A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 16

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 16

Carol had not been pleased when Edward had informed her of his plans for Tuesday. Not that she had much chance of changing his mind. Carol did, however, insist that John drive him to where he had to go and that Peter was with them. She also insisted that they use their car, the replacement that had arrived yesterday, rather than Edward's new car. Edward agreed, giving the woman at least a small victory. One that Edward then removed when he told her he needed to go to the bank first.

Mount View nursing home was a couple of miles out of town. It had originally been built, in the late fifties, as a hotel on the main A road going north/south around the town. The building of the motorway had removed three-quarters of its passing trade. The downgrading of the road to a B road, when the new by-pass had been built, had got rid of the rest. For a time, it had existed as a place where you could get a room for a couple of hours if needed. However, the permissive society of the sixties and early seventies found little need for such establishments, so it went bankrupt in nineteen seventy-four, upon which the council acquired it at auction and turned what had been a somewhat uninspired building into a totally depressing one.

Edward walked down the olive-green-painted corridor on the second floor of the three-story nursing home until he came to room two zero three. The door was partially open. Edward knocked on it.

"Come in," a voice called out. "Don't know why you've knocked, nobody else fucking does."

Edward entered the room which was painted a slightly paler shade of institutional green.

"I thought it was polite to knock, Sid," he said, walking up to the man sitting in a wheelchair.

"Fucking hell, it's you. 'Eard you bin let out," Sid stated, looking somewhat annoyed. "W'at you doing 'ere?"

"I want to get some answers to some questions," Edward replied.

"And you think I'll give you them. You're fucking hopeful," Sid said. "'Ow come you're out, anyway?"

"New evidence," Edward replied. "Proved it was not me."

"Pity they got rid of the death sentence," stated Sid. "At least we've bin rid of you."

"Thanks," said Edward.

"Let's not kid ourselves, I've never fucking liked you, and I've no reason to 'elp you," stated Sid. "So why don't you just fucking leave?"

Edward reached into his inside pocket and pulled out an envelope. From it he withdrew five twenty pound notes, then he returned the envelope to his pocket.

"There's a ton there, Sid, that should buy me an hour of your time."

Sid picked up the notes and counted them. "'Alf an hour. Iif you want more, you 'ave to pay for it."

Edward nodded.

"W'at you want to 'now?" Sid asked.

"To start with, how come Kutrum ended up here?" Edward asked.

"That's simple," Sid replied. "When Idi Admin kicked those pakies out of Uganda, they ended up 'riving at Heathrow with nowt. The gov' dished ’em out to local authorities to house. We got the Bhats. Though Kutrum was not with ’em— 'eard he was at some posh school. Turned up 'ere a couple of years later."

"They're not pakies," stated Edward. "They are East African Asians. I think Kutrum would be offended to be called a pakie."

"Don't care where they're from, those wogs are fucking pakies, just like you're a fucking nigger. Why can't you all go back to your fucking 'omeland, where your grandparents came from?"

"My grandparents came from London, Sid. We’ve lived there since the time of Henry the Eighth."

"Fuck me!" exclaimed Sid.

"I'd rather not," Edward reposted.

"You really go back to the Tudors?"

"Yes," replied Edward. "One of my ancestors was a musician of the Chapel Royal under Henry the Eighth."

"Not bloody right, that ain't."

"Maybe, but you were telling me about Kutrum. How did he get started?"

"Not sure 'ow he got started but soon after he got 'ere he was working for Pat O'Neill," Sid stated. "Most people wouldn't give those pakies a job, but O'Neill did. Both Kutrum and that sister of his were working for O'Neill. Within a couple of years, Kutrum is O'Neill's right 'and man. Then O'Neill gets blown up and what do you know, Kutrum steps in and takes over."

"You say Kutrum's sister was working for O'Neill?" Edward asked.

"Yes, she and Pat were bloody close. The word was that she was couriering stuff for him—surprising what can be hidden in one of those pakie dresses. Also that she was doing more. Think the only reason Kutrum got in was because of her. Of course, once Kutrum got control, 'e married 'er off to Tariq. Though she must 'ave been already banged up. They get married one day, and a couple of months later there is the kid.

"It was all done a bit quick, though I am sure Kutrum was glad to get rid of 'er. From what I 'eared she used to boss him around like anything, being his older sister."

"What happened then?" Edward asked.

"Kutrum got out of most of O'Neill's rackets, though 'e kept a few going," Sid stated.

"Like the child prostitution," Edward said.

"You 'now about that, do you?" Sid responded. "Just how much do you 'now?"

"Not much, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you."

"Good point," conceded Sid. "Yes, ’e used boys from the reform school. Never worked out how O'Neill made it pay."

"He didn't need to," Edward replied. "He had blackmail material on leading politicians, police and I don't know who else. That was worth a lot more than any money he made."

"That makes bloody sense," Sid commented. "Never could work out 'ow 'e always managed to know when the police were going to raid. He also got licences and planning permission where nobody else could."

"That's true," Edward agreed. "What else happened when Kutrum took over?"

"He closed down the child prostitution side of things, and there was that trouble with the Irish," Sid told him.

"What trouble?"

"Don't know the details, but O'Neill 'ad something going on with some of the boys out of Derry. Something Logan had set up. Kutrum did not want to know about it. There was some nasty feeling between Logan and Kutrum for a while, a few of Kutrum's lads got cut up. Nothing serious but enough to send a message. Then it all cleared up. Suspect Kutrum saw the light and did the deal with the Derry boys."

"Or maybe he didn't," muttered Edward.

"Not much else I can tell you about Kutrum after that. I blotted my copybook and got thrown out," Sid said.

"How?" asked Edward.

"'ad me 'and in the till, didn't I? Kutrum found out," Sid replied. "Got a couple of his lads to give me a good beating and told me to stay clear of him and his businesses. I took the 'int."

"Bit harsh," commented Edward.

"Not as harsh as O'Neill would have been," Sid stated. "'ed 'ave broken me arms and me legs, then dumped me in the cut."

"Thanks, Sid," Edward said.

"If I've 'elped you 'ow about another 'undred?"

Edward laughed. Pulled the envelope out of his pocket are removed some more notes. "Fifty, and be grateful for that."

"You're a mean bastard Ed Chapman, but you're straight dealing. My Allen, he reckons you never done for Amir. Seems 'e be right."

"He's right," Edward responded, then up and walked out of the door.

Half an hour later Edward was still thinking about what Sid had said as he walked into the supermarket pushing a trolley. Just inside the door was a stand selling fireworks. It took Edward the better part of half an hour to get the assistant to understand that he wanted to buy every rocket and air burst that they had. That was the first of the firework sellers that they visited that day. After they had visited their third, Edward told John to take them to St Martin's school.

Edward walked in and went to the window marked enquiries. He pressed the bell, and after a short pause, the window slid open.

"Can I help you?" a middle-aged lady asked.

"Yes, I would like to speak to the headmaster," Edward stated.

"Do you have an appointment?" She smirked, knowing full well that no outside appointments were booked for today.

"No, but tell him I know Vincent Wardell. He will see me," Edward instructed. The window slid shut. When it opened again, the secretary informed him that the headmaster could give him ten minutes. Edward was directed to the headmaster's office.

Entering the office, Edward took a seat without being invited in one of the two chairs that faced the headmaster across his desk.

"How can I help you, Mr…?"

"Chapman, Edward Chapman. First, you can contact Vincent; here are his contact details." Edward removed a sheet of folded paper from his pocket and passed it over to the headmaster.

"Why should I contact Vincent?" the headmaster asked.

"Because I suspect you are still as in love with him as you were thirteen years ago," Edward stated.

"It was hopeless," the headmaster stated.

"Then, yes. You were a housemaster at a mediocre prep school, and he was an eighteen-year-old rent boy," Edward stated. "Times change. Vincent is no longer an eighteen-year-old rent boy. In fact, he is deputy head of year at a comprehensive just outside of Exeter. You've just been made headmaster here."

"Vincent's teaching?" the headmaster asked.

"Yes," replied Edward. "I persuaded him that if he was leaving town, he should give up being a rent boy. Got him to go to college, he got his A levels and then his degree. You inspired him there. He said you were a good teacher and he wanted to be like you."

The headmaster pressed a button on the intercom on his desk. When it was answered, he asked whoever answered to send in some refreshments and to cancel his meetings for the next hour.

"How much do you know?" the headmaster asked.

"I know you met Vincent shortly after he was thrown out by his parents," Edward replied. "He was hustling outside a gay bar, looking to make some money. You picked him up and took him to a house on the heights — your parents place no doubt. Vincent said there was something different about you. The two of you sat and talked. Then when you took him to bed, you made sure he had as good a time as you.

"After that, you would meet with him regularly, either at the weekend or on a Wednesday. That went on for over a year, then you got a job here and moved back to town. Vincent said there was trouble for you, and he needed to get away."

"Yes, one of the masters spotted me with Vincent in town. He knew what Vincent's trade was and started to make trouble for me here. I told Vincent about it, and we discussed things and agreed not to meet for a while. That was the last time I saw him," the headmaster replied.

"He came to see me for help," Edward said. "Told me the whole story. I said if he stayed here, he would ruin your career. I got him a job with a friend in Birmingham. Oh, he was still selling himself, but now it was a bit more upmarket, and he had a roof over his head. There was also a condition that he went back to college to do his A levels, which he did. That got him into uni; now he teaches."

"What are his subjects?" the headmaster asked.

"Year nine and ten maths and science," Edward replied.

There was a knock on the door, and the headmaster called out for whomever it was to come in. The secretary entered with a tray of refreshments and both tea and coffee pots.

"Wasn't sure which you wanted," she stated. "So, I made both."

"Thank you, Elisa. I'm sure they will be fine," the headmaster said. The secretary smiled and left, closing the door behind them.

"Tea or coffee?" the headmaster asked Edward.

"Tea, please," Edward replied.

The headmaster poured a cup of tea and passed it to Edward. Indicating the milk and sugar, he told Edward to help himself, which he did. He also helped himself to a biscuit from the pile on the tray.

"So, what is it you want?" the headmaster asked.

"First, I want you to contact Vincent," Edward informed him. "Then, these three boys will be applying for admission in the next couple of weeks." Edward pulled out a sheet of paper listing three boys names and ages handed it over to the headmaster.

"And you want me to admit them, without the admission test?" asked the headmaster.

"Not at all," Edward replied. "I have no doubt they will be able to pass the admission test for their age group. In fact, Danny could probably pass the one for any of your age groups. No, I don't want that."

"Then what do you want?"

"The first two boys on that list are to be given scholarships," Edward stated.

"The school does not have any scholarships available," the headmaster said. Edward pulled out a banker's draft and handed it to the headmaster.

"I believe that will cover the cost of providing a scholarship to both of those boys. It might even help a couple of others," He stated.

The headmaster looked at the banker's draft, then up at Edward.

"This is for a quarter of a million," the headmaster stated. "The maximum you are looking at for the two boys, given their ages, is a hundred thousand."

"As I said, maybe it will help a couple of others as well," Edward replied.

"What happens if I don't agree to what you have asked?" the headmaster asked.

"Nothing," replied Edward. "I am not into blackmail. I've done you a favour by giving you Vincent's contact details. What happens between you and him is your business. As to what happened thirteen years ago, that is not my concern, except for the fact that Vincent is a friend and I like to help my friends.

"The draft is a donation to the school for scholarships. It is yours to use as you think fit, but I do hope you will use it to help those two boys I have brought to your attention."

"What of the third boy?" the headmaster asked.

"I'll pay my son's fees," Edward stated.

The headmaster let out a deep sigh. "You know, Mr Chapman, you've put a moral obligation on me, and that is a lot harder to resist than any blackmail."

"So I have been informed," said Edward. "Now I must leave you as I have other business to attend to."

With that, Edward left the headmaster's office. The headmaster sat still for a few minutes, then picked up the phone and dialled the number of a comprehensive school, just outside of Exeter. As he dialled the number, he was telling himself that they really did need another teacher to cover science and maths for the fourteen to fifteen-year-olds.

By three, Edward was back at the house. He went to unload the car boot of the fireworks stored within it.

"Get into the house," instructed John. "We'll unload this lot and bring it through. Where do you want it?"

"Put it in the shed at the end of the garden," Edward stated. "I don't want it in the open in case of any sparks."

"Now he thinks about that?" commented John. "One bullet into the boot and the whole car would have gone up."

"Ah, but I wasn’t expecting any bullets," Edward replied. Then he went into the house.

Half an hour later, John and Peter were again driving Edward, this time down to Laura's to pick up Joey and Danny.

"We'll see you at about six?" Edward asked Laura while waiting for the two boys to arrive.

"Don't know," Laura replied. "My Jack's away and not going to be back till ten."

"I'll send a car for you," Edward said.

"You'll do no such thing," Laura said. "If I am to come I'll get the bus."

"No, you won't," Edward snapped. "There will be a car here for you at five forty-five, and there will also be one to bring you and the boys back after the party."

Laura looked at Edward with some defiance, but then realised it was better just to give in. Something told her that on this, Edward Chapman was not going to give way.

Joey returned with Danny, the later apologising for being late, but Danny's mother was not very well, and it took some time to sort her out before he could leave. Edward told him it was not a problem but that they needed to stop wasting time and get into the car.

Back at the house, Edward set them to building a bonfire with all the wood they had cleared out of the shed. It took them the better part of an hour to get the wood stacked to Edward's satisfaction.

"You're a hard taskmaster," Joey told his Dad.

"Why?" Edward asked.

"Anyone else would have just piled the wood up, but you had to have it laid in a special way," Joey informed him.

"And those anyones you spoke of would get a lousy burn," commented Edward. "If you lay a fire correctly, it burns better, and it will burn longer rather than just smoldering. Now why don't you two run in and get cleaned up? I'm sure Ben will have something to feed you once you are clean."

The two boys ran off up to the house. Edward spent a few minutes checking that everything was ready around the bonfire pile. He double-checked that it was well away from anything likely to catch fire. Once satisfied, he followed the boys up to the house.

"All ready?" Ben asked as Edward entered the kitchen.

"Hopefully," replied Edward. "Though no doubt, I have forgotten something."

"Like matches?" Ben asked.

Edward laughed. "Haven't forgotten those since we were twelve."

"But you did forget them that year."

"Don't remind me," Edward answered.

"But it is too good to forget," commented Ben.

"You know, sometimes I could hate you."

"I know, Teddy."

Ben put a plate of sandwiches on the table, just as the boys came back into the kitchen, somewhat cleaned up. Informing them that the sandwiches should keep them going till later, Ben gave each boy a glass of cola as they started to wolf down the sandwiches.

"What about me?" Edward asked.

"You're not a growing boy; you can wait till later," replied Ben.

The doorbell rang. Edward looked at his watch in surprise it was nowhere near six. He had told everybody to be there between six and six-thirty. John went to answer the door. After a few moments, he showed DS Conner into the kitchen. Edward was surprised.

"Where's the family?" he asked. Just then, DS Jones walked in.

"They're getting a taxi," Mark replied. "Can we speak?"

"Come through to the office," Edward said, leading the way. Once there he indicated that the two men should take a seat. "What's up?"

"Our source in Kutrum's organisation was found floating in the cut this morning," Mark informed Edward.

"Shit!" Edward exclaimed.

"You can say that again," Mark stated. "The Chief Constable is on the warpath. He is also chafing about the orders from on high not to do anything till tomorrow. Any chance we can move sooner?"

Edward pulled out his mobile phone. "Give me a few minutes, please. I need to speak with somebody." With that, he left the room. About five minutes later, he returned.

"Sorry, no can do," he informed DS Mark Conner. "Things have already started, so it is not possible to change the timing."

"I suspected the answer might be something like that," Mark replied. "Any idea how early we can move?"

"Any time after midnight," Edward replied.

"Thanks. We better get back to the station," Mark said.

"You're still coming to the party, aren't you?" Edward asked.

"Yes," Mark replied. "Then it will be back to work afterwards."

Edward showed the two men out. He then went and made another telephone call.

When he got back to the kitchen, he found the boys, under Ben's supervision, stuffing old newspapers into the legs of an old pair of jeans. He questioned what they were doing.

"We've got to have a Guy for the fire," Danny informed him. "Uncle Ben said we could have some of his old gardening clothes to make one."

Edward glanced at his watch and saw it was almost six. "Well, you better hurry up as our guests will be arriving soon."

As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Once more, John went to answer it.

"Nice kitchen," Laura announced as she walked into the room. "What are you two scallywags up to?"

"Making a Guy, Gran," announced Joey.

"More like making a mess, boy," Laura responded. "I'd say there is more paper on the floor than there is in those jeans. Now bring it here, and we'll get it stuffed."

Edward grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and offered it to Laura.

"Don't need that, Edward Chapman, I ain't that old yet. This is far easier to do standing than it is sitting."

She must have been right for in less than five minutes she had got the boys to stuff not only the jeans for the legs but a shirt for the body and a pillowcase to form the head as well. A pair of rubber gloves had been commissioned to create the hands of the Guy, and a black marker pen added features to the face. The parts were roughly sewn together with string so they vaguely resembled the shape of the human form. As far as the boys were concerned, it was a masterpiece. Edward was in no way going to disillusion them.

Ben told the boys to take the Guy out and tie him to an old chair that at the moment, stood next to the bonfire pile. It only had three legs. The boys were happy to oblige. While they were doing that, other guests, including the girls from Ben's office, started to arrive. Peter, Carol and Ann had let themselves in via the granny flat.

"I think it might be an idea if we took charge of the fireworks," Carol informed Edward.

"Ok, so long as I set off the first rocket," Edward answered. Carol agreed.

Chris and Janet, his mother, arrived just before six-thirty. Chris introduced his mother to Edward and Ben.

"No sign of my husband then?" Carol asked.

"He popped in earlier but had to go back to the station, said he would be here, though," Edward replied.

"He'll probably be there till gone midnight," Carol replied.

Ben threw some hamburgers onto the griddle, and they started to sizzle.

"Isn't it about time you lit the fire?" he asked Edward.

Edward glanced at his watch. It was only just twenty-five past. "I said six-thirty, so we still have five minutes to go."

At six twenty-seven, the doorbell went again. John answered it, then showed DS Conner and DS Jones through the kitchen and into the garden where everybody except Ben was gathering. Ben was busy flipping burgers on the griddle and at the same time putting the contents of a tin of frankfurters into some boiling water.

"You made it then," observed Edward as the two detectives stepped out onto the patio.

"Yes, but have to be back at the station by nine," Mark replied.

"So, you're raiding at midnight," Edward commented.

"I can't answer that," Mark replied.

"You don't need to," Edward stated. "Now come and help me get that Guy our sons have made up on the bonfire."

The two men walked up to the stacked bonfire and lifted the chair into place at on the top of the structure. As they did, those standing around started to chant, "Burn the Guy, burn the Guy…"

Edward signalled Joey to Danny to come over to him. When they got to him, Edward pointed out four strands of twisted paper which stuck out from the base of the bonfire stack. He gave each boy a Bic lighter and told them to light the strands, then to get back on the patio. The boys did as directed. At first, there was the faint flicker of some small flames coming from beneath the pile of wood. Then something highly inflammable ignited, and with a whoosh of flames, the whole structure was engulfed in fire, and Guy Fawkes started to burn.

Edward lit a slow match on the end of a long stick from the flames and walked with it to where a series of empty wine bottles were set up in a row, each holding a rocket. He applied the end of the slow match to the fuse of the first rocket, then stepped back. Five seconds later, it shot off into the air to burst high in the sky, joining the other fireworks from other bonfires burning in the back gardens across the town.

Edward handed the slow match to Ann.

"Have fun," he said.

"We will," Ann, John and Peter replied in unison.

Edward returned to the patio where Ben was serving hamburgers and frankfurters along with baked potatoes, salad and several different dressings. Most of the guests were partaking of wine or beer, but the two detectives were sticking to fruit juice. Edward joined them.

"Some show you're putting on with all those fireworks," DS Jones commented.

"Making up for twelve years without any," Edward replied, as his phone buzzed in his shirt pocket. Edward opened it, read the message and smiled, before closing the phone and returning it to his pocket.

"Good news?" DS Conner enquired.

"Excellent news," Edward responded.

By eight the bonfire had burnt down to glowing embers over which Joey and Danny were roasting chestnuts on a shovel. The last of the fireworks had been let off. There was the smell of burning and gunpowder filling the air. Ben was serving glasses of mulled wine to the adults as the dying fire let in the evening chill.

Gradually the guests for the evening took their leave and departed. The last to leave was Laura with the boys, both of whom had a bag full of hot chestnuts to eat in the taxi on the way home.

By nine everybody had gone, except for Carol, who it appeared had the night duty. Edward hosed down the remaining embers of the fire to ensure that it was totally out. Then he informed Ben he had a couple of hours work he had to do in the office.

"Couldn't you have done it earlier?" Ben asked.

"No, it wasn't the right time. It shouldn't take me more than a couple of hours."