A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 6

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 6

"There was somebody here who was not there," Ben replied. 

"Who?" asked Edward.

Ben smiled and shook his head. "Have you decided what you're having?"

"I'll go for the roast pork and all the trimmings," Edward said. "What are you having?"

"The half-chicken," Ben replied, standing up and nodding toward the bar. "I'll get these; what do you want to drink?"

"Cider, a decent one if they have any, otherwise a Strongbow," Edward replied.

Ben made his way to the bar, which was rather crowded. It took him a bit of time to get served and place their order. He returned to the table carrying a pint of draught cider and a bitter shandy. 

"Since when have you been drinking shandies?" Edward asked.

"Since the police started to have a big clampdown on drink driving," Ben replied. "One of their favourite spots is by the roundabout on the main road. They pick up two or three drivers over the limit from this place most Sundays."

"Good job I'm not driving that beast of yours," Edward commented.

"Why did you stay around here?" Ben asked. "I know you dropped out of school at sixteen, but by time I went off to university you were already making a name for yourself. I am sure you could have moved your business elsewhere. At least the legitimate side of it."

"That's the thing, though, isn't it?" said Edward. "The legitimate side I could have moved, thought about it a few times as well. The other stuff, though, that was based on connections and local knowledge, and it was not so easy. The thing is, once you are into that scene, it is hard to get out. You know too much, and if you try to pull out of things, people get anxious."

"How did you get into it?" Ben asked.

"In small, little steps," Edward replied. "When I left East Bank College, I started working on the market; it was the only job I could get. Within six months, I had my own stall, selling second-hand stuff. I learnt very quickly that I could make a lot more money if I did not ask too many questions about where stuff had come from. The police pulled me in a couple of times for handling stolen goods, but they never made anything stick. The thing was, by the end of my first year I had a lot of cash that I could not put into the bank without raising questions with the tax man. I had to do something with it. Working on the market, you get to hear things, and I knew the Bhat brothers from school. I wondered why their uncle, Kutrum, would not back them, and learnt he would not do anything involving alcohol. When I heard they were looking for investments it was an ideal opportunity. I knew them and they knew me. No questions asked, and I loaned them four grand. Got twelve back three months later, but you see the problem?"

"Yes, you could not declare it."

"That's it in one," Edward said. "I could use some of it to fund my legitimate businesses. Like the deposit on the first house I bought. Officially, that came out of my market trading account, but the thing was, it completely emptied my savings bank. I had to live off my income from the Bhat brothers for the next few months whilst I rebuilt my savings. Managed to filter some of the money back into the legitimate side of things by entering a higher set of sales figures than I actually made, but you can’t do too much of that. By the time you were about to go off to uni, I still had about six grand in questionable funds, so when the brothers came back with another deal, I was more than happy to help them out.

"It was not only the Bhat bothers. Before long I found myself investing in a number of distinctly dodgy propositions. Made a point of staying out of anything definitely illegal, but was quite happy to help out where the banks wouldn't."

"At a much higher rate, I presume?" Ben said.

"Of course," Edward said. "One had to allow for those deals that did not come off, and some of them didn't. There was always the idiot who pushed things just a bit too far and ended up behind bars."

"Like Mike Spielmann and his massage parlour?" Ben asked.

"You know about that?" Edward responded.

"Only a bit. It happened while I was home during the summer vacation," Ben replied. "I got a temp job at Goodman and Sons, the solicitors. They were Spielmann's defence team."

"A pretty poor team they were as well," commented Edward. "A good lawyer would have got him off. There was enough grey area to do so."

"To be honest, I don't think they were interested in getting him off," Ben responded. "He was a legal aid case. They just wanted it finished as quickly as possible."

"I lost ten grand on that," Edward stated. "Fortunately, I did not make that many losses. By time you finished uni, I had moved from the market to my own shops. A second-hand shop down by the market and a pawn broker up near the station."

"Quite a difference," commented Ben. He was just about to say something else, when the waiter brought their meals.

"Not really," stated Edward. "They were both taking goods and giving cash. The thing was,

 you just had to know the value of the goods." He stopped talking to start eating his lunch. Ben just nodded in agreement. They ate in silence for a while.

"By time I came back, you had four pawn brokers," Ben pointed out as he finished his meal.

"Yes, and all legit," Edward stated. "Never let a drop of the questionable stuff pass through them."

"So, how did you launder your illicit funds?"

"Do you really want to know?" Edward asked.

"Not sure, but I think on balance, yes," Ben replied.

"Auctions," Edward stated. "I would get something in the second-hand store that had the looks but was really tat. So I’d shove it in an auction, then have a couple of the lads go along and have a bidding war over it, driving the price way above what it was worth. Everybody in the auction room would think they were a couple of dealers who had identified a sleeper. The winner would pay cash for the goods, take them away and dump them somewhere. I had a couple of thousand legitimately on the books. Used to do that a couple of times a month. Spread them around different auctions in a fifty mile radius, so the same faces were not seen too often. Could move eight to ten grand a month that way. The problem was money was coming in faster than I could move it. So, I just had to invest it where no questions were asked."

"When did you meet Amir?" Ben asked. "Was that through the Bhat brothers?"

"No, I met him at the Greenhouse in Darlaston," Edward replied. "It's a gay sauna. I used to go down there every couple of weeks, feeling fairly certain I was not likely to run into anybody I knew. It seemed Amir had the same idea. Actually we did know each other, but only in passing. Amir had also worked on the market. He had run a stall selling fabrics. It was his uncle's business, but Amir used to help out sometimes.

"We just seemed to hit it off, and it was not long before we were in a relationship. The thing was, we had to keep it pretty undercover. Amir was fairly certain how his family would react if they found out. On that at least he was right."

Ben suddenly felt embarrassed about raising the subject of Amir. The two men finished their meal in silence. Once they had finished, Ben returned to the bar and got another round of drinks. Then he returned to the table by the fire.

"So, what do you plan to do now?" Ben asked. "I don't think you should go back into your old line of business."

"You are right there. I was looking for a way out before my arrest, had been for nearly a year. Amir and I were looking at getting a place in Aruba, well away from what was going on here. Actually, we were quite well advanced in our planning. Unfortunately, I think that is what gave us away."


"I slowly started to disinvest from all the questionable businesses I had interests in. Jital Bhat, Kutrum's nephew, must have caught on. I was slowly moving money into gold. If any high value gold items came into the pawn brokers that weren't redeemed, I would buy them from the business. We did not have to keep a record of who we sold to, only who we bought off or loaned to. I would also go down to auctions around Birmingham way and buy gold jewellery. I'd also go to the jewellery quarter and buy items. Always solid gold, eighteen or twenty-two carat.

"I can't be sure, but I suspect one of the brothers, probably Jital — don't think his twin, Sonny, was that interested — got suspicious of the fact that both Amir and myself were in Birmingham at the same time. He probably got one of his men to follow one of us. Jital handled a lot of Kutrum's dirty work. No doubt they reported that we were meeting up and going to gay clubs and saunas. They probably also reported that I was buying gold. With the fact that I was pressing the brothers to buy me out, they probably put two and two together and got four. They also found a way to solve the problem."

"Getting Amir killed?" Ben said.

"Not sure they intended that," Edward replied. "Though they might have. The twins are a pretty ruthless pair. That is one reason I wanted out. What they did want to do was cause trouble for me. I think they intended to beat Amir up badly, exposing the pair of us as being gay. That would force us out of town without me being able to get my money from them."

"That would make sense. One question, though: where is the gold you were buying?"

"In a safe deposit box in Switzerland," Edward replied. "Amir used to drive down to Italy to purchase fashion for his uncle's shops. Went down there with a van every two or three months. Drove through Switzerland on the way. Would take a load of stuff down with it and put it in the box on his way through."

"How much is there?" Ben asked.

"Not sure. Probably about two and half a millions quids worth," Edward replied.

"Wait a minute. Don't Swiss banks charge for safe deposit boxes?" Ben asked.

"Yes," replied Edward. "Fortunately, my company in Zurich will have been making regular payments into the bank, so that's covered."

"What company in Switzerland?" Ben asked.

"EC Finance," Edward replied. "I managed to get a hunk of funds out just before the regulations were tightened up.  I had done a deal where I was to be paid in Swiss francs, so I had to set up a Swiss entity to get payment. Set up EC Finance, then used it to give myself mortgages on properties the banks would not lend on."

"You've been paying interest to yourself?" Ben asked. Edward nodded. "No wonder all your property mortgages with EC Finance are 25 year interest only mortgages. I wondered why you had gone for that type of deal and why you were paying such high interest rates?"

"Now you know," Edward replied. "I spoke to the managing agents in Zurich on Friday. It seems everything is in order. They have continued to run things in accordance with my instructions."

"I presume you sent them instructions in the same way as you sent them to me?"

"Yes, and they have carried them out as efficiently as you have," Edward answered. "Which, given the amount of money involved, is quite heartening."

"Just how much is out there?" Ben asked.

"I would guess about three million, in sterling."

"That, Edward, brings me back to my original question: what are you going to do?"

"Well, first I need to get acquitted at my retrial. Once that is out of the way, I need to get Joey out of East Side, though I suspect that may turn out to be easier said than done."

"Danny?" Ben asked.

"Precisely. The boy seems intensely loyal to his mate and I can't see him wanting to leave the boy."

"So, to get Joey out, you have to get Danny out," Ben observed. "That is going to be a problem."

"I can see that," stated Edward. "I also have a compensation claim to pursue for miscarriage of justice, and a PhD to finish."

"Well, you certainly don't need to work," Ben observed.

"I'll need to do something once my PhD is finished. Sitting around doing nothing would drive me mad."

They finished their drinks and Ben mentioned that they had better get a move on as he wanted to watch the F1 Grand Prix. As they walked to the car, Edward mentioned that Lefty had said they would get the keys back to him before they left the pub.

"Shit, so he did!" Ben exclaimed. "I'll have to call him and arrange to pick them up this evening. The shop is closed Monday. I promised to drop them into Tony's tomorrow afternoon. I have to be in Raycoat then anyway. 

They got to the car, and Ben put his hand in his pocket to get the car key. "Fuck!" He pulled his hand out of his pocket holding the shop keys.

"How on earth?" Edward asked.

"Don't ask," Ben replied. "With that pair it is better not to know."

When they got back to Ben's, Ben asked Edward to join him for a coffee. Opening the front door, Ben found a number of CDs boxes lying on the mat.

"I think these are the film and recording of your meeting with Kutrum," he told Edward. "Want to watch them?"

"Not really, but we probably need to keep them safe, just in case."

Ben picked up the CD cases, then walked down to the kitchen, Edward following. Once in the kitchen, Ben made a couple of mugs of coffee whilst they chatted.

"I suppose I ought to get myself a car," Edward stated as Ben put the mug of coffee in front of him. "I can't keep driving your mother's. Anyway, she'll want it when she arrives at Christmas. Where is she arriving from?"

"Spain," Ben replied. "She's got a place down there and says she prefers the Spanish weather to our drab autumn. Though she insists on spending Christmas in England.

"Now, what sort of car are you thinking of?"

"Now I am out, I am going to have to visit my supervisor rather than her coming to see me," Edward stated. "She's based in Winchester, so I need something that is good for going down there. I will probably have to make a couple of trips over to Switzerland to sort things out there, and to Germany. Would make sense to combine them, so something that would be good for long runs on the autobahn. It also needs to have a fair amount of space."

"In that case, a Lambo or Ferrari is out," Ben quipped. "I'd say you were looking at something like a BMW 5 Series or a Jaguar Sovereign. Maybe one of the Mercs. Go and see Mark Talbot out at Castlehill. He usually has a good selection of up market cars. Mostly ex-lease, two or three years old. I'll call him in the morning and tell him you will be going out to see him."

"Another client?"

"Yes; Mark was the first client I picked up when I set up business here."

"I'm surprised you haven't expanded, taken on staff or a partner," Edward stated.

"Don't think my clients would be too keen on that," Ben replied. "They like to think I am dealing with all their business personally."

"I thought you only dealt with legitimate businesses," Edward said.

"I do, Edward," Ben responded. "However, the fact that they are legitimate does not mean that they are totally respectable. There may be sides to their business activities, however legal they are, that my clients might like to keep from the public view. I am able to give my clients a level of confidentiality they would not have with a larger firm."

"You mean you know their secrets," commented Edward.

"And I keep them," responded Ben.

"Very well by the looks of things," Edward said, looking around.

"I do alright," responded Ben.

The two men spent the rest of the afternoon talking about how things had changed whilst Edward had been in prison. They also discussed possible accommodation solutions for Edward. Just after five, Ben made them a light tea of sandwiches. The two men sat in the kitchen eating them.

"You know, I could get used to this," Edward stated.

"Used to what?" Ben asked.

"Having you prepare meals," replied Edward.

"Well, there is no rush for you to move on," Ben stated, looking across the kitchen table at Edward. There was a wishful expression on his face. "You can move in here when mother comes at Christmas. She's only here for nine days."

"Thanks, I might have to take you up on that," Edward said. "I was looking through estate agents leaflets last night; found nothing that appealed to me."

A bit later Edward took his leave, saying he had to do a letter to his PhD supervisor to let her know of the changes to his situation. He also needed to make an appointment to go down and see her.

"You'll need a car first," Ben pointed out.

"Hopefully I can sort one out tomorrow," replied Edward.

Back in the granny flat, it took Edward a lot longer to sort out his PhD paperwork than he expected. It was nearly midnight before he had finished, and he was in no mood to write to his supervisor. Also, he realised there was a difficulty in writing to his supervisor: he did not have a printer. That was something else he would need to sort out in the morning.

Monday morning saw Edward getting up early, at least early for him. He was up before eight and was out on the road to the retail park by nine. One thing Edward realised was that doing full time education in prison was not conducive to setting a good routine. He could not get to the education block until the afternoon, so normally did not get up till gone nine. There had been no point. Now that he was on the outside, it occurred to him that he would have to get used to a new regime which would mean getting up early.

He got to PC World just after nine-thirty and spent the next hour looking at printers and getting totally confused by what the sales assistant was telling him. In the end, he phoned Ben and asked his advice. That turned out to be the HP printer that had originally attracted him but which the salesman had advised against. Much to the salesman’s chagrin, Edward bought the HP printer. He also got a couple of spare ink cartridges for it and a box of paper.

Once he had everything loaded in the car, he set off for Castlehill. Edward's memory of the place was a small village a half mile or so outside the town. Now it seemed it was a suburb of the town. Mark Talbot's place was easy to find. It was on the main road just through the village. The front of the lot was lined with Jaguars, BMWs and Mercs.

Edward asked the young man who came out to him for Mark Talbot. He asked Edward to wait and went back into the office building. Mark came out a couple of minutes later, whilst Edward was looking at a three- year-old Jag.

"Nice car," Mark stated. "I don't think it is what you are looking for."

"How do you know what I am looking for?" Edward asked.

"Seeing how you got out of a car I sold Ben Levi a couple of years ago, and that Ben phoned me this morning to say that Edward Chapman would be coming out to see me, I presumed you must be Mr Chapman. Ben also told me what you were looking for. The XK is a nice car but to be honest, there is not a lot of room in it. Also I would not like to drive it for more than a couple of hours; it can be a bit cramped."

Edward confirmed he was Edward Chapman and outlined what he was looking for.

"My own advice would be to go for a Jaguar XJ, a BMW 5 or 6 series, or a Merc S class. If you are doing long autobahn runs I would avoid the C class. If you are looking for space, then go with the Merc M class. That is a SUV, but it’s a bit of a beast when it comes to fuel consumption. Also, I haven't got one of those at the moment."

"I think an SUV is out of the question," Edward replied. "A bit too flashy. Also, I need something that is going to be easy to park. I will be driving in historic cities."

"In that case, look at a BMW 5 or Merc C, though you will have to accept that neither is the best for long autobahn runs."

"I'll only be doing those a couple of times a year," Edward replied.

"In that case, you should be fine," Mark stated. "This might interest you if you want space." He guided Edward to the end of the lot. There stood a BMW 5 Series with an estate body.

"It only came in on Friday, so it needs cleaning," Mark informed Edward. "I can get that done this afternoon, if you like it. It's two years old with just over forty thousand on the clock. We have the full service history. It was a lease vehicle."

"What's the price on it?" Edward asked.

"Twelve and a half," Mark replied.

"Can I get a test drive?"

"Yes. I'll just go and get some trade plates."

Half an hour later, Edward was negotiating a price with Mark. They settled on twelve thousand, with Mark's promise that he would get the car cleaned, service and delivered to Ben's within two days of getting paid for it.

"Do you need a deposit?" Edward asked.

"No, Ben assured me that you were good for the money and that as soon as you confirmed the price and car details, he would transfer the funds to me. You will need the invoice details for Ben to do the transfer. I'll print that for you now."

Forty minutes later, Edward pulled up outside Ben's office. He made his way up the stairs to be greeted by the receptionist.

"He's expecting you," she stated. "You better go straight in."

Edward made his way down the passage and knocked on Ben's door. Ben called out for whoever was there to go in, so Edward did.

"Cutting it a bit fine," Ben said as Edward entered.

"What?" Edward asked, as he pulled out the envelop with the invoice in it to hand to Ben. "I've bought a car and need this paid."

Ben took the envelop, pulled out the invoice and looked at it.

"Nice car, almost got one myself," he stated. "We are due at the Nationwide at twelve thirty, and it is ten to twelve now. We will have to walk. Parking on that side of town is impossible."

"Shit!" Edward exclaimed. "I forgot."

Ben put the invoice in a tray on his desk, then stood up, grabbing his coat from the coat stand behind the desk.

"Come on, we’d better get over there. I'll deal with the invoice this afternoon when I get back."

Edward followed Ben out of the office. In the reception area, Ben told his receptionist that he would be out till at least two.

"Is the bank going to take that long?" Edward asked once they were outside and walking towards town.

"Hopefully not, but it will take at least half an hour. I was hoping we could grab some lunch while I was out, or have you something on?" Ben asked.

"Where were you thinking for lunch?" Edward asked.

"David's Wine Bar," Ben replied.

"But that's…"

"Yes it is, Edward. That's why we are going," Ben informed him. "Kutrum's accountant phoned me this morning with an offer for you."

"What is it?"

"David's Wine Bar plus one hundred thousand in cash," Ben informed him.

"I'm not sure," Edward replied. "David's has got a bit of a reputation which I would prefer not to be connected with."

"It had," Ben advised him. "The place has been cleaned up since you went inside. It is quite upmarket these day and totally clean as far as drugs are involved. Thought we could drop in there for lunch and have a look at the operation."

They arrived at the Nationwide branch just before twelve thirty. Ben spoke to the assistant on the enquiry desk and the pair was shown into one of the meeting rooms. Shortly after, an assistant branch manager came in to assist them. After the expected half-hour, Edward left the branch with a current account into which he had transferred twenty grand from his savings account and had received a promise that a debit card and cheque book would be with him within seven working days. He would also get a credit card, but that would take a bit longer to come through.

Leaving the Nationwide, they walked down the High Street to the Market Square. Crossing it, they entered River Lane. On the left was David's Wine Bar, though Edward had to admit to himself that he would not have recognised the place. It had certainly moved up market since the days when he had helped run it, as a quick glance at the menu displayed in the case by the door affirmed.

Entering the wine bar, he was greeted by Sid Fletcher from behind the bar. "Afternoon Mr Edward, Mr Kutrum's man said you would probably be in sometime today or tomorrow. Said to tell you there will be no charge, it's all on the house."

"You're still here then," commented Edward.

"Where else would I go? I was barman at David's when David owned it, before you and the brothers got it. I will be barman here when they close the place."

"Are they likely to close the place?" Ben asked.

"Well, it's going have to close sometime," Sid informed him. "The new shopping centre they have planned comes right over here. All these small shops and bars will have to go."

Edward laughed. The two men moved to the back of the bar and took one of the small tables in the corner.

"What exactly was Kutrum's offer?" Edward asked.

"One hundred thousand in cash, payable in a form acceptable to you and ownership of David's Wine Bar," Ben stated.

"Ownership of the wine bar, not the property?" asked Edward.

"Not the property, it was to be on a long lease at a peppercorn rent," stated Ben.

"Typical Kutrum," Edward stated. "Always trying to pull the fast one. I would have been out of here in four or five years, depending on when the development starts, and they would have got the compensation under the compulsory purchase order."

"So, we turn him down?" Ben asked.

"Yes, but not till we've had a free meal at his expense," responded Edward. "You can tell him I don't want anything that ties me to this town. Let him think I intend to move away."

"Do you?" Ben enquired.

"Probably," replied Edward. "I could always join Mike in Oz." At that comment Ben looked a bit depressed. Edward continued. "Though there would be the problem of what to do about Joey. Can't see him wanting to go out to Oz."

The pair ordered from the most expensive items on the menu and a good bottle of wine between them. Three quarters of an hour later, they left, having had a very nice and quite expensive meal on the house. As they walked back towards Ben's office, Ben asked what he should ask for from Kutrum.

"Tell his man that I want six hundred grand," Edward instructed. "They will argue like mad about it, but settle at four hundred. The money is to be paid into the account of EC Finance in Zurich. The payment instruction is to state 'capital input from E Chapman.' I'll let Kutrum's man sort out how to get that through the books."