"Is that so, Abraham Holzstein?" Aunt Sarah said. "Can you tell me where it says that?"
"The book of Vayikra condemns it," Joseph's grandfather said, a smile appearing on his face for the first time today. "It says that it is an abomination."
"Is that so?" commented Aunt Sarah. "Rabbi Aaron, would you read it as such?"
"It is not that easy to say what is being condemned," the young rabbi answered. "Although it is often read as a condemnation of homosexuality, there are those who read it as a condemnation of pederasty. In Devarim, it is made clear that Jewish boys and girls should not serve as temple prostitutes. The word in Vayikra that is generally translated as abomination can also be translated as something which we do not do. That may, in fact, be a better interpretation of the words."
"Well, Michael, you are probably the most fluent person in Hebrew here, so how would you interpret the words?" Aunt Ruth asked my father.
"I wouldn't," Dad replied. "Those words will keep half a dozen rabbis in debate for more time than the lifetime of the universe."
There was a smattering of concealed laugher around the room.
Aunt Ruth then looked across at Aunt Debora.
"Debora LeBrun, how long have you suspected your son was gay?"
"Since he was eleven or twelve," Aunt Debora replied.
"And you told nobody?"
"I told my mother," Aunt Debora stated. "We had a long talk about it."
"When was this?" Aunt Ruth asked.
"Just after his twelfth birthday," Aunt Debora replied.
"Judith Holzstein, did your daughter tell you about your grandson three years ago?"
"Yes, Aunt Ruth," Joseph's grandmother answered.
"And did you tell your husband what your daughter had told you?"
"Of course, I did."
"What did he say?"
"That it didn't matter so long as it was not Micah."
Aunt Ruth smiled.
"So, Abraham Holzstein, your grandson being gay did not matter to you three years ago, so long as it was not Micah. I wonder what changed. Was it the fact that Micah found himself a bride and got married?"
Joseph's grandfather stayed silent, though the look on his face indicated that he was not very happy.
"Micah LeBrun, what do you know about this?" Aunt Ruth asked.
"Only that Granddad made sure I met Leah whenever I went to his house. He said she would be a good bride for me."
"So, your grandfather had lined up Leah Aronowitz to be your bride?"
"Yes, Aunt Ruth. He kept telling me that I should marry her, that she was a good catch."
"But you married Bethany?"
"Yes, Aunt Ruth, she's a far better catch."
"How can she be, she's got nothing?" Joseph's grandfather snapped.
"I am sure she has everything Micah needs, Abraham Holzstein," Aunt Ruth stated. "Though not apparently what you need. Why should you want your grandsons to marry one of the Aronowitz daughters?"
She paused. Her face seemed to light up as if it had just come to an understanding.
"Is it because Shimon Aronowitz only has daughters?" Aunt Ruth asked. "Is that what is behind all of this? I understand that you have already betrothed your other grandchild Ari to Hannah, the youngest of the Aronowitz girls. Why was it so urgent that you had to marry off your other grandchild to the older girl?"
"Yes, why, Daddy?" Aunt Debora asked.
"Why? Why?" voices throughout the room echoed.
Joseph's grandfather looked uncomfortable.
"Let us list what facts we know," Aunt Sarah stated. The room went quiet. "Abraham Holzstein set out in face of tradition to arrange a marriage between his eldest grandson, Micah LeBrun, and Leah Aronowitz. He did this without consulting with Micah's father or with Isaac LeBrun, the acknowledged head of the family.
"When that failed with Micah, you turned your attention to Joseph, even though you knew he was gay. You were prepared to force him into a marriage that would be no marriage at all. Why?"
"I just wanted him to have good prospects, to have access to wealth," Joseph's grandfather replied.
Aunt Ruth laughed.
"Abraham Holzstein, you are a stupid man. What benefit could come from Joseph marrying Leah? The fact that Shimon Aronowitz is a traditionalist and would not pass on his business to his daughters? No, he would pass it to his sons-in-law. You wanted to get control of his business through your grandsons. What is it worth? A chain of what, five or six pawn brokers? One or two million at the most; they do not own any of the properties they trade from. In fact, you own at least four of them."
Joseph's grandfather just nodded.
"And you looked to control the Aronowitz business through your grandsons, did you not?"
"Of course, I did," Abraham Holzstein snapped. "I wanted them to have wealth, to have independence to have— "
Aunt Ruth burst out laughing, Joseph's grandfather just looked at her puzzled.
"You stupid man!" she exclaimed. "You wanted wealth for your grandsons. What made you think they needed it?"
"Their father is a solicitor," Joseph's grandfather stated. "I had to pay their school fees."
"You paid their school fees because you wanted to," Aunt Ruth responded. "Did you every bother to enquire about who your son-in-law was? Did it ever enter your mind that he might be wealthier that you were or that he may have made provisions for his sons?"
There was silence from Joseph's grandfather.
"No, I don't suppose you did. Then, let me tell you some facts, Abraham Holzstein. For all your self-importance, you are worth what, five or six million. Maybe you could be up to seven million on a good day. Yes, you own all that student housing around Manchester; you also own some shops and commercial properties. Their combined value is what twenty, maybe thirty million. However, they are all mortgaged up to hilt. I doubt if ten or twenty percent of that lot is available to you after charges.
"Let me tell you now: both Micah and Joseph have a net worth well in excess of what you hold. Their father, a mere solicitor, is worth more than all your property holdings put together. Even your daughter, with her cookbooks, generates more income than you do."
"Abraham Holzstein, you are a pitiful man. Your greed led you to breaking the traditions in which your family raised you. Your ambition led you to acting in a way that resulted in the breakup of your daughter's marriage."
"She could have done better for herself," Joseph's grandfather shouted.
"Do you think so? I somewhat doubt it," Aunt Ruth responded. "Debora, have you told your father what your husband is worth? Have you told him what you're worth in your own right?"
"No, Aunt Ruth," Aunt Debora replied.
"Then, I think you should. In the meantime, I think we could all do with a break and some refreshment."
I do not know how they knew, but within a few moments of Aunt Ruth calling for an intermission in proceedings, hotel staff were entering with plates of food that were being placed on the row of tables down the side of the room. Pots of tea and jugs of coffee followed, which were also placed on the tables. While people were helping themselves to the refreshments, I sought out the old man who had spoken about the yacht. When I found him, I asked if he was Manny Goldberg.
"I am, young man," he replied. "Why?"
"I was told I should speak to you. I have recently acquired ownership of a yacht that I think you may have some knowledge of."
"You must be joking; I avoid boats like the plague. Only ever took one trip on a boat in my life. I never want to repeat it."
"That trip was on The Lady Ann," I stated.
He looked at me, then nodded. "Yes, that was the boat. How did you know the name?"
"I just bought it and am going to be restoring it."
"It still exists?"
"Yes, it does. I own it. Now, I want to find out all about it. That includes its history."
"Well, I can only tell you part of it—actually just two days of its history. I would, though, like to do it. Now, unfortunately, is not the time."
We talked a bit more, and it was agreed that after Easter, once The Lady Ann was safely at the yard, he would come down and tell me about it. He told me that he would get his great nephew to bring him.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Bernard, of course."
"You're Bernard's uncle?"
"Actually, I think I'm his great uncle." I must have looked puzzled, as he continued. "I'm the youngest of five children who survived infancy. My parents married young, as was the way in those days. My mother was sixteen when my eldest sister was born. She is thirty years my senior, and she was Bernard LeBrun's maternal grandmother. Another of my sisters is Abraham Holzstein's mother, the third is the lady you call Aunt Ruth. She and my brother Daniel both survived the camps. I was lucky, I escaped from Holland when the Germans invaded. My two married sisters and I spent the war in England. As such, I did not know the horrors the others faced."
"I've no doubt you faced your own," I said, not knowing why I said that.
"We all face our own horrors over time," Manny Goldberg replied. "Now we’d better get some food before it all goes."
Some twenty minutes later, Aunt Ruth banged her stick on the floor, indicating that we should retake our seats. When we did, I noticed that Joseph's grandfather, his grandmother and the rabbi who was with them were not there. I pointed this out to Joseph.
"I suspect he does not want to be humiliated more," Joseph commented.
That, I could understand.
Once everybody had settled down, Aunt Ruth gave a summing up of what had transpired so far today.
"As you can see, Abraham Holzstein has left this meeting. I think we can agree that his purpose in trying to marry his grandsons off to the daughters of Shimon Aronowitz was simply a means for him to get control of the Aronowitz businesses."
There was a murmur of agreement throughout the room.
"Now, my great niece and nephew, Debora and Bernard married in a civil wedding — in something of a rush as I recall. As such there is no ketubah that sets the terms for their marriage and for their separation. I suggest this needs to be rectified. First though, they must decide if they wish to continue their marriage or if they wish to separate."
Now, it seemed that every relative of Aunt Debora or Uncle Bernard had the right to have their say. At the end of over an hour's discourse, Aunt Ruth spoke.
"Well, Bernard LeBrun, what is it you want?"
"I want my Debora back with me but as a member of my family, not an extension of her father's."
"Debora LeBrun, would you agree with that?" Aunt Ruth asked.
Aunt Debora was silent for a moment. She looked across the room at the table where Uncle Bernard and her sons sat. Then she nodded as she made her reply. "Yes."
"Then let the rabbis write a ketubah for you, and when you sign it, we can celebrate."
Uncle Bernard stood up and walked across to Aunt Debora. He held out his hand to her. She took it and stood. As she did, a cry erupted from those still present in the room, "Mazel tov!"
It was some three hours later that we actually got out of the room. Somehow, a laptop computer and printer appeared, and Rabbi Miriam and Rabbi Arron sat at a table on either side of the operator, telling her what to type, delete or alter. Soon they had a document which both Uncle Bernard and Aunt Debora read and then signed. The rabbis witnessed it. Joseph tried to tell me what was going on, but I failed to understand half of what he was telling me.
All of a sudden, somebody was playing an accordion and somebody else a violin. What had been a tense and solemn event suddenly turned into a party, one where it seemed it was perfectly acceptable for me to dance with my boyfriend.
It was gone ten when we left. The party was still going strong, when we got ready to leave. As we were leaving Aunt Ruth came up to Dad who told her that he had a recording session to do in the morning, so needed an early night. That was news to me.
Michael, thank you for all that you did," she said. Dad just bowed and nodded his head.
"What did you do?" I asked, once we were out on Park Lane.
"I briefed Aunt Ruth on Abraham Woodstone's wealth and how little it actually was. You know something that is really funny?"
"Not only are Joseph and Micah both richer than he is, even I'm richer than he is."
I looked at my father puzzled.
"Johnny, the house overlooking the Heath that Ben and I jointly own is worth more than twice Joseph's grandfather's whole property empire’s net worth. Add my half to what the Golders Green property is worth, and I am worth more than Joseph's grandfather."
"Dad, you’re worth more than him without the property."
Dad's phone pinged, letting him know that there was a text. He asked me to check it. It was from Uncle Ben saying he and Uncle Phil would be over late tomorrow afternoon.
Monday morning, I slept in a bit. Well, there was no college; most classes were closed for the Easter vacation. Oh, there were one or two things going on, like some exams, but nothing that involved me till Wednesday when I had my woodwork practical. Even so, I was up and dressed by eight-thirty, so I was sitting in the kitchen finishing my breakfast when Jan phoned and asked to speak to Dad about a problem at the craft and arts centre. I had to inform her that Dad was off doing a recording this morning and would not be back till early afternoon. I then assured her that Dad would be back by three, as I knew he had a conference call booked for then, so suggested she called round to see him around four. That agreed, I put a note to that effect on the notice board. Then I thought about it and went and put a Post-It on his monitor, telling him to read the note on the notice board.
Lee had gone to the studio with Dad, and I knew that Steven and Jim would not be around. They were leaving early this morning to drive up to Warwick. A nursery up there was closing down. Jim had told me that their lease had expired and the landowners wanted the site for a building plot. A lot of their stock, tools and equipment were up for auction this afternoon. Jim had borrowed the Luton from his father for the day so they could bring a good load back with them, if necessary.
I could have spent the day revising for my practical exam, but I took the view that if I did not know how to do the work now, another day reading textbooks was not going to help. A day helping in the yard might result in me learning something. So, I got on my moped and rode over to the yard. The good thing about the moped is I could use the footpaths and footbridges through the marsh and was not stuck with waiting for the tides to open the causeway or going all around Long Creek to get to the chain ferry. However, the moped meant that I could go a lot quicker than I did on my bicycle, so I took the easy option and followed the main road around till it turned into Marsh Road. Then I crossed the footbridge at the back of the Salvage Yard and onto High Marsh Lane, which ran down to the yard. I know it put about five miles onto the journey, but there was no way I could keep any speed up on the marsh footpaths, so it was probably quicker this way.
Steve was surprised to see me when I arrived at the yard. He had not expected me to come in till the end of the week. I did, though, have one good reason for coming in. Dad had got spare copies of the Salvage Yard keys made, so I gave a set to Steve for his use. After all, he would need them to store The Lady Ann there whilst I was away and to store the barge.
"We really should go and have a look at what you own," Steve stated.
"What about the yard?" I asked.
"Oh, Bran can cover for a bit; we're not busy."
"Sorry, Johnny, I forgot you've not met him." Steve poked his head out of the office window and shouted for Bran to come to the office. About a minute or so later, a young man — I guessed he was mixed race and in his early twenties — entered.
"Bran, this is Johnny; he works here part-time. Though, be nice to him; he owns the Salvage Yard, and if things go to plan, will soon own part of this yard. Johnny, this is Bran Jefferies. He's worked here in the past but abandoned me last year."
Just then the phone rang. Steve answered it. It quickly became clear that it was Bob on the phone. Steve asked him to hold.
"Sorry, Johnny, I'm going to be tied up for a bit with this call. Why don't you take Bran with you to the Salvage Yard? He will probably be working there most of the time with Katherine."
I told Steve I would and then asked Bran if he wanted to come and look at the yard. He agreed, so we left the office and exited the yard onto High Marsh Lane, then walked the half mile or so up to the footbridge. There, we turned and followed the path down to the Salvage Yard.
"Steve said you own this," Bran said as I unlocked the gate.
"To be honest, I'm not sure," I replied. "It was for sale, and it seemed a good idea to keep it out of Elmchurch hands."
"George Hamden's family."
"Oh, you mean, George Jr.," Bran stated. "Fucking bastard. Dad was at school with him and says he was a right bully. It’s because of him I wasn't able to help Steve last year."
"Why? What happened?"
"Bastard accused me of raping his daughter and getting her pregnant. She went along with the allegation, though knowing him, she probably had no choice. I was on remand for most of last year; did not get out till October when the kid was born."
"How did that get you out?" I asked.
"It wasn't mine. DNA showed that I was not the father. Also, by then, my solicitors had got the forensic report on my phone from the police. That showed there were suggestive messages from the daughter. There were also a couple of explicit videos she had sent me. When it all came out, the prosecution offered no evidence at the trial, and the judge ordered a verdict of not guilty."
Once inside the yard, I locked the entrance gate behind us. Did not want anybody just wandering in. Unlike Steve's yard, where the back fence was close to the back of the boat sheds, here there was a wide gap, a couple of hundred metres at least, between the gate and the back of the boatsheds. Along one side of the space was a row made up of a mix of sheds and shipping containers. On the opposite side were a number of partly dismembered hulls.
One thing that puzzled me about the set of keys that Dad had given me was the large number of small keys that were on the key ring. Each had a number painted on it. Now, they made sense. Each of the sheds and shipping containers was fastened shut with a padlocked bar. There was a number on each of the padlocks. My guess was that the number on the padlock matched the number on the key for it. I tried a couple of the locks, and I was correct. Each of the containers we opened held stacks of wood.
"Old decking probably," Bran speculated. "I'm surprised Uncle Dicky did not sell it off before selling the yard."
"Uncle Dicky?" I asked.
"Richard Phillips, the chap who owned this yard. He's a friend of my grandparents. I've always called him Uncle Dicky."
"I'm surprised you didn't work here," I commented.
"Used to when I was at school. Came down at weekends and most of my holidays and gave Uncle Dicky a hand breaking up boats. Was more interested in building them though. So, when I left school, got a summer job with George Hamden."
"Only a summer job?"
"Yes, old George said he could not afford an apprentice but took me on for the summer and taught me what he could. In the winter, I crewed where I could. Came back to the yard each summer. Done that for eight years until last year."
We walked down to the boatsheds. The setup was a bit strange; there were three slipways but only two boatsheds. I commented on this.
“The third slipway was used to bring in boats for breaking,” Bran informed me. When I thought about it, it made sense. They could bring the boat in on the tide and line it up over the slipway. Then pull it up. From there it could be transported to the breaking area.
I unlocked the first boatshed, and we went in. It was in a right mess.
"Christ!" Bran exclaimed. "This is a mess. No wonder Uncle Dicky wanted to get rid of the yard."
"I'm surprised he allowed it to get into such a state," I commented.
"Had no choice," Bran informed me. "He had a heart attack a couple of years ago. The couple of lads who were working for him took over the running of the yard. Turned out they were ripping him off big time, so he just closed the place down."
"Steve's not going to be happy; he wanted to put the barge in one of the sheds. If the other shed is anything like this, that's going to be out of the question."
"We’d better check."
We did and it was. Once we had confirmed how bad things were, we made our way back to Steve's yard to give him the news.
"Well, I knew it was in a bad way — Dicky Boy told me — but I did not know it was that bad," he admitted when we gave him the information. He sat and thought for a moment. "Bran, do you know any lads who need work?"
Bran confirmed that he knew a few.
"Right, get a team together to sort the boatsheds and slipways out. We need them operational in two weeks. Can it be done?"
"Don't see it being a problem, but it will need money; best if it were cash in hand."
"It will be, Bran, though I will need a few days to get it together. Why don't you take an early lunch and see if you can find anybody who can start today?"
Bran nodded and left the office. A couple of minutes later, I heard the sound of a motorcycle starting up, then revving away. Steve phoned Bob and told him that we had hit a problem and needed some cash up front to get the slipway ready to receive The Princess of Alba. Bob must have asked how much; Steve told him ten grand, a figure that Bob must have agreed to as Steve was nodding to himself as he put the phone down.
"Johnny, can you do a job for me?" Steve asked.
"Take a spare padlock and the cordless angle grinder and go down to the Nase and cut the lock off the storage bunker. Replace it with a lock we've got a key to. Don't go into the bunker, I need to get that place checked out first to see if it is safe.
"You better take Colin with you. Somebody will have to hold the lock steady whilst you cut through the hasp."
"Better take some heavy gloves, then," I commented, thinking of the sparks that the grinder would generate.
"And the long-nose pincers to hold it in," Steve suggested. "Use the runabout to get there." He opened the desk drawer and pulled out a set of keys which he threw over to me.
I nodded, then went to look for Colin. He was where Steve had told me he would be, greasing the second slipway. A messy job but one which has to be done from time to time.
"You can leave that," I told him. "Steve's got another job for us to do."
He looked up from where he was brushing grease onto the slipway slider.
"We have to change the padlock on the blockhouse over on the Nase."
"So, Steve can check what is in there," I replied. "He does not have a key for it, so needs the lock changed."
"If he does not have a key, how are we going to change the lock?"
"Angle grinder," I informed him.
I showed Colin where to put the grease bucket and brushes he had been using. Apparently, Bran had got them when they started the job. Then we went to the tool store. I did not know if Steve had given Colin the combination to the store, so made a point of standing in such a way that he could not see the numbers I was pressing on the number lock. Once inside the store, I selected some heavy gloves for both of us, a pair of long-handled, long-nose pincers and the cordless angle grinder, putting the whole lot in a tool bag. I had already grabbed a battery pack from the office, where they were kept on charge, which I added to the bag. Then I gave it to Colin to carry.
Once I had locked everywhere up, I led Colin down to the boathouse. Actually, calling it a boathouse was an overstatement. It was more a tin roof on six supports that spanned a small inlet from Long Creek. The two sides of the inlet had been quayed sometime in the past — by the look of it, long in the past — forming a dock on each side of the inlet. However, the end of the inlet was just a muddy bank some six feet back from the end of the roofed section. There were no walls.
It may not be much of a boathouse, but at least it kept the rain off whatever was moored there. At the moment, that comprised a small speedboat that Steve had bought with the intention of reselling, though he had not decided yet when to resell it. I think he was having too much fun with it. There was an old rowboat, half full of water, which Steve told me I should have a go at restoring. Then there was the runabout.
"What're we doing here?" Colin asked.
"Going to the Nase," I replied, climbing down into the runabout. "Pass me the bag and I'll get the engine started while you get ready to cast off."
There was a murmur of a response. I turned and looked at Colin. He was standing there, clasping the tool bag close to his chest, like a shield before him. His face was white, his body shaking. He was rooted to the spot. I climbed out onto the dock.
"Colin. Colin. What is it?" I shouted. He seemed to cower before me. This was beyond me. I needed some help.
I pulled out my phone then realised that was a waste of time. There was no signal out here. Then I remembered my whistle that was fastened on my key chain. Dad had given it to me when I first started at the yard. He said it was for emergencies. This was an emergency. I pulled it out and gave three sharp blasts on the whistle.
Well, it had some effect. Colin sort of sunk down onto the ground. It also brought Steve running, running down through the yard towards the boathouse. When he entered, he looked at Colin, who was now in a foetal position on the ground, then at me.
"I don't know. I got into the boat and told him to pass me the bag and get ready to cast off and…well, he just went funny."
Steve was kneeling next to Colin. "Give me a hand to get him up and back to the office."
The two of us together managed to get Colin to his feet, then we walked him back to the office, where we placed him in one of the armchairs in the tearoom. By the time we got back there, Colin seemed a bit more with it, though only a bit; he was still clutching the tool bag to his chest. It reminded me of a frightened kid with a teddy bear. Then it hit me, Colin was terrified. Something down at the boathouse had terrified him.
I was about to say something to Steve, but he was not there; he was in the main office on the phone to somebody. So, I put the kettle on, working on the principle that a good hot mug of tea was a solution to a lot of things. The kettle was just boiling when he came back into the room.
"Good idea," he stated as I started to make the tea. "I've called Doctor Nygyra; he's coming over."
I made the tea, put a pile of sugar in a mug, a dash of milk and filled it with tea strong enough to strip paint. Then I put the mug on the low table in front of where Colin was sitting.
"Have a drink of that," I told him. He just sat there; it was as if he did not hear me or see me — or the tea. He was still clutching the tool bag. Steve came over, knelt beside the chair that Colin was in and placed a hand on Colin's shoulder.
"Colin, let Johnny take the bag, and then you can drink your tea," he said gently. For a moment I thought Colin had not heard him, but then Colin pushed the bag a bit forward. I took hold of it and slowly moved it away from him. Once I had got it clear, I took the bag and went to place it in the office. I was just doing so when Bran came back.
He was about to say something when I indicated he should stay silent and then step out of the office. I followed him. Once outside, I told Bran what was going on.
"Shit! Probably a good job I could not get anybody to work today, though I have a team of four coming in tomorrow to start sorting the slipways out," he told me. "Tell Steve I'll cover the yard and the chandlery and give me a call if you need me."
I thanked Bran and then went back into the office building. As I did, I saw Bran going down to steps into the chandlery below. I had not thought to offer him a tea or coffee, but there were tea- and coffee-making facilities in there. When I got back into the tearoom, I saw that Colin had picked up the mug of tea and was sipping it. Well, at least it was keeping his hands warm.
"Can you keep an eye out for Doctor Nygyra, Johnny?" Steve asked. I told him I would and returned to the main office. From there, I could look out over the yard and also look down High Marsh Lane, though I did not know what I was looking for. I had no idea if the doctor would come over the chain ferry with his car and drive down High Marsh Lane or if he would leave the car at the parking area and walk down.
What I was not prepared for was a fairly powerful motorcycle coming down the track at some speed. It pulled up at the back of the yard. The rider climbed off and came to the yard gate and rang the bell. I went and opened the gate.
"I'm Doctor Nygyra. Steve Johnson called me," he stated as he removed his helmet.
I showed the doctor into the tearoom. Steve thanked me and then asked if I could phone Bob and say that he was tied up this afternoon but would call him tomorrow. I said I would, then went and called Bob. Once I had told him that Steve was busy this afternoon but would call the next day, Bob started to ask me about my plans for The Lady Ann. I told him that until I got her here, I really could not make any plans about her. He laughed and informed me that was probably a good approach. He admitted he always made plans for the vessels he purchased and always had to scrap them when he got the boats to the restorers.
I finished the call to Bob, then wondered what I should do. I really did not feel I should go into the tearoom, but I felt that I should do something. The voice of the doctor talking to Colin was barely audible to me in the office. Then the voices got louder and more distinct.
"Look, Steve, he's had a bad panic attack," the doctor said. "From what I can make out, he is terrified of being in a boat on water. Why, I cannot make out. However, being told to get in the boat triggered it. I've given him a mild sedative, but he really needs to see a psychologist as soon as possible. The thing is, youth mental care is pretty limited these days, and it will be months before his GP could get him seen. I really don't like doing it, but I think the best thing I could do is get him sectioned. Any idea who his GP is?"
"Actually, it's your wife," Steve answered. "He had to put the details of his GP on the application form in case we needed a medical."
"I’d better phone her."
"Wait!" I shouted. "What if I can get a psychologist for him."
"How?" Doctor Nygyra asked.
"My uncle is a psychologist, and I know he is on his way over to Dunford this afternoon; hopefully he should be close by. I could ask him to help."
"The problem is that there are no funds to pay for private treatment," the doctor stated.
"Uncle Ben works on a voluntary basis for a number of charities. I know he does some youth work. I can call him and ask him. Must be better than shoving Colin in some loony bin."
I called Uncle Ben. Fortunately, he answered, and it turned out he was not far away. In fact, he was in Southmead. I gave him an outline of what had happened and told him what the doctor had said. Uncle Ben asked if the doctor was still there. When I said yes, he asked to speak with him, so I handed the phone to Doctor Nygyra. What followed sounded like complete gobbledegook to me, but no doubt made sense to Uncle Ben. Then it seemed that the doctor was asking about Uncle Ben's qualifications. He ended the call and put the phone down.
"He says he will be here in fifteen minutes," Doctor Nygyra stated.
"I’d better make some tea," I said. "Then I'll go and help Bran."
"Probably a good idea," Steve commented. "By the way, where was he?"
"Southmead, at the airfield."
"That's fifteen plus miles from here. You are sure he said fifteen minutes, doctor?"
"Steve, he's in the Maserati, and this is a medical emergency; he has an excuse to speed," I pointed out.
"He must have a good practice to be able to afford one of those," Doctor Nygyra commented.
"Oh, he does not practice professionally as a psychologist these days. He only does that on a voluntary basis when he is not filming," I stated. The doctor looked puzzled. I went and made the tea.
Either I was slower making the tea than I thought, or Uncle Ben had seriously broken the speed limit. He must also have come across the causeway even though the tide was starting to come in. He could never have made it in the time he did if he had used the chain ferry. However, he arrived at the yard before I had finished making the tea. That is not quite right; I had made the tea but had not yet finished pouring it when he came into the office. I finished pouring the tea and then introduced Uncle Ben to Doctor Nygyra.
"But you're Ben Carlton!" the doctor exclaimed.
"I would certainly hope so."
"But you're an actor."
"I know, but before I was an actor, I was a psychologist specialising in youth psychology. I am still registered and undertake work for a number of charities when I am not on a shoot."
The doctor and Uncle Ben then entered into something of a technical conversation. I poured another mug of tea for Uncle Ben and handed it to him. Then I took a mug through to Colin, who was still sitting in the armchair in the tearoom. Why we call it the tearoom, I do not know. All the tea-making stuff is in the kitchen off the main office. This is just an area where we can sit around and enjoy a cuppa and have our lunch.
Colin seemed to be a lot better. At least, he was more relaxed. When I took the mug of tea through to him, he started to apologise to me.
"Colin, you've got nothing to apologise for," I told him. "Something I did or said triggered a reaction in you. You could not help it; I could not help it; it just happened. Now we need to make sure it does not happen again."
"How?" he asked, somewhat pathetically.
"Well, my uncle is here to have a talk with you. He should be able to help you."
"Among other things, he's a psychologist," I told Colin.
Just then Uncle Ben came into the tearoom. Colin took one look at him and gasped, spilling some of his tea.
"I hope I don't have that effect on all my clients," Uncle Ben said, taking a seat in the chair next to Colin.
"But you're Ben Carlton."
"Yes, Doctor Nygyra pointed that out to me. I did point out to him that before I was an actor, I was a psychologist. Actually, I still am and work for a couple of youth charities when I am not filming. Doctor Nygyra has asked me to have a word with you and see if I can help at all."
"Why should you help me?" Colin asked.
"It helps me pass the time when I am not working on a film," Uncle Ben quipped. Colin laughed.
I got up and left Uncle Ben talking with Colin. When I got to the office, there was no sign of Steve or the doctor. Though shortly after I got to the office, the location of the doctor was solved. The sound of a high-powered motorcycle starting up came from the back of the yard. A moment later, I heard it roar off up High Marsh Lane. Shortly after, Steve came back into the office.
"One of these days he's going to kill himself on that machine," Steve commented as he closed the office door.
"I'm surprised he doesn't have a car," I commented.
"He does. Actually, he has three, and his wife has one. Mostly, he rides the motorcycle when he is on duty. Claims he can get out to his patients quicker on that than if he was in a car."
Thinking about it, he was probably right. On the motorbike, he would be able to get to a lot of places using the narrow tracks and footbridges that crisscrossed the marshes and inlets along the coast.
I told Steve I would go down to the chandlery and give Bran a break. However, once I got down there, I found that Bran did not need a break. Apparently, things had been very quiet, so much so that Bran was busy making some rope fenders. He asked me how things were going up above. So, I told him what was going on.
"Ben Carlton's here?" he asked.
"Any chance I could meet him?"
I looked at the clock and saw it was only twenty minutes before the chandlery was supposed to close, so told Bran to go up to the office when we closed up. Out of season during the week, if the chandlery is open, which it is not most days, we only open from ten to twelve, then one-thirty to three. At three o'clock, I put up the closed sign. Bran told me to go up to the office, that he would lock up. Not that that would take long. There had been no sales today, though there had been some enquiries.
When I got back to the office, Steve was not in sight. Uncle Ben was still talking with Colin, so I thought it best to stay in the office, a thought quickly dismissed when Uncle Ben called me into the tearoom.
"Johnny, do you think your dad would mind if I made use of the library for a bit?" he asked.
"I'll phone him and ask," I replied, knowing full well that Dad would be home by now. I phoned and gave him a brief explanation of what had happened and that Uncle Ben wanted to use the library for a bit. Dad said he bet Ben wanted it as a consulting room. I told him I thought he was correct. That, as far as Dad was concerned, was not a problem.
I went through and told Uncle Ben that there was no problem using the library. He then asked me to stay with Colin as he needed to have a word with Steve. I told him that Steve was not in the office.
"I know, he took a customer to look at something in Boatshed 2. Said I would find him there if I needed him."
"Be careful you don't get mobbed on your way there. Bran, who is in the chandlery at the moment, is a fan. He wants to meet you."
"I'm here now," Bran called out. He had just arrived in the office.
Uncle Ben told me to make sure that somebody was with Colin, then spoke briefly with Bran before going off to find Steve. Bran settled down in the office, looking at the worksheets for the week, not that there was much work booked in. I, therefore, was left to be with Colin. I went and sat down in the chair next to him. He seemed a bit more with it now, though it was clear that he had been crying, and he was still very upset.
I asked him if he wanted anything—tea, coffee? I think we even had some hot-chocolate powder so I could do that as well. Colin declined. He seemed about to break down again, so I asked what was wrong.
"I've really fucked up," he stated. "They'll put me inside."
"No, they won't," I told him. "That's why I got Uncle Ben over, so he can get you some help without you having to be sectioned."
"No, it's probation who will put me inside. They told me that if I did not get a job, they would breach me."
I was lost, having no idea what Colin was talking about. Fortunately, Bran must have heard; he came through from the office.
"What did you get?" he asked Colin.
"Two years suspended for eighteen months, with an eighteen-month probation order."
Bran just nodded.
"What does that mean?" I asked. I might know a lot about the law, but I do not know much about sentencing.
"What it means is he is under probation for eighteen months. Any time during that eighteen months, if he breaches any of his probation requirements, he can be breached, and the two-year sentence will be activated," Bran told me.
"My offender manager said I had to get a job or she would breach me. Now I've lost this, so I'll get breached."
"Colin, has Steve fired you?" I asked. Intending to have a word with Steve if he had.
"No buts. Until Steve fires you, you still have a job. Bran, can you stay with Colin for a bit? I need to talk to Steve."
Bran nodded. I went out into the yard, looking for Steve. Uncle Ben and he were standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the office, talking.
"Can I have a word, Steve?" I asked.
"Yes, we're just about finished, aren't we, Ben?"
Uncle Ben confirmed they were.
"What's up?" Steve asked me.
"It's Colin's job. Are you going to fire him?"
"Well, it will be a bit difficult for him to work in the boatyard if he is as scared of water as he appears to be," Steve pointed out.
"I don't think he is scared of water," I replied. "This morning he was greasing up the slipway slider and was right by the water, and there was no problem.
"Look, Steve, if Colin loses this job, he is going to be in a right mess. At least, keep him on till this is sorted. I'll cover his wages if needed. He can work on sorting out the storage units at the back of the Salvage Yard; that's well away from water."
"Could you afford that?" Steve inquired.
"Yes," I replied. "He's only on basic, and what are his hours, minimum?"
"I've only signed him for a minimum ten hours a week guaranteed; everything else is extra. Why is it important?"
"Because he is on probation, and if he breaches his probation, he will have to serve his suspended sentence," I informed Steve. "Having a job is one of the conditions of this probation."
"Fuck. I knew he was on probation," Steve informed me. "His offender manager arranged his interview with me. I did not know that having a job was a condition of the probation. That could make life difficult for him. Look, Johnny, for the moment, I'll not do anything. If it comes to a push, we can sort something. As you say, the storage units at the Salvage Yard will need to be sorted."
"Johnny, I need to get back to Southmead," Uncle Ben said. "I've left Phil there looking at an airfield. If I don't get back soon, he will probably buy it. Steve's agreed to take Colin to the Priory, so I will see you there, probably about five."
"Oh, you’d better give these to Bran, and tell him if he comes over to the Priory about eight, he can train with us."
"You teaching tonight, then?" I asked Uncle Ben.
"Yes. Need to get Lee and Simone ready for their gradings."
With that, he handed me a couple of signed photos of him and Uncle Phil. I went back to the office. Steve followed me up the steps. Uncle Ben walked back to his car. Once in the office, I gave the photos and message to Bran. I then had to tell him how to get to the Priory. I did suggest he come in through the back way so he would not be faced with having to get through the gates which restricted access to the private part of the estate.
That done, I turned my attention to Colin.
"Colin, I've spoken to Steve, and your job is safe for the time being. There may not be that many hours, but we can find you enough work to do around this yard or the Salvage Yard to fill your minimum hours without requiring you going into any boats."
That seemed to calm him down a lot.
Steve was talking to Bran about the morning. Apparently, Bran had managed to find four lads who would come in and work on sorting out the boatsheds and slipways at the Salvage Yard. Bran assured Steve that a couple of them knew what they were doing.
"I just hope so, as you're going to be in charge of them. By the way, what is this costing me?"
"Four hundred a day, cash," Bran replied. Steve just nodded. "I've told the lads that there will be about ten days work."
I could see Steve doing a mental calculation. "Ten days seems about right," he stated. He then handed the keys to Bran and asked him to lock the yard up. Steve then came through to the tearoom.
"How are you feeling now, Colin?" he asked as he entered the room.
"Better," Colin said.
"Good. Now listen. Mr. Carlton has gone to pick up his partner, then he is going to meet us at the Priory. Once there, he can spend some time with you and try to sort out what type of help you will need. Then he is going to arrange it for you."
Colin nodded. He looked worried about something.
"What is it?" I asked.
"What's the Priory? Is it a hospital?"
"No, it's where I live," I replied. "It's the big house at the top of the hill on the Lynnhaven Road just past the Crooked Man."
"How long will I be there for?" Colin asked. "I have a curfew at eight."
"I have curfew at eight; I have to be back in the hostel where I am staying by then."
"Shit, that complicates things," I said.
"I think I can sort that," Steve said. He went through to the office area, and I heard him on the phone. I heard him explaining the situation to somebody. Then he made another phone call and did basically the same again. Then he made a third call.
Whilst Steve was on the phone, I suggested to Colin that he might like to go to the washroom and clean up a bit. To be honest, he looked a mess. He said he would, but when he stood up, he was distinctly wobbly on his feet. I had to help him through to the washroom. Once there, Colin managed to stabilise himself against one of the sinks. I pulled some paper towels out of the dispenser and placed them near him so he would not need to cross the room to get them, then left him to it, saying I would be back in five to make sure he was OK.
When I got back to the office, Steve asked where Colin was. I told him I had left him in the washroom.
"Don't think he should be on his own," Steve said. "You’d better get back there."
So, I turned around and went straight back to the washroom. When I entered, I gasped at the sight I saw.
Making these stories available to you online is not cost free. Help keep AwesomeDude going by making a donation to it. Click on the DONATE button on the AwesomeDude homepage.