A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 10

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 10

Edward took the boys to the retail park by the motorway. He needed to visit PC World again as he had to get a printer for the secure Linux laptop. Taking two almost twelve year olds into an electronics store was, it turned out, one of the best decisions he could have made. They spent the better part of an hour, walking round the store and looking at the kit. When it came to getting the printer, Edward was on the verge of buying the one recommended by the salesman, when Danny stopped him. Suggesting another.

"But that's more expensive and doesn't have the features this one has," Edward told Danny.

"No, but the consumable costs on that are half what they are on the one you are considering buying. Also it has a faster print speed and higher print quality," Danny replied. "And are you really going to use those extra features

"You should listen to him, Dad," Joey said. "He's always reading the computer mags in the library and at school."

"You know about computers then?" Edward said to Danny.

"I know a bit, probably more that the morons in this place. They only know about selling them."

"You should see what he does on my computer," Joey said. "He's written some super games for us to play."

"You've got a computer then?" Edward asked.

"Yes; it's an old tower," Joey responded. "Jack got it for me from where he works. They were upgrading the office computers. It's up in my bedroom. Danny comes down a lot to use it."

"I suppose that means you don't have a computer?" Edward asked Danny.

"No, I ain't got one," Danny replied. "Probably a good job; Ma would only sell it."

After they had got the printer sorted out, Edward took the boys over to the nearby MacDonald's. As a result, it was somewhat after four when they arrived at the cinema in town.

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming," Ben said as they met up with him in the foyer.

"Turned out buying a printer is a much more complicated task than I thought," Edward replied. Ben gave him a funny look. "Needed a second one for the Linux laptop. So, I thought I might as well buy one while at the retail park. You try doing it with a couple of twelve year olds who know more about the subject than you do."

"No thanks," Ben replied, adding, "I've got the tickets."

"What are we going to see, Uncle Ben?" Joey asked. Ben told him. Joey and Danny smiled.

Why they had smiled was a mystery to Edward. If anything, this film was worse than the one they had seen on Saturday. However, he assumed his estimation of the film did not agree with the boys take on it. They were talking about it all the way from the cinema to the pizzeria. Ben insisted they have a meal before they took them back to Laura's.

As they entered the pizzeria, somebody called Joey's name. Edward looked round and saw Detective Sergeant Conner sitting at a table with his son, a young man who Edward guessed was Chris. Joey ran over to Chris, quickly followed by Danny, and they all got talking. It seemed that Joey and Danny were intent on telling Chris the whole plot of the film in detail.

"We haven't ordered yet and it looks like the lads want to chat," DS Conner stated. "Why don't we all move to one of the larger tables."

In the end, DS Conner and Chris did not have to move. The restaurant staff just pushed two tables together for them. As soon as they were seated, the boys got on with telling Chris all about the film.

"I heard you had a run in with the Bhat youngster," DS Conner said.

"Yes, the idiot attacked Joey and got kneed in the groin. Then he pulled a knife on me. That got him a foot in the face," Edward stated.

"Not worried about your bail being revoked then?" DS Conner asked.

"Didn't even think about. Just wanted to stop the idiot from trying to use the knife," Edward replied. "Has there been a complaint?"

"No, but one of the local beat cops heard about it and wanted to follow it up. He went to the Bhat home, but it seems that they have sent the boy to India for his education. You wouldn't know anything about that would you?"

"I did suggest to Kutrum that it might be an idea if the went to a different school, preferably some distance away."

"Be careful. That man is up to something," DS Conner said.

"I know, and I want to know what," Edward replied.

"Can you give me an insight?" DS Conner enquired.

"Not at the moment. I just don’t know who is involved."

"Look, if you need to keep things unofficial, contact me on this number. It is my private mobile," DS Conner replied. "One thing I can tell you is that on Wednesday, he sent an instruction to transfer a lot of money from his account in India to some firm in Zurich."

"I know, he paid me five hundred grand for my interest in the Bhat brothers’ businesses," Edward replied.

"He's buying you off then. What have you got on him?"

"That's the problem," Edward replied. "I'm not sure, but if I find out I will let you know."

"Good, do so; you've got the number."

Edward smiled and nodded. The waitress came to take their order. Edward, Ben and the boys gave theirs. DS Conner insisted that his and his son's should be on a separate order and billed separately. He told Edward that this was to be certain he had evidence to prove that he was not taking a freebee from a person with known criminal connections. Edward said he understood.

During the meal, they discussed things in general and about Chris's plans to go to the FE College to do his A levels.

"Not tempted to try for St Martin's?" Edward asked.

"Tempted yes, but at eight grand a year, no way Dad can afford that," Chris stated.

"But they do have scholarships," Edward pointed out.

"What chance do I have of getting one? They keep those for their friends."

Edward had to admit that the boy had a point there. St Martin's, like most independent schools, kept its status as a charity by offering scholarships to a proportion of the students. The thing was, they usually made sure these scholarships ended up with those families that had a connection with the school just to ensure that the right type was admitted.

"Then you just have to make sure you know somebody who has the right connection with them. Friends in high places tend to be useful; friends in low places can be even more useful," stated Edward.

"What are you up to, Chapman?" DS Conner asked.

"Nothing, for the moment," Edward replied. "But if you can afford a bit of extra tuition for Chris, it might come in useful."

"Why are you doing this?" DS Conner enquired.

"Because I can, and I owe your son; he's been protecting mine."

"And mine," DS Conner replied.

As they left the pizzeria, the two parties went their separate ways. DS Conner and Chris headed towards the town centre. No doubt the Detective Sergeant was using the police station car park. Ben and Edward, followed by the boys, turned in the direction of the multi-story car park.

As they walked towards the car park, Joey asked, "Dad can you take us out tomorrow?"

"Sorry, I have a lot of work to get through tomorrow, and I need to work out how to set up the printer, so I will be home all day," Edward replied.

"I can do that," Danny stated.

"Yes, he can," Joey affirmed. "He can set it up and I can help him with it. Then we can play in your garden. It's big enough for frisbee."

"Why do you want to come to my place?" Edward replied.

"There's nothing to do where we are, at least not if you've got no money," Joey replied.

"Don't you get pocket money?" Edward enquired.

"Yes, Gran gives me five pounds a week on a Friday," Joey replied."

"That's quite a bit for a boy your age," Edward stated.

"Yes, but it's not so much when I am paying for Danny as well."

"What about the fifteen I gave each of you on Saturday?" Edward asked.

"Oh, we put that in Joey's saving tin," Danny answered. "We want that so we can get stuff for Christmas."

Edward nodded, then looked across at Ben, who smiled back at him, saying nothing, just giving a small nod of the head.

"Ok, I'll pick you up about ten," Edward told Joey. "I’m still not sure what you will doing all day, as there is not a lot to do at Ben's house. An all-day Frisbee game does not sound all that promising."

"It's better doing it in your garden than down in the park. At least other boys won't be bullying us," Danny informed him.

Edward realised how much bullying was affecting these boys. It was something totally new to Edward Chapman. Nobody had bullied him since day three in the first year at infants. That was after he had given Alan Roberts a black eye for picking on a smaller boy. Edward had not known the boy, but he had known Alan Roberts. It was the day he met Ben; Ben had been the smaller boy.

They got to their cars. Ben went off in his, promising Edward that he would have a pot of tea ready for when he got back. Edward took the boys back to Laura's. He told her that he would pick them up in the morning.

When he got back to Ben's, he went in through the garage door. Ben had given him a key. Ben was in the kitchen, the kettle just boiling.

"Perfect timing. No problems taking the boys back?"

"No, though Kutrum is using amateurs to follow me," Edward stated. "Unless he is double trailing."

"What's that?"

Edward thought for a moment about how best to explain it. "You have two teams following your target. The idea is that if the target spots the first team, they can let the target evade them. Hopefully, the second team will still have the target and still follow it. The target would generally think they had lost their trackers and become lax about security."

"That seems a rather technical description," Ben stated.

"One of my cell mates whilst I was on remand was a Special Branch officer. He had strangled his wife. Used to spend hours talking about operational stuff. Not anything secret, just how things were done. Learnt a lot from him."

"What did he get?" Ben asked.

"He didn't," Edward replied. "Hanged himself about two weeks after I was convicted and shipped to the island. The day before his trial. If what he told me was true, he could have got away with manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility."

Ben put two mugs of tea on the table.

"Look, the shed at the bottom of the garden, it's got a lot of packing crates and wooden storage boxes in it. If the kids want something to do, tell them to break them up and put the wood under the lean to. We can use it for a bonfire on the fifth," Ben said. "Anything that is in the boxes, and I don't think there is much, they can put on the shelves along the back wall. Once they can get to them. I'll sort that out later.

"That means I need to buy some fireworks," Edward stated.

"If you would, it would be helpful." Ben replied. "You can ask Laura to come as well. I don't suppose she gets out much."

"I will, but I need to have a word with her about money," Edward stated. "You've been sending her a ton a week. She knows Danny's situation and that Joey is paying for him, but he's only getting a fiver a week."

"I only put it up to one hundred when he moved up to secondary school," Ben stated. "I knew there would be extra expenses like uniforms."

"Okay, how much was it over the time I was inside?" Edward asked.

"When he was born, I sent thirty a week to Maria. When she upped and left, I sent it to Laura. When Joey started nursery, I upped it to forty. I knew Laura was having a hard time with the death of her husband and a child to look after. Made getting a job difficult, she had to give up her position at Mountford to look after Joey.

"I've reviewed and updated it regularly as circumstances have changed or inflation has demanded it."

"You didn't think of cutting it when she married Jack or went back to work?" asked Edward.

"I did, but I didn't," replied Ben. "I knew it was not the type of thing you would have done."

"You're right there."

There was a moment of silence as they drank their tea. Edward found himself strangely comfortable sitting across the table from Ben.

"Any idea what Alan Roberts is up to these day?" Edward asked.

"He's two years into a fourteen for attempted murder," Ben replied. "Why? What do you want to contact him for?"

"I need to speak to his father," Edward stated. "He's the only person who I know who knew Kutrum when he first started out."

"That's not hard," answered Ben. "The old man is in Mount View nursing home. It was him that Alan tried to murder, but he was so drunk he let off both barrels of the shotgun at the same time at Sid's legs. The recoil knocked Alan over, and he hit his head, knocking himself out. The noise brought everybody running and they got tourniquets on the legs, but the hospital could not save them. The old man lost both."

"I don't suppose he gets many visitors," Edward observed. "I'll go and see him on Wednesday."

"I'm sure you're going to be welcome," Ben said, laughing remembering the last time Edward had gone to see Sid.

Finishing their tea, the two men wished each other goodnight and went to their own areas of the house — Edward to the granny flat and Ben to the living room.

On Monday morning, Edward got to Laura's a bit before ten, guessing that Joey would have to go up and collect Danny. He was right, Laura answered the door.

"Laura, can I ask you something, a personal question?" Edward asked, the moment they got through to the kitchen. Edward sat at the table; Laura was filling the kettle for the tea she was insisting he had.

"Depends on what it is," came the reply.

"Is what you've been getting for Joey enough?"

"Oh Lord, it's more than enough. That's why we opened the savings account. That was Jack's idea. He didn't like me having all that cash floating around the house. You see, what I did not spend on Joey during the week I would put to one side, just in case of an emergency or the like. Anyway, our Jack says that's not right, I should open a savings account, so we did, with the Coventry. It's in Joey's name and he gets control of it when he is eighteen. Jack and I are signatures to it. There's been a couple of times we have had to dip into it for emergencies, but we've never taken more than a couple of hundred out. There's just over seventeen grand in it at the moment. We hoped it might make it easier for him to go to university and get out of here."

"Good idea. You’d better let me have the account details. I will get Ben to make some top up payments into it," Edward stated.

"No you don't," Laura said. "If you want to give Joey more, you just start a separate account for him. He's old enough to have access to one now, and then put the money into that. Let him take responsibility for it and manage it. It will be a good learning experience for him."

"Ok," Edward replied. "I know you're giving him a fiver a week pocket money, but he is covering Danny out if it."

"I know, that's why I give him a fiver. Most kids round here his age get one fifty. I reckoned he would need a bit extra to make sure Danny got fed each day."

"That's another thing," Edward stated. "If I am taking Danny places with Joey, I think I should have some sort of permission from Darlyn."

"You won't get it and you don't need it," Laura answered. "She's terrified of giving permission to anybody regarding Danny, in case they take him away from her. She's highly reliant on him around the house. However, I insisted I needed something for when I had to have him here, like when she goes into hospital. I got a lawyer to draw up the required paperwork. It gives me full rights regarding Danny when he is with me, including the right to pass on care to a third party. It also appoints me Danny's guardian should anything happen to Darlyn or if she is permanently hospitalized.

"That was one of the times we had to dip into Joey's account. Cost two ton and we just didn’t have it, but it was all done legal and proper. Thought it was okay as it was indirectly for Joey's benefit. He couldn’t be without his best pal."

Edward was silent for a couple of seconds, thinking about how much Ben had meant to him at that age. Then he nodded. "No, it was for Joey's benefit. A good use of the money. Though you could also have used it to sell up here and move to the other side."

"Nha, never have worked," Laura stated. "I'm an Eastsider and will always be an Eastsider. Not many of us make it out. You have, though, although twelve years inside have changed you, Edward Chapman. You talk like an educated man."

"I am an educated man," replied Edward. "I got my degree whilst inside, then did a master's Now I am studying for my PhD."

"Christ, fancy you being called Doctor Chapman," Laura laughed. "It will make people think."

"Sorry we're late," Joey announced as the two boys came through the back door.

"Ma was poorly this morning and it took me longer than normal to clean her up," announced Danny. It took Edward a few seconds to fully understand what the statement actually meant.

"Right, Danny," Laura stated. "As soon as you lot are off I'll pop up and check on her." She gave a quick flick of her head indicating to Edward that they should get a move on.

"Come on, boys. We need to get back to Ben's," he said, chivvying them on. "There's some work he wants done."

"Are we getting paid for it?" Joey asked. Edward had not considered this but, considering Laura's comment about a savings account, the answer was obvious. "Yes, of course you'll get paid for it." The boys smiled.

Once back at the granny flat, Edward started up his laptop, whilst Danny and Joey started to unpack the printer. It was clear that in this scenario Danny was the boss. Joey just followed his instructions. Computer booted up and printer unpacked, Danny quickly got down to linking them all together; then he had to install the driver, which seemed to take him no more than a couple of minutes.

Edward asked him to set up the printer so he could use it on the other laptop. As Edward booted it up, Danny swore.

"You shouldn't use language like that," Edward admonished him.

"I know but that's … that's secure Linux," Danny stated. "I've read about it but never seen it. It's … well it's not something most people have. How come you've got it?"

"Some friends set it up for me," Edward informed him. "There some work I do that has to be kept very secure."

"It's secure alright. From the length of that password you typed in, it would take a lot longer to crack than any of us have to spare."

"How long?" Joey asked.

"A couple of hundred thousand years," Danny replied. "Now the problem is I do not know if there is a Linux driver for this printer. There's not one on the disk."

It seemed there was a Linux driver because ten minutes later the printer was spewing out a test page. That all done, Edward thanked Danny and closed down the laptop.

Edward took the boys to therear shed to show them what needed doing. Actually, the shed had originally been a large single-storey garage for the house, laid well back at the end of the garden. No doubt when the side extension had been built, including the three car garage and what became the granny flat, this building had been converted to storage.

Edward explained to them what Ben needed doing. He showed them the shelves where they could put anything that they found in the boxes for Ben to look at later. Once he had told them, for the third time, to be careful not to get hurt smashing up the boxes, he left them to it and made his way back to the granny flat.

Returning to the secure Linux laptop, he booted it up again and started to work his way through the list of files from the CDs that Nadia had brought him. If Amir had intended him to have them, it meant there must be something pretty important on them. Each of the CDs had been copied into a separate directory, so he decided to work through them in numerical order starting with CD number one.

Most of the files in this directory were jpegs and, after opening six or seven of them, Edward decided he really did not want to see what the contents of the others were. He turned his attention to files marked with the csv suffix. He recognised the first one he opened for what it was, an accountancy daybook journal. The first column gave the date of the transaction, the second the identifier of the counterparty. Not that it was much help because all there was were initials and nicknames. In the third column was a description of the transaction. This was useful, for although a lot of it was written in code, it was a code he knew, so most of it was readable for him. The next column showed a reference for the transaction; that was followed by two columns, one of monies in, the other of monies out. The final column was a current balance figure.

Given a couple of transactions, which he was fairly certain he could identify, Edward guessed that this was Kutrum's private ledger. Something Kutrum would not want anybody else to know about. What surprised Edward, though, was the current balance figures. They indicated an amount far above anything Edward or anyone else suspected for Kutrum's wealth.

He slowly worked his way through the dot csv files. They were providing a fascinating insight into Kutrum's business activities, both legitimate and otherwise. As he read each file, he printed a copy off so he could put them in a folder. Edward was just about to open another when there was a knocking on the patio door. Joey stood there indicating for him to come and look at something. Edward closed down the laptop then grabbed his coat and went out to the garden.

"You should see what we've found, Dad," Joey told him.

"What is it?" asked Edward, not being keen on surprises.

"You'll see," Joey responded, being very keen on surprises, as long as it was not him being surprised. Edward followed him to the shed. Inside, he found Danny holding what looked like a small leather dispatch case. There was something vaguely familiar about it.

"What is it?" Edward asked.

"Look inside," Joey directed, as Danny handed him the case. Edward laid it on a nearby shelf and opened it. Inside was a Crossman point two-two pump action air pistol. Edward recognised it. It had been given to him by his father for his twelfth birthday. His father had got it at a house clearance sale. They had found the leather case a couple of weeks later in a second-hand shop down Birmingham way. Apparently, it was a jeweller's messenger's case. Although not really designed to hold a gun, it had been just the right size. Edward's father had spent a whole Sunday cutting out the wooden form to go inside and covering it with dark green felt.

"Is it real?" Danny asked.

"That depends on what you mean by real," responded Edward.

"Will it shoot?" Joey asked.

"Yes, and this one is quite powerful for an air pistol," Edward stated.

"It's an air pistol?" Joey asked. "I thought it was a real gun."

"Air pistols are real guns, and they can be just as dangerous," replied Edward.

"Can we try shooting it then?" Joey asked.

"There are a couple of things we need to sort out first," Edward said. "First, where would you be shooting it? We would need to know it was safe. Second, is the gun safe? It's been stored for over twelve years, actually a lot longer. I packed it up when they changed the law. That was 1968. I should have got rid of it then, but it had sentimental value."

"Why?" Joey asked.

"It was the was one of the last things your grandfather gave me. Not long after, he was killed."

"How did they change the law?" Danny asked.

"They put a maximum limit on the power an air gun could have. It's six foot pounds for an air pistol and twelve for an air rifle. This gun can go a lot higher than that."

"Well,” said Joey, who wanted to get back to trying the gun,"there is a space where it would be safe to shoot at the back of this shed. It's got the garden wall down one side and along the end, and this shed forms the other side."

"Okay, but we will have to get Ben's permission, and no telling anybody about it, understand?" Both boys nodded. "Also, before you do anything with this gun, I need to check it out to make sure it is safe. That's going to take a couple of days. If it is safe and Ben says yes, I'll get a target holder, some pellets, and I can teach you how to use it when you come up on Saturday. How's that?"

The two boys looked a bit disappointed,  but Joey looked at his father. "That's fine, Dad, if that's what has to be done. I do hope you can teach us on Saturday."

"Look, it's gone one. Why don't you two tidy up a bit here so you can close the doors, then come up to the flat? I'll take you into town for some lunch. Though you will need to clean up a bit first."

Getting back to the flat, Edward put the gun in its case on the top shelf in the wardrobe. Then he got back to reading the csv files. One particularly puzzled him. It was just a list of numbers and characters which did not seem to make any sense.

He was printing it off when Danny and Joey came in. Looking up at them, he told them to go to the bathroom and clean up. There was not much he could do about their clothes. He had not thought to tell them to bring something clean to change into. Anyway, they would only get dirty again in the afternoon. Taking the pages out of the printer, he placed them on the pile ready to be punched and put in a folder. Then he closed down the laptop.

When the boys came out of the bathroom, they had made a reasonable job of cleaning themselves up. They were, after all, boys. He shepherded them out through the side door and round to the front. Edward opened the garage and pulled the car out. Ten minutes later, they were leaving the town on major A road.

"Where we going?" Joey asked.

"There's a Little Chef at the Matlin island. A friend used to run it, though I doubt he’s still there now. He was talking of selling up and moving to Spain," Edward said. Shortly after, they came round a long bend to the island. The Little Chef was at the first turn off. Edward turned into their car park and found a parking space.

Entering they found a table and started to look over the menu. The waitress came over and took their orders. The boys predictably went for one of the fried options. Edward chose something lighter. He was sitting talking to the boys when he heard a voice say, "Hello, mate, didn't expect to see you in here."

"Scully!" exclaimed Edward. "So, you took my advice then?"

"Yes, as soon as my licence was up, I skipped Birmingham and came up here. Saw Tony and gave him that letter you wrote. He gave me a job straight away and let me stay at his place until I found my own," Scully stated.

"Is Tony still here?" Edward asked.

"No, sold up and moved to Spain, four years ago now," Scully stated. "I bought the franchise off him. By then I had been virtually running it for two years. Tony was always off in Spain."

"I hope you used that contact I gave you for finance?" Edward asked.

"Yes," replied Scully. Then, looking at the boys, he dropped his voice to a near whisper so only Edward could hear. "Do they know?"

"Yes, Scully, it's fine," replied Edward, indicating that Scully should take a seat at the table.

"How come you're out? I thought you were doing life with a thirty five year tariff?" Scully asked.

"I was," Edward replied. "Solicitors found new evidence, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial. Got acquitted yesterday."

"Good for you. You were a tough nut in Albany but there was no way you were a killer," Scully stated.

"Is that where you know Dad from?" Joey asked.

"Dad? Never knew you had a son Edward."

"Neither did I until I got out two weeks ago," Edward replied. "Scully, this is my son Joey and his best friend Danny."

Just as he said it, there was an explosion outside and a couple windows on the far side of the restaurant  shattered. Edward looked out through one of the intact windows to find his car was in flames and, besides it, there was a body. For what seemed like an eternity but could not have been but a moment, there was total and complete silence, then all hell broke loose with alarms of one sort or another.

"What the fuck was that!" exclaimed Scully.