which helped. Yesterday when I came down to pick Jenny up I got stuck behind a tractor for nearly ten miles, which had delayed me.

We got Jenny to the Rosall Hall with about twenty minutes to spare. I let John go in with her and he must have spent the whole of the twenty minutes left talking to her in reception. He was smiling when he came out.

"You look happy." I stated as he climbed into the front seat.

"I am," John replied. "Jenny is starting to talk about the future with me."

"Anything decided?" I asked, as I started the car and reversed out of the parking bay.

"No, at the moment it is just talking about idea."

"So, what about your future?" I asked as I pulled out of the carpark.

"What do you mean?" John asked.

"I don't suppose you plan to continue as a white van driver."

"Don't plan to be, but everything is dependent on me completing my masters and I really should look at doing a doctorate, the thing is the money's not there."

"So, tell me what are you doing at Aston?" I asked.

For the next fifty miles or so John told me about his studies. It seems that his main focus was on the problems around automating production lines. It is fairly simple to automate even quite complicated processes when you have large volumes of continuous product. The problem arises when you may want to produce only a few thousand or even a few hundred pieces. How can you build a production line using robots that is flexible enough to be easily configurable?

"How about if you just wanted to make a one off?" I asked.

"Why should anyone want to automate a one-off production?" John asked.

"If it was likely to kill the operator," I pointed out.

"That makes sense. It's an interesting problem but outside the nuclear industries I don't think much work has been done on it."

"Would you like to work on it?" I asked.

"I would love to, chance would be a fine thing," John replied.

"Well, can you start tomorrow? Twenty hours a week, thirty-five thousand a year, four weeks' vacation plus statutory holidays and we will pay for your masters and your doctorate if you want to go for it."

"Seriously?"

"Very. Come and see me in the office in the morning," I told him.

"Where's your office?" John asked.

"Go up to the end of the road from where you live," I told him. Turn right, then go down to the T junction at the end. Turn left, you will see the factory gates on your right. Just past them is the office building. Go in the main door and ask for me at reception."

"That's Anglo American Casting!" John exclaimed. "You work there?"

"I hope so, I'm the CEO," I informed him.

It was now getting on for seven and I knew Brian and the boys would have returned to Tipton. I was not sure when Mike and Louise would be returning, so I was faced with cooking something for myself in the apartment. Something that I did not fancy. I suggested we stop at a pub and get a meal.

"I would love to, David, but I can't afford to and I need to get into work by eight," John said. He looked at his watch. "As it is I'm going to be late."

"Call them and tell them you can't make this shift," I instructed, turning off the road to pull into the car park of a pub that I knew did reasonable food. "Tell them you have transport problems." That was true, his transport had just let him down… at a pub where he could eat. "Don't worry about the meal, I'll pay for it, this can be your job interview."

John called his controller and told them he would not be able to get in on time for his shift. He just said he had been let down for transport and was stuck about thirty miles from the depot.

"Shit!" John exclaimed.

"What?" I asked as I pulled into a parking space.

"She's told me not to bother going in, they'll get cover to go in. I've lost the shift, that's going to leave me tight for the rent."

"How much to you make on a shift?"

"Six fifty an hour, plus bonus if we get the deliveries done on time. On a good shift I will make eighty-five to ninety. Most shifts, eighty."

Getting out of the car I got out my wallet and extracted four twenties and a tenner, which I handed over to John. "Take these, that should cover for your lost shift. Now let's go and get a meal and you can have a job interview." I also handed him one of my business cards, so he could see that I was not joking about who I was.

For the next hour I explained to John the manufacturing problems we were facing with some of the specialist alloys. John pointed out to me some of the problems faced in trying to automate such production processes. By time the meal was finished, I had come to two conclusions. First, there was no easy way to do what we wanted to do. Something that both Brian and I had known already but not fully admitted. Second, that John was just who we needed to work out a way for us to do what we needed to do. The thing was he was not coming from an established position in the industry, so any ideas he came up with were likely to be specific to our problem, not an amendment to something that had already been done.

"So, you want me to come and have a formal interview tomorrow?" John asked as we pulled up in front of the Bromsgrove house.

"No, I want you to come in and start work. My secretary will have all the paperwork for your employment ready for you."

As I had expected Brian had used the Porsche to take the boys back to Tipton. We would swap cars over tomorrow when I went into work. I agreed with John that he should come into the office at ten in the morning. That would give Mrs. Baxter some time to get the required paperwork sorted out.

I was not quite sure what I had expected from John but whatever it was it was not what I got. By the following Friday he had drawn up a ten page document outlining the areas of the factory where robotic automation would be beneficial. The main part of which was a recommendation that we automated our warehouse facility. Something we had never thought of doing but when I looked at the report, it made sense. We could not automate the high risk production if the warehouse was not automated.

That Saturday John took the boys down to Rosall Hall to see their sister. Luke was out all day at a swimming gala and not back till gone six. Brian and I had a lot to talk about, not the least being John's report. We also had to discuss plans with Mike and Louise.

I had arranged with John that he would take Tim over to the Centre when they got back from Rosall Hall as I knew Tim would want to see Mark. Peter I knew would want to be with Luke playing video games no doubt. Brian had said that he would go over later and pick Tim up from the Centre. Brian also said he would pick Grandma up from the station. She was getting the late train up from London as she was needed as a witness for the proceedings on Monday and had decided she might as well spend Sunday with us, so she could relax before the show. That was her term for it, not mine.

Of course, things never go as smoothly as one expects. First, Grandma Grace's train was delayed. Not that that in itself, was much of a problem. The problem arose when they got to the Centre. It occurred to Brian only then that as he was suspended he was not allowed in the building. He tried to phone Tim to tell him that they were waiting outside, but the call went straight to voicemail. Brian then called the Centre's office number to ask whoever was on duty to tell Tim that he was outside.

That's when things got difficult. However, it was that whoever was on duty was somebody Brian did not know. They though knew who Brian was and once Brian had identified himself, they refused to pass on the message. Their reason for this, rules. Staff shall not facilitate communication between any suspended member of staff and any client of the Centre during the period of suspension. In the end Grandma Grace had to go into the Centre to get Tim.

I do not know what went on in the Centre but Mary phoned me on Sunday morning to inform me that Carl had called an emergency staff meeting for that afternoon. Apparently he had been on duty Saturday evening, though he had not taken the call from Brian. If he had I suspect he would have passed the message on. What he did take was the full brunt of Grandma Grace's annoyance. It seems she had read the riot act to him and pointed out some obscure but very interesting pieces of English law.

Sunday was fairly quiet. The boys and Luke were off playing in the pool all morning. Grandma spent the morning discussing her move to the St. John's Wood house. Even though Mike now did not need the funding from Grandma, the trust having covered the shortfall in his funds to buy the house, she was still insisting that she made the contribution of one million.

"Why?" Louise asked.

"Simple, this way I can give you one million, as part of my contribution to the purchase of the house, without ending up with it being counted for death duties or gift tax. As far as anybody is concerned, I am funding the extra cost of you buying a house that has a suitable granny annex, and Granny will be moving in."

Mike had the sense just to nod and not argue.

"By the way Brian, thank you for putting George Dudley in touch," Grandma Grace stated.

"He got in touch then," Brian replied. "How did it go."

"Well, there are some minor issues to sort, but it looks like he will be taking the place. Samantha has been over twice so far to measure things up for curtains and the like. I do hope Mr. Dudley's divorce does not take too long so that couple can get married. The children clearly think the world of her."

"Married!" Brian exclaimed.

"Of course, it is obvious that Samantha and Mr. Dudley are devoted to each other and the children think the world of her," Grandma stated.

Mike and Grandma then started to discuss the running expenses of the house. At that point, I thought it was an idea for Brian and me to excuse ourselves from the discussion.

"You seemed a bit surprised with Grandma's comments about George and Samantha," I stated to Brian, once we were in the privacy of my apartment.

"Don't know why I was. Samantha is an attractive woman, and she's been with the family since the twins were born. In fact she has probably spent more time with George than Hailey has in the last ten years. I wonder if that is part of the reason George is looking for a job over here?"

"What?"

"Marrying Samantha," Brian stated. "Look, David, there is still a lot of prejudice against mixed race marriages in the States."

"There's still some here," I commented.

"Not as much as there is in the States, especially in Boston Brahmin society, which is where George is from. They would not take to kindly to a mixed race marriage, especially marrying the nanny."

Monday morning saw us all trooping into the court. Everybody who had been at Cooper and Tom's that Saturday was here to give witness to the events. The only problem was that they did not get the chance, the magistrates decided that there was a complex question of law in the case and referred it, without an hearing, to the Crown Court.

"That was a waste of time," I commented to Sir John as we left the court.

"Actually no, it's rather worked to our advantage," he replied.

"How?"

"Look, David, we would have had to have got to the Crown Court one way or another. The magistrate's court is not a court of record. The Crown Court is. We need to get a statement of fact in the court record that no offence was committed by you.

"What I was expecting was to prosecute the case in the magistrates, and to get a conviction. The other side would have appealed to the Crown Court and we would have gone through the whole case again. This way we go directly to the Crown Court, we should be there in about six weeks."

It was not six weeks, it was more like eight. Eventually, though we did get to the Crown Court. On a damp Wednesday morning in May the complete cast assembled again at Birmingham Crown Court. Sir John met us at the court and introduced us to Miss Kathy Donaldson, the barrister who was acting for us. Sir John assured me that she was one of the best up and coming barristers going.

That young lady will be a QC within five years,” he assured me when we discussed getting her to act for us. “In fact I would not be surprised if she is appointed Queen’s Counsel next year.”

Why next year?” I asked.

Because it will be the first year that she is eligible to be appointed a QC. You must have been in practice for at least ten years in your own right. The ten years are up this year.”

Fortunately, we were the first case up in our court that morning, actually I think we were the only case listed for hearing in the court that day.

The case of Moore v Grant started with me having to give evidence as to the events of Saturday the 29th of December. I told the court how I had gone to the store with my foster children at the request of my grandmother to get clothing for the boys suitable for when they attended at the Albert Hall with my grandmother. I went on to explain that Peter had needed to go to the toilet and I had taken him up to the gentlemen’s facilities on the top floor. There being no suitable facilities on the floor we had been on. I then explained that when we had left the toilet facilities, a woman had shouted out, “That’s him,” pointing at me. Then a man had run over and made a grab at me. I then identified the accused as the man who had made the grab at me.

The barrister for the prosecution, a young lady I had been introduced to that morning, then asked me how I had felt at the time.

I was scared, I did not know what was going on. This man ran at me and grabbed hold of my arm.”

And what did you do?” she asked.

I threw him off,” I replied.

Why?”

I thought he was attacking me, so I defended myself.”

So, you thought you were in danger?”

Yes, of course I did. He’s a big man and he grabbed me quite forcibly, it hurt, I had bruises on my arm the next day from where he had grabbed me.”

You had bruises on your arm?” she asked, for confirmation.

Yes.”

She went on to take me through a series of questions describing the events that followed. Eventually she decided that she had no more questions. It was now the turn of the defence barrister.

Why did you take Peter up to the toilets?” he asked.

Because he needed to use them.”

Yes, that is understood. But why did you take him up, surely he could have gone on his own or his older brother could have taken him?”

His brother at the time was being fitted for a suit. If Peter had been familiar with the store we were in, no doubt he could have gone on his own. However, he was not familiar with the location and Cooper and Tom’s is a very easy place to get lost in, as most locals know. So, I took him up to the facilities on the top floor.”

Why not take him to the ones on the floor you were on?”

It is clear you do not know Cooper and Tom’s. They do not have gentleman’s facilities on every floor. It was either go up one floor to the top floor or down two floors.”

That was followed by some twenty minutes of inane questions, which seemed to have very little to do with events. When it ended I was allowed to stand down. As the prosecuting party, I was able to remain in the court, sitting with Sir John, behind the barrister for the prosecution.

Peter was called next. The prosecution barrister just asked him a series of questions that confirmed what I had earlier said. Then the defence barrister took over.

So, you needed to go to the toilet and Mr. Moore said he would take you, right?” the defence barrister asked Peter.

No fucking way. I told him I needed to go to the toilet and asked him to take me. Anyway, he’s a Doctor not a Mister. Get your bloody facts right.”

There was a snicker from the jury box.

Why did you ask him?”

Because I did not want to get lost in that place, it’s a fucking maze.”

Another snicker emanated from the jury box. Somebody was clearly familiar with Cooper and Tom’s.

So, you asked somebody you had only met, what three days before, a virtual stranger to take you to the toilet?”

He’s not a stranger, he’s my cousin,” Peter snapped back.

So, he told you he was your cousin?”

No way, my sister told me he was my cousin. I’d met my great-grandmother who was David’s grandmother, so I asked Jenny how we were related.”

So, you call Dr. Moore David, do you?”

Of course, don’t you call your cousins by their names?” Peter asked.

The defence barrister seemed a bit flustered by this response from a thirteen-year-old who, in all honesty, looked more like a ten-year-old.

Dr. Moore took you up to the toilets on the top floor. Then what happened?”

Well, we went into the toilets…” Peter stated.

He took you into the cubical?” the defence barrister interrupted.

No, he took me into the toilets, then told me to find a cubical. I went into an empty cubical and David stayed by the sinks. He was still there when I came out. Made me wash my hands. Then we came out and that guy over there attacked David.”

So, you went into a cubical, did your business, came out, washed your hands and that is all the happened. Is that right?”

Yes,” Peter replied.

Then why did it take over fifteen minutes?” the barrister asked.

Well, have you tried shitting when you ‘avent had a shat in three days? It’s fucking painful. You don’t want to rush it.”

There was a definite laugh from the jury.

The barrister made a series of accusations then that Peter was lying.

No, I fucking ain’t,” he replied. “You’ve got a dirty mind wanting to think things went on when they dan’t.”

This time there was a more than a definite laugh from the jury. The defence barrister decided to stop the questioning at that point. Probably realising that he was losing the sympathy of the jury.

Grandmother was called next. She took the witness stand, giving a slight bow to the presiding judge, who I noticed bowed back. I was a bit amused when she was asked her occupation she responded with retired. The prosecution barrister just took her through the events of the day, finishing with her arriving back on the top floor.

Mrs. LeRoy,” the defence barrister started. There was a pronounced cough from the judge. The defence barrister turned and looked at her. She signed that she wanted a word with him. He went up to the bench and there was a whispered conversation. The barrister returned to his position in front of the witness box.

Dame Grace, is it your practice to purchase suits for children in foster care?” he asked.

No,” grandmother replied.

Then what were you doing in Cooper and Tom’s on the day in questions?”

I was buying suits for my great-grandsons, Timothy and Peter,” she replied, with a smile which would have set the nerves of a leading QC on edge. The defence barrister was not a QC.

So, you regard two boys taken into foster care by your grandson as being your great-grandsons?”

No, I regard them as being my great-grandsons, as they are the children of Susan LeRoy, who is the daughter of Jennifer LeRoy. Jennifer LeRoy was the wife of my son, Timothy LeRoy. So, Susan LeRoy was my granddaughter, and her children are my great-grandsons. I do hope you can understand that young man.”

It was clear from the look on the barrister’s face that he had not been briefed about this. However, he decided to plough on. That was a mistake. At one point during her evidence grandmother used the word assault.

Why do you say it was an assault?” the barrister asked.

Because it was. By my grandson’s actions, he was clearly in fear of physical harm, therefore, given that there was no lawful cause for the accused’s action, it was an assault.”

So, you have an understanding of the law, do you?” the young barrister asked. There was a smile on his face as he no doubt expecting to tear grandmother apart on legal niceties.

I should hope I do, I was not a Lady Justice of Appeal for seven years without having some knowledge on the subject. No doubt you are preparing to quote Covington v R on the subject of assault. I would point out that I wrote that opinion and I can assure you that it does not apply in this case.”

Why not?” the barrister for the defence asked.

The whole point of the Covington case was whether or not a serving police officer who was suspended from duty under investigation, still maintained the power of arrest granted to a constable. In this case there is no question of whether the accused had enhanced powers of arrest. He did not, he has no power of arrest other than that of any other citizen. In so much as he can only arrest when an arrestable offence has been committed. I made this distinction very clear in my judgement in Covington v R. So, young man, if you intend to base your defence on Covington, you have failed badly to understand the law.”

At that point the barrister for the defence said he had no further questions. I am sure that was not correct, he probably had piles of them but was just too terrified of what answers Grandmother might have for them. Grandmother had always told me a good barrister never asks a question unless they know the answer to it. The barrister for the defence was clearly not a good barrister. A point I made to Sir John.

You’re right there, David,” Sir John replied. “I think this is his first case in the Crown Court, since pupillage. ”

The prosecution at that point called a Mr. Toby Johnson. Who or what he was I had no idea? I turned to ask Sir John who he was.

We lucked out here, he is somebody we identified from the CCTV of the event. Fortunately, one of my staff recognised him.”

Sir John had just finished imparting this information when an elderly man took his place in the witness box. After the man had taken the affirmation, the prosecution barrister started their questions.

Could you please state your full name and occupation to the court, please?” she asked.

Tobias Michael Johnson, retired police officer,” the witness stated.

What police rank did you hold before you retired?”

Chief Superintendent of Police,” Mr. Johnson replied.

Am I correct in stating that you were in Cooper and Tom’s on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th of December last year?”

I was.”

Did you make use of the gentlemen’s facilities on the top floor of the store during you visit?”

Yes, I did.”

I would like you to look at the gentleman sitting at the end of the row, two rows back on the right-hand side of the body of the court. Did you see him during your visit to the facilities?”

Mr. Johnson turned to me and looked hard at me.

I cannot be absolutely sure, but I think I did. He looks very much like the man I saw in the gentlemen’s toilet at Cooper and Tom’s on that date.”

Could you tell the court in your own words what you saw that day?”

Yes.”

Please do.”

As I went to visit the gentlemen’s toilets on the top floor of the store there was a man with a boy entering just in front of me. The boy was thanking the man for bringing him up as he said he would never find his way on his own. There is a long corridor from the lobby on the top floor between the outer and inner doors of the toilet facilities and we were all walking down that corridor when the boy was saying this.

I followed the man and boy into the actual gentlemen’s toilets. There is a row of sinks down one side, across the end of the room are some cubicles and against the other wall are urinals. The man told the boy that he would wait by the sinks and that the boy should take one of the cubicles. The boy went into the endmost cubicle which was free. I took a cubicle a bit further on. About ten minutes later I exited the cubicle, and the man was still standing at the end of the row of sinks. I washed my hands and went to dry them using the dryer, which was by where the man was standing. It was while I was drying my hands that the boy came out of the cubicle he had been occupying. The man told him to wash his hands, which he did. I left at that point and went to get the lift down to the ground floor. The lift had just arrived and as the door open, I heard a shout of, ‘That’s him’. I turned to see a large man in a uniform grabbing hold of the man who had been in the toilets.”

The man in uniform, can you see him in the court?” the prosecution barrister asked.

Yes, he is the man in the dock,” Mr. Johnson stated.

Can you please point to him?” the barrister asked.

Mr. Johnson did.

There were a couple more questions, which seemed pointless to me as they just confirmed what had been said earlier. However, Sir John was nodding his head in approval at Miss Donaldson.

I told you she was good,” he whispered to me.

What do you mean?”

David, Miss Donaldson has set a trap and I think our learned colleague is going to walk right into it,” he whispered to me, indicating the barrister for the defence, who was now advancing upon the witness box.

Mr. Johnson, you say that you went in immediately after the man and the boy and went into a cubicle about the same time as the boy went into his. Is that right?” the barrister asked.

Yes,” Mr. Johnson replied.

We will be producing evidence which will show that the man and the boy were in the toilet facilities for over fifteen minutes. If your story is true, you must have been in there nearly as long, what took you so long?”

There was a suppressed snicker from the jury box. The judge looked at them with an element of disapproval.

I have a stoma,” Mr. Johnson announced. “That means that part of my bowels have been removed and I have an opening in my abdomen where my remaining intestines evacuate their contents. As a result, I have to wear a colostomy bag. On the day in question I was having problems with my bag, so had to change it. Normally that takes seven to ten minutes, but doing it in the confines of a toilet cubicle is more difficult so it takes longer.”

Trap sprung,” Sir John commented.

The defence barrister asked a couple more questions which were fairly inconsequential. I think he was just trying to fill time. When he was finished the judge asked Miss Davidson if she had any more questions. She indicated that she did.

Mr. Johnson, could you estimate how long you think you were in the cubicle changing your bag?”

I would think over ten minutes, maybe fifteen minutes, maybe a bit less but not much.”

Thank you, no more questions.”

At that point the judge announced that the court would adjourn for lunch, an announcement which took me by surprise. I had not realised we had been in court that long. However, when I checked my watch I saw that it was nearly one. A fact I commented on to Sir John.

David, you were in the witness box for well over an hour,” he informed me. A fact that surprised me.

During lunch, Miss Donaldson joined us. I expressed surprise that the jury had not been shown the CCTV footage yet.

That comes next,” she informed me.

Over lunch Miss Donaldson and Sir John discussed how they thought the case was going. On the whole they decided it was going fairly well.

It is all going to depend on how robust the defendant is,” Miss Donaldson said.

What do you mean?” I asked.

You’ll see, hopefully.”

We reassembled in the courtroom about five minutes before the case was to resume. On the dot, the clerk to the court called, “All rise,” and the judge took her place.

The next witness called was a Mr. Peterson, who confirmed he was the general manager of Cooper and Tom’s. He also confirmed that they had handed over copies of the security video of the incident to the prosecution. That having been established the video was played to the court. I was clearly visible going into the gentlemen’s toilets with Peter, Mr. Johnson was visible following me in. With the agreement of the court the video was then fast forwarded to the point where Mr. Johnson exited the facilities, followed about thirty seconds later by Peter and myself. At that point a large woman points at me; the defendant runs over and grabs my arm. At which point I throw him across the hallway, which is when the police arrive.

"Mr. Peterson,” Miss Donaldson asked, “can you confirm that is a copy of the security video that you handed over?” Mr. Peterson confirmed that was the case.

Do your security staff have authority to carry out an arrest?” Miss Donaldson inquired.

No, they don’t.”

What is the policy of Copper and Tom’s on staff making a citizen’s arrest?” she asked.

Company policy is that staff must not make citizen’s arrests,” Mr. Peterson replied.

Is that the stated policy of the company?”

Yes, it is in the staff handbook,” Mr. Peterson responded.

Miss Donaldson picked up a thin booklet from the prosecution table and held it up. “Mr. Peterson do you recognise this handbook and can you tell the court what it is?”

Yes, I recognise it. It’s the Copper and Tom staff handbook,” he replied.

She handed the book to him. “I would ask you to read the entry in item four on page twenty-six.”

Mr. Peterson flicked through the pages, until he found the cited page then read whatever was item four. Having read it he nodded.

Would you please read it out loud to the court?”

He looked uncertain for a moment, then nodded again. “Under no circumstances should any member of staff undertake or attempt to undertake a citizen’s arrest upon any person on the premise or who has left the premises.”

Am I correct in assuming that the defendant would have been aware of that policy?” Miss Donaldson asked.

Certainly,” Mr. Peterson replied. “All our staff go through a one-week training course in company policies and procedures before they start on the shop floor.”

Thank you, Mr. Peterson, I have no more questions,” she stated, turning and smiling at the defence counsel, who decided he had no questions.

With that the prosecution, which was technically me, rested its case. The judge called on the defence to offer its case. The first witness called Loretta Harris, the woman who had made the accusation against me. She just confirmed, to the defence, that she told the security guard that a white man had taken a young black boy into the toilet to sexually abuse the boy and that we had been in there for some time.

After half a dozen questions the defence sat down, it was Miss Donaldson’s turn.

So, Mrs. Harris, you saw a white man taking a black boy into the toilets. Is that correct?” she asked.

Yes.”

And you pointed him out to the guard? Correct?”

Yes.”

Why?”

There’s only one reason why a whitey would take a black child into the toilets,” Mrs. Harris stated with emphasis.

And that is?”

I don’t need to say it, we all l know it,” Mrs. Harris proclaimed.

I’m sorry Mrs. Harris but in this court, you do need to say it. Facts must be stated,” Kathy Donaldson informed her. “So, what is the reason that the man took the boy into the toilets.”

No, we do not,” Miss Donaldson stated. “There could be many reasons a man might take a boy into the toilets. The boy could have got messy eating in the fast-food franchise and needed to wash his hands and face. He may have been taken ill and wanted to vomit. There is always the possibility that he may have wanted to use the facilities in the toilet for the purposes for which they were designed. So, Mrs. Harris, please state to the court, in an unambiguous manner the reason the man you saw took the boy into the toilets.”

The was a pause. Mrs. Harris looked around the court. All eyes were on her. “To make him queer. They take black boys to make them queer.”

And how do they do that?”

Why, they have sex with them of course.” Mrs. Harris stated. “They have to have sex with them to make them queer. The only reason you have queer blacks is because they were turned queer by white men.”

There was a snigger from the jury. I looked across at them, not having taken much notice of them before. Three of the twelve where Indian or at least of South East Asian origin. One was black, from the way she was dressed I presumed West African. The other eight were white. Seven women and five men. From the way they were reacting to Mrs. Harris I do not think they were putting much store in her evidence.

Mrs. Harris, you have stated that it was a white man who took the black boy into the toilets. However, my client, who is the prosecution in this case is of West Indian descent.”

I can see that now but dan’t see it then,” Mrs. Harris announced.

If you had seen that then would your actions have been any different?” Miss Donaldson asked.

Of course, they would. No black man would take a boy into a toilet for the things a white man would.”

So, your reporting of a man sexually abusing a boy was based solely upon the fact that you saw what you thought was a white man taking a black boy into the toilets, is that correct?”

Yes.”

Thank you, Mrs. Harris you have been most helpful. No more questions, my lady.” The latter being said to the judge.

Thomas Grant was called next to the witness box. Looking at him as he made his way to the box, I was surprised. He did not look as big or as threatening as I remembered him from Cooper and Tom’s. A fact I mentioned to Sir John.

Of course not,” Sir John replied. “He’s been told to dress down, to make himself look inoffensive.”

For the next twenty minutes or so the defence barrister took Thomas Grant through a series of carefully crafted by the end of it, it was established that:

Grant had been told a sexual offence had been committed,

The suspect in the offence had been identified to him,

He had attempted to make a citizen’s arrest, and

I had resisted arrest, injuring him.

The defence questioning having ceased it was now time for Miss Donaldson to have a go at Thomas Grant. The smile on her face as she approached the witness box almost made me feel sorry for Mr. Grant. I have seen a smile like that before, when I was diving on the Great Barrier Reef, it belonged to a Great White Shark.

Mr. Grant,” she asked, “can you clarify a couple of points for the court. You said you had been told a sexual offence had been committed, is that right?”

Yes.”

Who told you?”

Mrs. Harris,” Grant replied.

May I ask why you should believe Mrs. Harris that such an assault had taken place?” Miss Donaldson asked.

She’s the pastor’s wife.”

How did you know that?”

I go to the church her husband is the pastor of,” Grant informed the court.

So, you did not check if an offence had been committed?” Miss Donaldson inquired.

No.”

You did not seek to speak to the person accused to check what was going on.”

Of course not, he’s a pervert, he would lie,” Grant announced.

How tall are you Mr. Grant?” asked Miss Donaldson.

I am six foot three inches,” he replied.

You appear to have a fairly good physique, I understand you are a body builder, is that correct?”

In response to this question Grant pulled himself up to his full height, displaying his muscled form, even through the loose clothing he was wearing. He was obviously proud of his physique.

Yes.”

How heavy are you?”

A hundred and five kilos.”

You are a good five inches taller than my client and some twenty kilos heavier, yet you thought it necessary to grab hold of him. Would it not have sufficed for you to have approached him and asked him what was going on?”

He would have run off.”

Why should he? We have already established he had done nothing wrong.”

He dislocated my shoulder,” Grant stated.

Which is totally irrelevant to these proceedings,” Miss Donaldson pointed out.

She asked a couple more questions, the point of which escaped me but Sir John said were important.

With that the case for both the prosecution and the defence was finished. Both sides gave their address to the jury, then the judge gave her summing up.

Every citizen has a right to make an arrest when an arrestable offence has been committed,” the judge said. “However, in this instance no evidence has been offered to show that any arrestable offence had been committed. Indeed, all the evidence that has been presented to this court indicates that no such offence had been committed and the defendant has admitted that they did not know if such an offence had been committed.

In your deliberations you need to answer the following questions: Did an assault take place? In English law an assault is any act that put a person if fear for their safety. There is no requirement for that fear to be reasonable. Was the assault intentional? That is did the defendant mean to do what they did?

If you find that the answer to either of those two questions is no, then you must acquit. If you find that the answer to both of those two questions is yes, then you have an initial finding of guilt. However, before you can bring in a finding of guilty, you must ask if there was justification for the assault.

The justification put forward by the defence is that the defendant was carrying out a citizen’s arrest. The defendant could only carry out such an arrest if an arrestable offence had been committed. The defendant has claimed that he believed a sexual offence involving a minor had been committed in the toilets of Cooper and Tom’s by the prosecution. No evidence of such a offence being committed has been offered. Indeed, all the evidence that has been offered has indicated that no such offence has taken place.

The law on this is very clear. For a citizen’s arrest to be made, an arrestable offence must have been committed. Belief or suspicion that such an offence had taken place is not sufficient. Unless you are totally sure, without reasonable doubt, that such an offence had taken place, you must find that there was no reasonable grounds for the assault. That being the case you must convict and return a verdict of guilty.”

It is now past four, the time this court normally rises. However, I do not see any reason for your deliberations to take an extensive time and so will keep this court in session, while you deliberate upon your verdict.”

After a final direction to the jury, they were directed to retire and consider their verdict. It did not take long. Under half an hour. When they returned, the foreman of the jury was asked if they had reached a verdict. She replied that they had. She was then asked if it was the verdict of them all and she confirmed it was. Then she was asked for the verdict.

Guilty,” she replied.

The jury was thanked for their service by the judge, then dismissed. She then turned to the defendant.

Thomas Grant, you have been found guilty of an instance of assault contrary to the Offences Against the Persons Act. Normally I would request probation reports upon you. However, in this case such reports would, in my opinion, be a waste of time and money. My hands are tied with respect to the maximum sentence that I may make in this instance. You have, though, wasted the time of this court and the court of first instance by not entering a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The CCTV images presented to this court in evidence clearly show an assault upon the person of the prosecution in this case by yourself. It is clear from the evidence supplied to this court that at no time was a sexual offence on a minor committed by the prosecution in this case as alleged in your justification of your actions.

All this evidence was available to you at the time of your appearance in the court of first instance. I have no doubt that your legal team advised you at the time that your justification would not stand. As such I find that your failure to enter a guilty plea at the earliest possible occasion outweighs any possible mitigation there may be on your behalf. That being the case I sentence you to the maximum sentence available to me, that is six months in prison. Take him down.”

Thomas Grant was led out of the dock and taken down into the bowels of the courthouse.

Now what?” I asked Sir John.

Now we wait. It will be a few weeks before we can get the complete transcript of the case and its judgement. Once we have that, we can deal with Social Services and the Centre.”

Sir John turned to Miss Donaldson, who had finished packing up her papers on the table in front of us.

Kathy my dear,” he said, “very well presented.”

Thank you, Sir John,” she replied.

The young barrister who had been acting for the defence came over to speak with Miss Donaldson. We left them there and made our way out of the court.

It was just over two weeks later that Sir John phoned late on a Thursday afternoon to inform me that he had the court papers. There was a bit of an argument with Social Services as to whether or not the findings in the court amount to evidence that no offence had been committed. In the end Sir John informed them that he would apply for Judicial Review seeking a Judicial Declaration. That seemed to knock some sense into Social Services.

On Tuesday the 2nd of July we were given joint permanent custody of my cousins, Peter and Tim. We had been married the previous Saturday.