I blew another lungful of air into Trevor's mouth, pinching his nose, only partly conscious of what was going on around me.
"You can stop now," James instructed me.
I sat back on my heels, a cold fear filling me, tensing me up. "He's not…" I could not say it.
"No, he's breathing on his own," James informed me.
Uncle Phil put his head into the hallway. "The ambulance is on its way, James. There was one close by."
"That's good," James stated, easing back from the position he had been in whilst doing CPR. We were so lucky to have an emergency-medicine physician here for the Christmas holidays from Australia.
"I'll go round the front to guide the ambulance in," I heard my dad say from outside in the yard.
"Good idea," Grandad stated. "I'll come with you. Lee, why don't you take the boys into the kitchen and make them some chocolate. They must be cold."
I had completely forgotten about JayDee, James’s son, and his boyfriend, Tariq; both had been there. Then I realised it must have been them that found Trevor hanging from the crossbeam. The pair of them had been playing ball with 18-year-old Lee in the yard. I had no doubt that either Tariq or JayDee — probably JayDee — had come looking for Trevor and found him hanging there. How that would affect the young teenager, I could not imagine.
I stood and turned to speak with Lee. He was standing in the doorway, holding the two boys. Before I could say anything, Joseph, my boyfriend and my godfather’s son, pushed forward and put his hands on JayDee’s and Tariq's shoulders.
"I'll take them," Joseph told Lee. "Your strength might be needed here." Lee just nodded as Joseph guided the two boys across the yard.
I looked at James. He was taking Trevor's pulse, feeling for it in the neck.
"Is he going to alright, James?"
"I hope so. The pulse is there, weak but at least it's steady; that's a good sign."
Suddenly I was pushed to one side.
"What the fuck have you done? You bloody idiot," Arthur shouted, moving to grab hold of Trevor. Before he could do so, Lee took hold of him and pulled him back.
"No, you don't," Lee instructed. "He could have neck injuries. Let James deal with him; he's the doctor."
Arthur, Trevor’s boyfriend, struggled for a bit then seemed to crumple in on himself, like a rag doll losing its stuffing. Lee held him, telling him that it would be alright, that they got there in time. Arthur was just sobbing one word, over and over again, "Why?"
That is what I wanted to know. Why had they published that article about Trevor's past — Trevor, one of the finest young movie actors of his generation? What benefit could there be? What good could it do?
In the distance I could hear the waa waa sound of an approaching emergency vehicle. Grandad was back in the yard. As he saw me by the Stable House door, he looked worried, but as he crossed the yard he was able to see into the hallway.
"Your Pa says there's some papers. Said he'd need them for the hospital. Can you find them?" he asked as he approached me.
I nodded and started across the yard toward the house. Grandad walked with me.
"How is he?" Grandad asked.
"He's breathing," I replied. "Don't know much more."
"Cud see that; his face were nat so blue as before."
Thinking about it, Grandad was right: Trevor's face was not as blue as it had been when they cut him down.
As we got to the kitchen door, Dad came through the gateway, leading the ambulance into the yard. I went into the house through to the study. By the side of Dad's desk were two, four-drawer filing cabinets. The one furthest from Dad's desk was the fireproof one. I knew all the important documents were kept in there. Dad had spent a couple of hours one afternoon explaining to Anne and me how things were arranged. All the family stuff was in the second drawer. I presumed Dad regarded Trevor and Arthur as family.
I was right, Dad did. It took a bit of searching, but I found a file marked 'T&A Medical Authorities'. My guess was that this is what Dad wanted. I pulled the folder out and then took it out to the yard. Grandad was in the kitchen, making tea and coffee. I looked at him.
"They'll need 'em when they're done," he stated. I guess they would. Then I realised there was no sign of Joseph or the boys. I wondered where they were.
As I crossed the yard, I could see that the paramedics were inside the Stable House hallway. Couldn't see what they were doing. Dad was talking with Lee. Lee nodded.
I walked across to Dad and handed him the folder. "Is this what you wanted?"
He opened it and looked at the contents. "Yes. Thanks, Johnny."
After what seemed like ages, the paramedics got Trevor onto a stretcher and started to move him into the ambulance. Arthur went to get in the ambulance with him, but James stopped him.
"Arthur, there is only room for one other person in the ambulance," James told him. "I'm the attending physician, so I have to go in with him in the ambulance. You'll have to follow the ambulance."
Arthur just nodded, then started to move off towards the back entrance to the yard. No doubt he was going to his van. Dad stopped him and pointed to the Santa Fe, the pair of them then went and got in the Santa Fe. As the ambulance pulled off, they followed.
"Are you going to phone publicity or am I?" Uncle Ben asked Uncle Phil.
"I'll do it," Uncle Phil replied. Then he turned to me. "Alright if I use your dad's study."
I just nodded, not sure why he even asked me. He knew he could use it if he needed to.
I looked around the yard. Lee was standing by the door to the Stable House, Tyler, Trevor’s co-star, was talking to him. I had not realised that Tyler was here, but when I thought about it, he no doubt heard the alarm bell and came round from his apartment. I walked over to them.
"So, what happened?" Tyler asked.
"Don't rightly know," Lee responded. "I was playing ball with the boys. Marcia, Tariq’s mother, had asked me to keep an eye on Tariq and JayDee while she was over at her parents. Tyler came out of the Stable House and crossed the yard. He stopped and promised JayDee that as soon as he had dealt with whatever Phil wanted to see him about, he would come and join us in a game. Then he goes off into the main house.
"About ten minutes later he comes back across the yard, ignores Tariq and JayDee, which is unusual, and goes into the Stable House. Tariq says he needs to get a drink, so I say we will take a break. JayDee goes to see if Trevor will join us. He opens the door to the Stable House and starts screaming. I run over and see Trevor hanging there. Go in and grab hold of him to lift him up and tell JayDee to ring the bell."
"Bloody good job you did," I said. "Got everybody out here pronto."
"It did that," Lee admitted.
"Grandad's made tea and coffee if you want a mug," I informed them. They both nodded, then followed me into the kitchen.
Uncle Ben was there, sitting at the table, texting. There was no sign of Grandad. Uncle Ben looked up as we entered.
"Thanks, Lee," he said looking past me at Lee. "You probably saved his life."
"Will he thank me for it?" Lee asked.
"I hope he will," Uncle Ben said, "though it might take some time and some effort until he is at a point where he can."
"That I can understand," Lee stated.
Grandad came back into the kitchen. He looked at us.
"Take a seat, lads," he instructed. "Tea or coffee." I went for tea. Lee and Tyler opted for coffee.
"What happened, Ben?" Tyler asked.
"I gather you haven't seen the papers this morning," Uncle Ben replied.
"No, I had a late night last night. Had only just got up when that ruddy bell went off."
"There is a front-page article in the Sunday Sentinel," Uncle Ben informed Tyler. "The full story of Trevor's involvement in prostitution and making child-porn films. The only thing it does not do is name him. Though they leave no doubt in the article as to who it is about."
"Shit!" Lee exclaimed. "No wonder he did what he did."
I was about to make a comment when my phone buzzed. I looked to see who it was and saw it was Neal, so I took the call.
"What's going on there?" he asked as I answered.
"Trevor hanged himself," I stated.
"Fuck! I suppose it's that bloody newspaper article."
"Yes, you've seen it?"
"Yes, it's one of the papers Maddie's parents get, so I saw it at breakfast," Neal stated. "I'll be there in about three hours."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because somebody has got to take charge of the business. Arthur will be in no state to do anything. I've just had him on the phone and could not understand what he was saying. Now it makes sense."
"Can't the girls cover it?"
"No, Johnny, he's given them New Year’s off. I'll be there about three." With that, Neal rang off. I looked up and realised both Lee and Uncle Ben were looking at me.
"Who was that?" Uncle Ben asked.
"Neal. Arthur phoned him but was not making sense, so Neal called me. He's on his way down."
"Why?" Lee asked.
"Because somebody has got to look after the business, and Arthur's given the girls New Year’s off."
"I’d better go and let the lads know I can't help them this afternoon," Grandad stated from over by the sink.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
"They were going to make some raised beds. I said I would help them," Grandad replied. "We had just got back in the Luton from picking up some scaffolding boards from Jim's father's yard when that bell went off."
"Any chance me and the boys could give them a hand?" Lee asked. "It would get the boys out of the yard and hopefully distract them. By the way, where are the boys?"
"Joseph took them up to Johnny's room. I think they are playing video games," Grandad replied. "Would do them good to get away from here and into some physical work for a bit."
"It would, Grandad," I said. "Look, why don't you and Lee take them, and I will sort out anything that needs doing here."
"You can sort some lunch out first," Grandad informed me. "Those boys will need something to eat before we start any work in the walled garden."
So, I got down to it and sorted out some lunch. Tyler informed me that he had something already in his fridge, so would not hang around for lunch. It did not take me long to knock up a pile of bacon sandwiches. I took a plate through to Uncle Phil, who was still on his phone, then called up the stairs to Joseph and the boys that lunch was ready. Joseph answered that they would be down in a mo.
When I got back to the kitchen, Grandad was wrapping up some of the sandwiches in foil.
"I'll take a few to the lads," he commented. "Doubt if they have thought about lunch, and they will need some. Got one for meself as well." With that, he picked up the packet of sandwiches and made his way out to the yard.
"He finds gardening relaxing," Uncle Ben commented. "It'll take his mind off things." I just nodded, pulled some plates out and started placing sandwiches on them as I heard a herd of elephants coming down the stairs. Now I understood what Dad had been on about so often.
Joseph got the boys seated at the table. I had just put the plates on the table for them, Uncle Ben, and Lee when I noticed Uncle Bernard's Jag pull into the yard. I put some more bacon on to cook. As usual Uncle Bernard checked his phone when he got out of the car. He would never answer the phone or look at messages whilst driving. Once he had checked his phone, he walked over to the back door and let himself in. As he stepped into the kitchen, he sniffed the air.
"Bacon. It seems I have perfect timing." I put the two sandwiches that I had intended for myself on a plate and handed them to him.
"You'll have to stand and eat," I informed him. "The table is full, and I am not setting the dining table."
"Johnny, the best bacon sarnis are always eaten standing up. They are from the burger van on the North Circular, just past the M1 junction."
"Barry's?" Uncle Ben asked.
"Yes, that's the one. You know it?"
"Yes, we usually stop there for a sarni on the way back from Manston. What's your excuse for going there?"
"I'm Jewish. If I am not observing kosher, it is incumbent upon me to make sure that I am breaking it for the best of reasons. Barry's bacon sarnis are the best reason I can think of," Uncle Bernard said, laughing. "Anyway, I need to speak to Trevor, where is he?"
"Fuck!" I exclaimed. "Hasn't anybody told you?"
"Told me what, Johnny?"
"Trevor tried to hang himself."
"Bernard, Trevor is in the hospital," Ben informed him. "We don't know what his condition is. Why don't you go through to the study? Phil's in there, and he is trying to sort information out. He can no doubt tell you what's going on."
As Uncle Ben said this, his eyes glanced towards the two youngsters. I guessed he did not want Bernard asking questions about it whilst they were there.
"Go on through, Uncle Bernard," I said. "I'll bring a mug of tea to you as soon as the kettle's boiled."
Uncle Bernard obviously saw Uncle Ben's glance and understood its meaning. He just nodded and exited the kitchen with bacon sandwich in hand. Uncle Ben followed him. I started to clean up. As soon as Tariq and JayDee had finished their lunch, Lee took them off in the direction of the walled garden.
"What's going to happen?" Joseph asked. For a moment I thought he was talking to somebody else but then realised we were the only people left in the kitchen.
"I don't know, but something’s got to happen. That paper had no right to put that story in like they did," I said. “They did not have the right. They think they can destroy people and call it public interest. Just because their sick readership revels in such stuff does not mean it is in the public interest. If they had been exposing a crime, then that would have been public interest, but they were not. The crime had already been exposed. Those guilty had been arrested and convicted. There was no public interest in the story.”
I was just about to ask Joseph what he thought we should do when the phone rang. I answered it. It was Steve Webber from the local rag.
"Johnny, it's Steve Webber. We've met a couple of times; I'm with the Gazette," he informed me once I had identified myself. I was wary of speaking with him but knew he was on good terms with Uncle Phil and with Dad.
"How can I help you?"
"I hope I can help you," Steve replied. "The word is that Trevor Spade hung himself this morning. The Sentinel has picked it up. and they have called my editor to get someone local to cover until they get their people here."
"And you're the local cover," I replied.
"No, they've put one of the interns on it. I've no doubt he will be banging on your door within the next half hour. I just wanted to let Matthew Lewis know that word is out."
"Thanks for that," I said. "Would you like to speak with Matthew?" I was getting used to referring to Uncle Phil by his stage name when talking to outsiders.
Steve indicated he would. I put him on hold. I knew there was a way I could call the study from the kitchen phone whilst I had someone holding. The problem was, I had never fathomed out the key sequence to do it. Whenever I had tried, I always managed to cut the caller off, so I had given up trying. I went to the study to tell Uncle Phil that Steve was on the line. I also passed on information that Steve had given me. Uncle Phil said he would talk to him, so I went back and put the call through to the study.
I started to clean up in the kitchen. Joseph helped, loading the dishwasher. I wiped the surfaces down."
"Do you think he will be alright?" Joseph asked. I knew without asking that he meant Trevor.
"I hope so," I replied. "If he isn't, it’s going to cause a lot of problems."
"For a start, it will mess up Uncle Phil's plans. He's bought the rights to a book and is planning on making a film of it. His plan is for Trevor to star. Dad told me about it when we were in Paris."
"I thought he was going to be in Snowball?" Joseph said.
"That's just a bit part; Tyler has the main lead. Anyway, Uncle Phil's not directing it." I continued to tell Joseph what I knew about Uncle Phil's plans regarding filming. In reality, not much, but it was something to talk about and kept us occupied in avoiding the serious matters for a bit. In fact, we got so involved in it that neither of us noticed a car pulling into the yard. We, therefore, were a bit surprised when the backdoor bell rang.
I opened it. Allen, the head of security at Manston, stood there, apparently ready to help out here at the Priory.
"They're in the study," I informed them.
"Good, hopefully productively engaged," Allen stated as he entered the kitchen. "Any chance of a tea." I laughed and put the kettle on. Allen plonked himself down at the table opposite Joseph.
"If the doorbell goes, let me answer it," Allen said.
"Expecting someone?" I asked.
"Yes, the press," Allen replied. "Hopefully, that Steve Webber guy will get here before the local stringer does."
"But he's press," I pointed out.
"Yes, Johnny, but he is our press," Allen informed me. "Now who is where?"
I gave Allen the best rundown I could, Dad, James and Arthur were at the hospital with Trevor. Grandad, Lee, and the boys were in the walled garden with Steve and Jim. Tyler was in his apartment, while Mum and her sister, Jenny, were out shopping. Marcia, Tariq’s mum. Jasmin, Tariq’s sister, was at Marcia's parents. I realised I did not know where Grandma was.
"Not worried about Flora," Allen stated. "Don't think anybody is going to take her on. Better let the others know to come in through the Sidings Lane entrance."
I nodded. Dad had got Matt, his architect/builder friend, to put up a heavy fence at the back of the property and a well-constructed gate in it. It had a notice saying, 'Entrance to Green Farm Only.' Not many people would realise that Green Farm was actually the land around the Priory, now our home.
Allen got on his phone and started to make calls. His first try was Anne, but he got her voicemail. Allen asked me to keep trying Anne every twenty minutes to let her know. I told him I would. Allen then phoned Dad and gave him the instruction to come back in via Sidings Lane.
He had just finished that call when a nondescript camper van pulled into the yard. I wondered who it was? It was clearly somebody who Allen expected. He went out to meet the two men and a woman who got out of the van. Allen and the woman talked for a few moments, then the woman and one of the men started to walk to the front-yard exit; the other man walked off to the rear. Allen came back to the kitchen.
"Who were they?" Joseph asked.
"Just some security a friend has lent me till I can get the lads from Manston down here," Allen replied. "I've told them who we are expecting; they won't let anybody else on the property."
As Allen said that, I remembered Neal was on his way. I informed Allen. He laughed. "Don't think he will have any problem getting past that lot," was Allen's observation. I realised who was the friend who had lent the security people.
Allen then stated he’d better go through and see my uncles and Bernard.
I decided I might as well start doing some prep for dinner. Somehow, I suspected we were not likely to be going down to the Crooked Man, our local pub, this evening. Joseph gave me a hand. He's not really into cooking, but I think he felt anything was better than sitting around doing nothing.
I had just finished peeling a pile of carrots while Joseph was preparing some sprouts at the table when the roar of a high-power motorcycle announced Neal's arrival in the yard. At least I thought it was Neal. As I opened door the rider climbed off their bike and removed their helmet. It was Maddie.
"I was expecting Neal," I said as I walked across to where she had parked the bike.
"He's about fifteen minutes behind me," she stated. "We had not arranged accommodation, so he was calling in at the Belmont to get us some rooms."
"So, you're not going to use Trevor's?"
"Wouldn't seem right without asking him first," Maddie replied. "Anyway, even if I did use it, we'd still need somewhere for Neal."
"We've still got the caravan," I pointed out.
"Not sure I would want to inflict it on him this time of year, and there is no excuse for us to grab the camper van. Anyway, Miss Jenkins has that out on a job."
"Do I want to know?"
"No, Johnny, you don't. Any chance of a cuppa?"
"Of course. Come on, I'll make you one," I replied, leading the way into the kitchen.
As we entered, Maddie's phone beeped. She removed it from her jacket pocket and read a message. "You’d better make a pot. That was Neal; he's just leaving the Belmont. Any news?"
"No, Dad and James are at the hospital with Arthur, but we've not heard anything."
"Who's James?" Maddie asked. "I don't think I've met him."
I thought about that for a moment, then realised that neither Neal nor Maddie would have met him.
"JayDee's father," I answered. "He's a consultant trauma surgeon out in Australia and here for Christmas. Bloody good job he’s still here; he probably saved Trevor's life."
I filled the kettle then put it on to boil, asking Joseph to go through to the study and find out if they wanted any drinks. It had just boiled when Neal rang the back doorbell. Joseph let him in.
My phone rang. I checked who was calling and saw it was Dad.
"Is Anne back yet?" he asked when I answered the call.
"I've been trying to call her," Dad said. "I keep getting her voicemail."
I thought that was unlike Mum, she hated missing a call, then I remembered. Jasmin had said her mum was taking her to the pictures. I bet they had all gone. They would have switched their phones off at the cinema. I told Dad what I thought.
"Damn!" Dad responded. "I wanted to let her know what had happened. I've had to leave a message on Bernard's voicemail; don't want to do that to Anne."
"How’s Trevor?" I asked.
"He's alive, which is all that can be said at the moment. James told me he had a seizure in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He's in a coma and has cerebral oedema. They have him in the operating theatre at the moment. James is performing a ventriculostomy. They need to drain fluid to relieve pressure on the brain."
"James is operating?"
"Yes, Peter was the physician on duty in A&E, and he asked James to assist. Turns out that James has done far more of these procedures than the surgical registrar on duty, so he was asked to perform it."
"When are you going to get back?" I enquired.
"Don't know. I'll have to hang on here until they tell me that I'm not needed. Where are Ben and Phil?"
"They are in the study with Uncle Bernard and Allen," I told Dad.
"Right, I'll phone them on the landline." With that he rang off. A moment later the landline rang. I answered it, then put Dad through to the study. All the time I was wondering why Dad might be needed at the hospital. Then it struck me; Dad was named on Trevor's advanced health directive. If they wanted to switch off the life-support system, Dad would have to consent.
Joseph got up from the table and came over to me by the phone.
"Come on, Johnny, sit down and have your tea." I was not sure I wanted tea. I was not sure if I wanted anything. For the first time since James had told me that Trevor was breathing, it struck me that he might not make it.
I had been sitting at the table, looking at my mug of tea when the back door burst open. Grandma walked in, not in a good mood by the looks of things.
"What's the effs going on here?" she demanded. "Some whippersnapper tried to stop me at the gate."
"What happened to him?" Neal asked.
"I used me handbag," Grandma replied, raising the weapon of the moment up for appreciation.
"Christ! I hope Greg's OK," Maddie commented. "I’d better go and check on him." With that she stood and left the kitchen. Neal contained a barely hidden snigger. Joseph pulled a chair out for Grandma. I took the hint and poured her a mug of tea.
"Right, which of you lads is going to tell me what's going on?"
"Trevor tried to hang himself this morning," I told her.
"The poor lad," Grandma said. "I knuw things were bad for him but dan’t knuw they be that bad."
"There was an article in the Sentinel this morning," Joseph informed her.
"Where's that lad of his?"
"He's at the hospital with him. They are operating," I told her.
"Right, lad, we need to get organised. Who's here and who's w’ere?"
I told her what I knew, though I wasn't sure where Mum was.
"They were going to Anne’s sister’s then on into Chelmsford to do some shopping, and Marcia was supposed to be joining them after she had visited her parents. They were going to see a film. Said they would be back about five-thirty," Grandma stated. I looked at the clock it was showing a bit before three thirty.
"Now, where is that husband of mine?" she asked.
I informed her, which resulted in Joseph and me being sent to the walled garden to get Grandad. Actually, I was sent; Joseph just said he'd come with me. We walked across the yard, through the top gate, and around the outbuildings in silence. Neither of us said anything until we rounded the end of the outbuildings and came in sight of the walled garden. From over the wall, we could hear the laughter of young voices, accompanied by the sound of hammering.
"They sound happy," Joseph said.
"I suppose they are," I replied.
We entered through the gate into the walled garden. About halfway down the garden, Grandad was standing, giving instructions to Tariq and JayDee, who it seemed were raking out soil in a raised bed. Jim was in the process of hammering together another raised bed; of Steven and Lee, there was no sign.
"Grandma sent me to fetch you," I told Grandad.
"And she sent two of you?"
"I just came along for the walk," Joseph said.
"More like to get out of our Flora's way," Grandad said. "Don't blame ‘ou lad, I'd done the same." For a moment he was quiet, then he looked up at the sky. "Lights going anyway, so we'd have to come in soon, might as well do so .
"Jim, when Lee and yurs com back we better finish off. ‘Ave to get in for the missus." e
Jim nodded his head, then looked up at the sky.
"Not going to be light enough to do much more," he commented.
"Yu'r right there, lad," Grandad said. "Now Johnny, get ‘ou back to yur Grandmother and tell her we'll be ten at the most."
I acknowledged receipt of the instruction and was just about to start back when Lee and Steven came into the garden by the far gate, both pushing barrows of earth.
"Where's that from?" I asked, looking at the barrows.
"The compost heap by the orchard," Grandad replied.
"What compost heap? What orchard?" I asked.
"I'll show ‘ou morrow," Grandad replied. "No time nu."
I got the message and started back towards the house. As we crossed the yard, Maddie and Neal passed us going in the other direction. Neal informed us they were going up to the server room to check things. When we got back, Grandma was not very happy about the fact Grandad was not with us. She wanted to know what he was doing. Joseph told her.
"The stupid git, he kens what this weather will do to 'is back," was her comment. She then told me to get the bed made up in the first-floor guest bedroom.
"Who for?" I asked.
"Arthur, of curs, I'll not be having him stuck over there worrying about his man. He can worry over here w’ere I can have me eye on him."
We went off to find the linen to make the bed up. I did think about texting Arthur and telling him to stay at the hospital.
By the time we got back down to the kitchen, Grandad was there with the boys. Grandma was giving both of them a mug of hot chocolate and giving Grandad her opinion on him taking them out in this weather.
"It's dry, woman," he said.
"It's ruddy cold, and them kids ain't dressed for weather this cold. They could catch their death of it out there."
"They be too busy, woman," Grandad replied. "They had work to do, and that kept them warm."
"And it got them dirty," Grandma observed. "Yu'd better get them cleaned up afore Tariq’s mother gets back."
"I'll sort it," Joseph said. "Come on, you two; drink your chocolate then get up to the apartment and shower and change." The boys drained their mugs then went off with Joseph, leaving me with Grandma, who was clearly in one of her I'm-taking-charge moods. Then again, Grandma was always taking charge.
I got down to helping her prep for dinner, though I kept an eye on the clock. Just after four I tried to ring Mum, but it went directly to voicemail. I had just finished trying Mum's number when the landline went. I answered it. It was Dad.
"How's Trev?" I asked.
"In recovery," Dad informed me. "The operation went without a hitch. They have him heavily sedated, and James says they will keep him sedated until they are sure there are no more complications."
"Are there likely to be?"
"I don't know," Dad stated. "I'm sure James will be able to tell us when he knows. Now can you put me through to Phil. I presume he is still using my study."
I put the call on hold, then went through to the study to tell Uncle Phil that Dad was on the line. Then I returned to the kitchen to put the call through, reminding myself I must learn how to hold a call and call an extension.
That done, I decided to try Mum again. This time it rang. On the fourth ring, she answered. I guessed by the sound of the car in the background that she was on the hands-free and probably driving.
"Mum, you need to come in from the Sidings Lane entrance; there are likely to be press out front."
"What's happened?" she asked.
"I'll tell you when you get here," I replied. "I am not going to have a long chat with you whilst you're driving."
"OK, we'll be about thirty minutes."
I rang off. I do not like to talk on the phone with either Mum or Dad when they are driving. They both have hands-free kits in their cars, but it is still not safe. There is always the chance that they may be distracted by the conversation, and it only takes a moment’s distraction to be fatal.
I got back to helping Grandma with the prep for dinner.
"You're goin' to 'ave to keep an eye on Arthur," Grandma stated, dropping another peeled spud into saucepan.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because he'll think he 'as failed Trevor. Mark me wurds, lad, that Arthur will blame himself."
Having made that statement, Grandma settled not into silence but into gentle, old show tunes that she hummed softly as she prepared veg. Having finished the pile of onions Grandma had instructed me to dice, I decided to make another round of tea and coffee for my uncles in the study. Partly this was because I thought they would probably need something, given all the talking they were doing. Mostly, it was so I could avoid being given another job by Grandma.
I went through to the study and collected the mugs and the tray. Uncle Phil confirmed they could do with another round of drinks, so I got to making them. Whilst the kettle boiled, I washed the mugs up in the utility-room sink, keeping out of Grandma's way.
When I took the drinks through to the study, Uncle Bernard kept asking me if I could go online and check what was being said on social media about Trevor. I told him I would and went up to my room to go online. Surprisingly I could find nothing about Trevor hanging himself anywhere online. It seems that the information about events had not leaked out. There was, though, a lot about the story of Trevor's involvement in child-porn films.
On the whole, though, most of the comments seemed to see Trevor as the victim. There was a lot of vitriol poured out in the direction of the paper that had printed the story. Most of the comments I read seemed to say that they had gone too far in their invasion of Trevor's private life.
I sent a whole pile of stuff to the network printer in the office, then went down to let Uncle Bernard know what it was that was churning out of the machine. When I got down there, they were discussing the fact that the Sentinel knew about Trevor trying to hang himself.
"Actually, that's not what they think," I pointed out as I poured the tea and coffee for them. "Steve said that the Sentinel had thought that Trevor had died when he hung himself."
"I hope they go ahead and publish on that basis," Uncle Bernard said.
"Why?" Uncle Ben asked.
"Because you can't defame the dead. So, if they think he is dead, they may well say something that will give us good grounds for defamation."
"I thought you said we already have that?" Uncle Phil said.
"We have grounds for defamation, but they are not good grounds," Uncle Bernard replied. "With a good brief and an unsympathetic judge and jury, they could probably wriggle out of it. I am sure we would win on the basis that he was libelled, but I am not sure we would get damages that would hurt them. However, if they think Trevor is dead, they may go and do something stupid. Though I would like to know how they knew he had tried to hang himself."
Why it had not occurred to me before, I do not know, but all of a sudden things fell into place.
"Uncle Bernard, did you listen to the voicemail Dad left for you?"
"No," he pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked at the screen. "There are no new voicemails."
My guess was right. Uncle Bernard's phone had been hacked. I told him what I suspected. Allen asked him to check his voicemails. He dialled the voicemail number and put the phone on speaker.
Welcome to voicemail, you have no unheard voicemails; you have three saved voicemails. To play your voicemail press one, to skip a voicemail press two, to delete a voicemail press three. Here are your messages…
The first one played was from Dad. It just said that Trevor had hanged himself. The next voicemail was from Joseph, repeating what Dad had said. There was a final voicemail from Aunty Debora reminding Uncle Bernard that he had to phone Aunt Ruth.
"Christ! I'd forgotten that. I’d better do it now; otherwise, there will be hell to pay. If you will excuse me this should only take about ten minutes." With that, he got up and left the study.
"If he's phoning Aunt Ruth, it's going to be more than ten minutes," Uncle Ben said. "Once she's got you on the phone you are stuck ‘til she decides to let you go."
"You can always hang up," Allen commented.
"On Aunt Ruth?" both uncles exclaimed.
"Point taken," Allen conceded. "It looks as if you were right, Johnny. Bernard's phone has been hacked. He will have to change his pin."
"I don't think he has got one on it," I said.
"Well, he bloody well should have. I'll get onto Manley at the Yard and let him know about this. Hacking a solicitor's phone when he is involved in an action against you is very unethical and certainly criminal. It's a pity we can't get them to print something on the basis that Trevor is dead."
That got me thinking. I left them discussing options and returned to the kitchen, grabbed my coat and told Gran that I was just going to check with Steve and Jim about the arrangements for New Year. Not that I needed to; I already knew they were going to Steve's aunt and uncle's tonight and would stay there till the first.
As I started to cross the yard, Mum drove in. I waited for her to get out of the car.
"What's going on, Johnny?" she asked as she got out.
"Trevor tried to hang himself this morning. Dad's at the hospital with Arthur and James."
"So, he's alive, then. We’d better get inside and you can tell me all."
"Can't at the moment, Mum. I need to catch Steven and Jim before they leave. Shouldn't be long. The uncles are all in the study, they can fill you in on everything." With that I set off at a bit of a run across the yard. I did not want to take the risk of her telling me that Steve and Jim could wait.
When I got to the walled garden, there was no sign of anyone, and there was no light in the potting shed. For a moment I thought I had missed them, then realised that Jim's van was still at the side of the walled garden, so they were still here. Probably in Steven's apartment. I hoped Steven was just packing for New Year and they were not up to anything else.
I walked back up the driveway to the outbuildings. Steven had the studio apartment at this end of the range of buildings. I went up the stairs and knocked on the door at the top. Jim opened it and invited me in. I could hear the sound of the shower running. As I entered, it switched off.
"Steven's just showering," Jim informed me. "We needed to get cleaned up before we went over to his aunt's."
"And you're not sharing a shower?" I asked.
"Not bloody big enough," Steven stated, stepping out of the shower room and into the bedsit. He had a towel around his waist and was towelling off his hair.
"So, you've tried?"
"Of course, we bloody tried. We tried the first time Jim stayed over. It was no go. The thing is barely big enough for one, let alone two.
"Anyway, what can we do for you? I don't think you've come over just to gloat over my body." Steven pulled open a drawer and removed some underwear. "Give me a mo; I'll be right back." With that he stepped back into the shower room.
"He normally gives me a display when he's dressing," Jim said.
"Sorry I deprived you of it."
"Any news on Trevor?"
"They had to operate to reduce the pressure in his skull," I told Jim. "Dad phoned and said the operation was successful and that they were keeping Trevor sedated for the time being."
Jim nodded. Steven stepped back out of the shower room wearing a black vest and pants, both of which were somewhat on the tight side and displayed his body very well.
"Now I'm back, you can tell us what it is you want," he said as he started to dress.
I explained what had happened and the paper having found out about Trevor hanging himself. What they did not know was whether he was alive or dead. Steven caught on quickly to what I had in mind; it took a bit of explanation to get Jim to understand, but when he did, he just smiled.
Between them they agreed that Steven would take the van and go out the back way. He would meet Jim later at the Crooked Man. Once Steven had had time to get around to the pub, Jim would walk out via the front gates.
"The only thing that worries me is they might claim we set them up," I said.
"That's exactly what we are doing," Jim pointed out.
"We could do with some way of proving they misunderstood what was said."
"Then record it," Steven stated.
"Jim's always walking around with that dictaphone of his. He keeps it to make notes on when he is out and about. If he started to make a note on it just before he got to the gate, then it would be on when any press spoke to him."
"That would work," Jim stated. "And that forsythia down by the gate does need pruning. I can make a note about that."
Ten minutes later, Steven drove off in the van. I walked with Jim down the drive towards the front of the house.
"Thanks for doing this, Jim."
"No bother. That fucking paper needs to be taken for a ride after what they've done to Trevor. He's a nice kid."
At the corner of the house, I left Jim to walk down to the Crooked Man, hopefully getting cornered by the press on the way.
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