A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 5

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 5

"I have not the slightest idea," Edward replied. "What I would really like to know is how he knew I was living here."

"There is not much going on in this town that Kutrum Bhat does not know about," Ben responded. "You can be fairly certain he has somebody in the police keeping him informed, and probably somebody in probation as well. Either one could have got your address."

Edward nodded in agreement.

"The thing is, Edward, what does the old man want? The only way you are going to find that out is to meet him, but that is not without its risks."

"That is something I am fully aware of," Edward replied. "It is just I am not sure how I can meet with him and be safe."

"Let me deal with it," Ben instructed. "Did he give you a contact number?"

Edward told him that there was a number on the letter. Ben said he would phone Kutrum as soon as they had finished dinner.

* * * * *

At what Edward regarded as a ridiculous hour on a Sunday morning, he found himself in Ben's car being driven to Raycoat again.

"Would you like to tell me again why we are driving to Raycoat before the sun has even risen?" Edward asked.

"As I told you last night, Kutrum wants to meet with you as soon as possible. We both agreed that the meeting had to be in the open, somewhere with people around but at the same time somewhere you could have a private conversation. Raycoat Cathedral Square is perfect. At nine-thirty in the morning there will be people passing through it going in for the ten o'clock service. It is, though, a large space, so it will be fairly easy for you and Kutrum to have a talk with nobody close enough to overhear."

"That I understand," stated Edward. "What I don't understand is why, when we are meeting at nine-thirty, I have to be in a car at six in the morning?"

"Because some things have to be set up in advance, and that is going to take time," Ben informed him.

"What?" Edward asked.

"You'll find out soon enough," Ben replied, smiling.

It was nearly twenty past seven when they pulled into a small yard at the rear of a shop down a side street just off Cathedral Square. There was a small white van parked in the yard. Ben drew up alongside it. As he got out of the car, two men climbed out from the van.

"No problem finding the place, then?" Ben asked.

"Nha, your directions were pretty good," the taller of the two men said.

"Right. Teddy, these are a couple of friends who are going to be helping us today. The tall one is Lefty, the small blond one is Dicky," Ben said. "Boys, this is Teddy. He's the target of the meeting. I suppose I’d better let you in to set up."

The two men nodded. Ben made his way to the door at the back of the building and extracting a key from his pocket, unlocked it. An alarm started to beep as Ben stepped through the door. He opened a panel at the side of the door and entered a set of numbers to get the bleeping stopped.

"Right, you better get your stuff in, and then I'll lock the door," Ben told Lefty and Dicky. For the next ten minutes or so they were busy carrying aluminium flight cases in from the back of the van. Edward offered to help but his offer was declined. Once everything was in and the van locked up, Ben locked the door from the inside.

"Right, where are we going to be setting up?" Lefty asked.

"Top floor, front room," Ben replied. "Sorry it's up four flights of stairs and there is no lift."

"Not even a dumb waiter?" Dicky asked. "In a lot of these Victorian shop buildings, the owners lived upstairs and the kitchens were in the basement. They had dumb waiters to get the food to the upper floors."

"There probably was one once," Ben asserted. "Not now, though. It would have been ripped out when the building was modernised in the nineteen fifties."

"By the look of it, it has not been modernised since," stated Edward.

"You are right there," Ben replied. "Tony's father was too mean to spend any money on the place and when Tony took over, he kept it as it was. He says the old world charm of the place is what brings in half his custom."

"What is his custom and who is Tony?" Edward asked.

"One of my clients," Ben replied. "He runs a second-hand bookshop and a gallery, mostly selling antique prints, but has some stuff in from students at the university."

"How come we are here now?" Edward enquired.

"Well, Tony owes me a few favours, and I asked for the use of the storeroom at the top of the building for the day. You will see why when we get up there."

The moment Edward walked into the attic room, he saw immediately what Ben was talking about. From the window there was a nearly uninterrupted view of the whole of Cathedral Square. Only the road on the south side of the square and the line of benches that backed onto the road were obscured from view.

"So, you are going to be filming me from up here?" asked Edward.

"More than that mate," Lefty informed him. "We are also going to be listening to every word you and the person you're meeting say."

"I'm sure Kutrum will check to make sure I am not recording anything," Edward said.

"And you won't be," Dicky assured him, as he opened up a case and pulled out what looked like a satellite dish. "This will be listening." Lefty took the dish from Dicky and fitted it onto the top of what looked like a telescope mount. It was the type of mount found on expensive telescopes used to track stars for long exposure photographs. The mount was then attached to the centre of a long shaft that was fixed to the top of a tripod.

"What's that?" Edward asked.

"A high-sensitivity parabolic reflector microphone," Lefty informed him. "It can pick up the sound in a one metre square area from as much as a mile away. We're what, five hundred metres max; should be no problem."

"So long as I stay in one spot," commented Edward. "Can't see Kutrum doing that."

"He does not need to, not with these babies," Dicky replied, screwing what looked like black trumpet horns to the end of the arms sticking out from the tripod.

"And this of course," Lefty stated, pulling a white woollen scarf out of one of the cases. "Good job it's cold today, perfect excuse for you to wear this, put it round your neck."

Edward did so. "What is it?"

"You've heard of stealth haven't you?" Lefty asked. Edward nodded. "Well, that's the complete opposite. It throws a radar signature that is vastly more than its size merits. If that was seen on the approach radar for an airport they would think an Airbus Beluga was coming into land.

"Those things on the end of the arms are specialist low power radar units. Once we have got them locked onto you, the whole set up will turn to follow your movements. Provided you do not come any closer than that line of black pavement along this edge of the square, we can pick up anything that is said. At the same time, the camera we will be mounting will be filming everything that goes on."

"What if Kutrum wants to use those benches so we can sit and talk?"

"He won't," Ben assured Edward. "I'll be sitting there. If he wants to sit down, he will use the ones on the far side."

"Not sure how he will react to you being there," stated Edward.

"Oh, he knows I will be there. I made it clear to him that you would not be coming on your own. He just made it clear I should stay out of the conversation."

"Will you?" Edward asked.

"Yes, I'll just be sitting there keeping an eye on things."

It was a bit after half past eight by the time Lefty and Dicky had got their kit set up. They suggested that Ben and Edward walk across the square to the café on the far side, which had just opened.

"You might want to park your car this side of the square," Dicky said.

"I thought I would leave it here," stated Ben.

"No, drive round the block and park where they can see you," Lefty instructed. "They probably have somebody looking for your arrival, it will be a bit odd if you do not turn up in the car."

"What about locking up this place?" Ben asked.

"No problem," Dicky stated. "The alarm code is seven, three, nine, eight." Ben looked at him surprised, Lefty laughed  "Leave us the keys and we will lock up on our way out. When the meet is finished go to the Old Bull, on the Middlewich and Carterdean canal. You know the place?" Ben nodded. "You can have a nice Sunday lunch there. The keys will be in your pocket before you leave."

Ben asked a couple more questions then told Edward they better make a move.

"Why do you want us to walk across the square to the café?" Edward asked. "We could park up by the café."

"You could, but if the pair of you walk across the square we will be able to check the tracking system," Dicky stated.

Ben and Edward went down to the car, then Ben drove them round the block and parked where Dicky had said. The two men got out of the car and once Ben had locked it, walked across the square to the café on the far side. Once there they both ordered scrambled egg on toast.

They had just placed their order when Ben's phone rang. He answered it, listened, to what was being said and then closed up his phone.

"It's all working fine," Ben told Edward. "Now all we have to do is wait for Kutrum to turn up."

"He's probably already here," Edward informed Ben. "I suspect he will want to check the lay of the land before we meet. After all, it was you who specified this meeting place. You could have used Market Square — there is a Betsy's there."

"It's closed on a Sunday," Ben replied.

"By the way, where did you find that pair of oddballs?"

"At university. They were on the computer science course. There was a compulsory computer studies module in the business administration course I was on. Lefty was in the same class. Got to know him in the class and we became friends. We used to meet up in the Student Union's bar. That's where he introduced me to Dicky.

"They were both snapped up on graduation by some obscure part of the government machine. Spent a good ten years working on stuff that they are still not able to talk about. All was going well till there was one of the big reorganisations that the government likes to pull off every few years. Their group was merged with GCHQ, Lefty was told he had to move to Cheltenham, and Dicky was sent down to the south coast. That did not suit them at all, so they resigned and became freelance consultants and inventors.

"I've been doing their accounts for them for the last ten years. They make a fortune selling specialist surveillance equipment, or at least the designs for it. I suspect what they were using today has not yet been shown to anyone. If it had been; there would have been top secret stamped right across it."

Their scrambled eggs and a pot of tea arrived. As they were eating, Edward notice a black BMW pull up in the parking space outside the café. The driver got out, walked around the car and opened the rear passenger door. Kutrum Bhat got out.

"He's arrived," Edward told Ben.

"Good, we will not be stuck waiting for him," Ben replied. "Now, finish your breakfast. We agreed you would meet Kutrum at nine-thirty, by fountain. It is only ten past nine, so you have plenty of time.

At twenty-five past nine, Edward and Ben left the café. Ben walked across the square, taking a seat in the middle of the row of seven benches. Edward made his way to the fountain. As he did so, Kutrum Bhat approached him from the direction of the cathedral. He looked a lot older than Edward remembered him and most definitely frail. Although, Kutrum Bhat had always carried a walking stick as long as Edward had known him, which was well over thirty years, this was the first time Edward had seen him reliant on the stick.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet me," Kutrum said as he approached.

"It would have been disrespectful not to," Edward replied.

Kutrum pulled a small silver box from his pocked. "I hope you don't mind, but my friends advised me to scan you in case you have any form of recording device on you."  Edward gave no objection and Kutrum passed the box over Edward's body. When it was level with his shirt pocket the box beeped quite loudly.

"May I ask what you have in your pocket?" Kutrum enquired.

"It's my phone," Edward replied, pulling his phone out of his shirt pocket.

Kuturm looked at it for a moment. "A somewhat basic model, which I doubt is capable of recording, but would you be so kind as to switch it off?"

"Of course," Edward replied, switching off the phone.

"I see your friend Ben Levi has taken a seat from where he can keep an eye on us," stated Kutrum. "May I suggest we make use of one of the benches on the opposite side of the square from him. He will still be able to see us, but at that distance there is no chance he could read our lips, if he has that capability."

"I don't think that is one of Ben's skills, but I am agreeable to your suggestion. Ben only wants to keep me in sight." With that, Edward turned towards the benches that Kutrum had indicated. Kutrum started to walk towards them, Edward keeping pace with him. As soon as they reached the benches, Kutrum sat down.

"That is something of a relief," he stated. "One of the impediments of age I have found is that standing for any length of time can be most uncomfortable."

"Age does not seem to be treating you well," Edward replied.

"It's not, and my family is no help," Kutrum stated. "That is the reason I asked for this meeting. It seems my nephews lied to me and did a great disservice to yourself."

"If you mean they framed me for something I had not done, then yes," replied Edward. "Twelve and a half years inside was definitely a disservice."

"Time inside is a risk we all take," Kutrum stated. "Even I take that risk, though I try never to directly undertake any illegal activity and am in the process of fully withdrawing from such activities in which I may have, let me say, a tangential familiarity. I will, however, twist and bend the rules as much as I can. When there is no legal force behind the rules, I will even break them. However, I always try never to actually break the laws. From what I heard of your business activities, you were very similar."

Edward agreed with Kutrum's statement. Although he had not been pure white in his business activities, he had always tried to avoid breaking the law as much as possible. Though, sometimes,) it had not been possible.

Kutrum continued. "My nephews' present situation has raised a number of problems. Not the least is the management of those businesses that they were running. On Friday, I had two of my sons go in and take charge of things. My oldest, as you may know, is an accountant."

Edward did know that and wondered why that fact was important.

"Mr Chapman, at the time of your arrest, my nephews assured me that you had no interest in their business affairs. They did state that you had helped them get started but they confirmed to me that they had paid back all monies due and that you no longer had any claim on any part of their activities. My oldest son has given me reason to doubt their assurances. Having found that they had lied to me about other matters, I suspect they may have lied to me about this, so I thought it would be advisable for me to meet with you and obtain your perspective on things."

"That is a very civilised way to approach things," Edward stated.

"Being civilised in one's interactions with others is something I learnt at school," Kutrum observed.

"Which school?" enquired Edward.

"Harrow," Kutrum replied. Edward looked surprised. "My family were Ugandan Asians. We had lived in that country for over one hundred years. My grandfather, after who I am named, was a very successful businessman. He owned a number of businesses in both Uganda and in Kenya. As the eldest son of the eldest son, I was marked for great things. As part of that, I was sent first to prep-school in England and then to Harrow. My course in life was mapped out: Harrow, Oxford, then the bar. After a successful career at the English bar, I would return to Uganda where I would take up a post as a judge. Somebody of use to the interests of my family. Unfortunately, in my third year at Harrow, Idi Amin decided to expel all of us Asians out of Uganda. In the process, he seized our businesses and our wealth.

"Fortunately, my grandfather was able to protect some of our business interests in East Africa outside of Uganda. Unfortunately, it was not enough to provide for what was by that time quite a large clan. Grandfather was able to fund the completion of my education at Harrow, but Oxford and the bar were clearly out. I had to find other ways to make a living."

"Something you have been quite good at," commented Edward.

"I have tried my best," Kutrum replied. "Unfortunately, it has been insufficient to give either my sons or my nephews the advantages of an English Public School education. Even with the wealth I have accumulated, I was not in a position to afford those fees. I have, though, made sure they attended some of the better independent schools around here."

"I'm sure they benefited from it," Edward said. There was a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

"Unfortunately, it appears that my nephews did not, except for Amir. He was always my favourite nephew, the son of my younger sister. He did well at school," replied Kutrum. "I do intend that my grandchildren will have the full benefits of an English Public School; they are already at good prep schools.

"However, that is beside the point of this meeting. Edward, you clearly had an interest in my nephews' business when you were arrested. How much was that interest?"

"Forty percent," Edward replied. "I put the money up for them to start. It was agreed that I would take the same funds out of the business as they did until such time as they could buy me out."

"Do you want to get back into the business?" Kutrum asked.

"No," stated Edward. "I have much more interesting things to pursue."

"May I ask what?"

"Finishing my PhD," Edward replied.

"A worthwhile activity," observed Kutrum. "I sometimes despair of the younger generations in my family. They fail to understand the value of a good education.

"But back to business. If you do not wish to return to your place in the business that I have now taken over from my nephews, we need to find a way to settle things so you no longer have a call upon the business, either legal or moral. I would also like to make sure you have no — what is the right word? Vendetta seems a bit strong; grudge might be better — against my nephews over what is owed."

"With regard to the business arrangement, I am sure we can come to some sort of settlement. As for things relating to Amir, that is a different matter," Edward stated.

"That, I can appreciate. Unfortunately, my cousin Tariq and my nephews seem to hold some very old fashioned views when it comes to certain types of relationships. I do not know where they have got them from. I learnt a much more liberal view of life during my time at Harrow."

"I'm sure you did," commented Edward.

"My offer is this. I will get my son to do a valuation of the businesses that I am in the process of taking over. Once that is done, and I am sure you will want Mr Levi to check it over, I will arrange to pay you forty percent of that valuation. In return, I want a legal undertaking from you that you renounce all interests in the businesses. Is that acceptable?"

Edward indicated that it was.

"In the meantime, you may be assured that my nephews will be encouraged to avoid a lengthy trial with a guilty plea. That they are guilty I have no doubt, as I have seen copies of the police evidence," Kutrum stated, confirming that he had somebody in the local police providing him with information.

"What about Tariq?" asked Edward.

"He has proved to be an embarrassment to the family. The last thing we want is our dirty linen being washed in public. I believe prisons can be very dangerous places. I very much doubt if my cousin will live long enough to make it to trial."

Edward looked at Kutrum in amazement. Kutrum smiled. "I hope, Edward, that will conclude business between us in a satisfactory manner." Edward nodded. Kutrum raised himself into a standing position with some difficulty, gave Edward a slight bow, then proceeded to walk off in the direction of where Ben was seated. As Kutrum crossed the square, the black BMW came in from one of the side streets and parked on the double yellow lines. The driver got out of the car and opened the rear passenger door for Kutrum.

Edward waited till the car and moved off, then stood up and walked across to Ben. As he did so, Ben stood and started to cross the square. They met just by the fountain.

"What was that all about?" Ben asked. "It just did not make sense."

"You were listening?" Edward asked.

"Yes, Lefty gave me this so I could listen in on the conversation," he said, taking a small device from his left ear.  “It sounded to me as if he was just trying to put right a wrong that had been done when the Bhat brothers cut you out of the business after your arrest."

"That is precisely what it was supposed to sound like. If the police had been monitoring our conversation, it could well be argued that was all that took place," Edward stated. The two of them started to walk back towards the café.

"So, what else was going on?" Ben asked.

"Well, Kutrum is buying me off. I’m not sure how much he is planning to pay me to leave the Bhat brothers alone, but that is what he is doing. One thing I can be sure of is that it will be be a six figure sum. Also, as part of the deal, he is having Tariq killed."

"God, you can't go along with that," Ben stated.

"To be honest, I don't have much choice," Edward said. "I never had any intention of going after the Bhat brothers anyway. As for Tariq, I think his days were numbered as soon as it came out that he had killed Amir. What Kutrum was letting me know was that it had been done without his knowledge and without his approval. That's what signed Tariq's death warrant. The fact that it is giving me revenge for killing Amir is secondary."

"Should you tell somebody?" Ben asked.

"Tell them what? That Kutrum has offered to make good what his nephews defrauded me of? No, Kutrum has delivered a message, he's told me what is going on and how it is going to be played. I've also delivered a message, that I am out of that scene now and I don't want back in. We understood each other."

Back in the café, the two men had a pot of tea and chatted about things in general for a bit before making a move to the Old Bull.

"Haven't been here since I was a kid," Edward stated as they took a table not far from the fire.

"I think you were a bit more than a kid," replied Ben, picking up one of the menus. "If I remember right, we came out here on our bikes for a drink the Sunday before I went off to uni."

"Yes, but you know what I mean," said Edward. "Anyway I think that was the last time I was out here. I didn’t expect to be back here, what, twenty-five years later."

"It's twenty-seven, actually," Ben stated. "I'm not sure I ever expected to be back here either. I had a place at university. I was the first boy from our school to do it."

"And my younger brother was the second," Edward commented. "Never understood why you came back. You got a first from Durham and a place with a top London accountancy firm, then four years later you came back to set up your own practice. What happened?"

"There was something missing," Ben stated.

"What? What was there here that you did not have in London?"