A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 2

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 2

"I was in prison," Edward replied.

"I know that, but you could have fucking written or sent me a card," Joey replied. "Not heard from you in eleven years and now you turn up."

"I didn't know you existed," Edward stated.

"You what?" exclaimed Joey. "How can you not know I existed. You sent money each week for me, granny told me."

"It was my accountant who sent that money," Edward informed him. "He was under instructions not to contact me whilst I was inside. Did not want the fuzz to know about my business. There was no way he could let me know about you without breaching his instructions."

"My mother must have told you, your name is on my birth certificate," Joey stated.

"I'm glad it is," Edward replied. "Your mother told me nothing, except not to contact her or her family."

Joey looked at Edward, a big question forming in his mind. "Really?"

"Yes, really," Edward replied. "If I had known I would have sent cards every birthday and at Christmas. I suppose I have a lot of catching up to do."

"In that case you better stay for tea," stated Laura. "I've got a steak and kidney pie in the oven, was just about to put the spuds on when you rang the door." With that statement she got up and went over to the stove. She hauled a large pan from the draining board onto the stove, then lit the gas below it. "It'll be about thirty minutes. I better turn the oven down ­ don't want the pie burning. Why don't you two go into the parlour, and you can have a talk."

Edward and Joey did as instructed. Once in the front room, Edward took one of the armchairs, Joey plonked himself down on the sofa. Edward could not resist looking at the boy.

"Why you looking at me like that?" Joey asked.

"You remind me of your uncle when he was your age," Edward replied.

"I've got an uncle?" Joey asked.

"Yes, your uncle Mike, my brother, he's five years younger than me and lives in Australia," Edward answered. "You also have an aunt, my older sister Janet. She lives in Worcester. At least she did last time I heard from her."

"How long ago was that?" Joey enquired.

"Twelve years," Edward responded. "She came to see me in Winston Green prison, after my conviction and said she wanted no more contact with me. Did not want her sons to know that their uncle was a murderer."

"Were you?"

"Were I what?" Edward asked.

"A murderer."

"No, Joey. I may have done some bad things in my time, but I have never killed anybody. I would never have killed Amir; I loved him."

"But if you didn't, who did?" Joey asked.

"Now that is a good question," Edward replied. "I don't know the answer. If I had to guess, I would say Tariq, Amir's father, but that is only a guess."

"Why would his father want to kill him?" Joey asked. Edward looked panicked for a moment, the uncertain. Finally he decided the best thing was to tell the truth.

"Amir was my boyfriend, and I think his dad found out. They are Muslim and for them to have a gay in the family would be a great dishonour, so I think they killed Amir and framed me for it."

"But you were living with my mother," Joey stated. "How can you be gay?"

"I'm not, I'm bisexual," Edward replied. "Your mother knew, and she was fine with it, so long as I did not go with any other women, which I never did. In fact, the only woman I ever went with was your mother. I had asked her to marry me that weekend."

"What's bisexual?" the boy asked.

"It means you are attracted to both men and women, sexually," Edward replied. "Amir was my lover, but your mother was my partner. I enjoyed sex with both of them."

"You loved her?" Joey asked.

"Not sure that love is the right word," Edward replied. "I liked her, liked her a lot and part of me needed her. When I was with her it felt good, It was just that at times, I needed Amir. To be honest I think I was in love with Amir whilst I loved your mother. There is a difference."

Joey was quite for a moment, thinking but not really understanding. A few weeks shy of his twelfth birthday, he really did not have the life experience to make sense of what this man had just told him.

"What's going to happen to me now?" he asked.

"What do you want to happen?" Edward asked.

"Don’t know," came the reply. "Granny says I really should get away from here. I don't think she wants me around anymore."

"I'm sure that's not right," Edward commented. "I'm sure she loves you, though I can appreciate her wanting you to get away from here because it is not that good an area to grow up in. I should know; I grew up here."

"But my friend lives here," Joey said. Edward noted the use of the singular form. Before he could answer, Laura came into the room and announced that tea was ready. The pair followed her back to the kitchen and got seated at the table. Laura pulled a large enamel pie tin from the oven, placing it on a mat at the centre of the table, then placed a bowl of mash and one of cabbage next to the pie.

"Help yourselves," was her instruction. Edward insisted that she start.

"So, where are you going to live?" Laura asked, once she had eaten about half what was on her plate.

"At the moment I'm in the bail hostel on Grantham Road," Edward replied. "Hope to move into a friend's place tomorrow for a few weeks whilst I find somewhere of my own."

"Not going back to your place on Talbot Road?" she asked.

"No, too much history there. I’m looking at finding somewhere new," Edward replied.

"Well, make sure it's not in East Side and it has room for the boy," Laura responded.

"Gran!" Joey protested.

"Look, Joey, Edward is your father, you need to get to know him, and you also need to get out of East Side. You're a good kid, or at least as good as kid as any is around here, and you're smart. This place is no good for you. I'd move if I could so you could better chance than you could get here, but I can't. Now your father is here. You have a chance to get out. Also you need a father in your life."

"I've got Jack," Joey protested.

"Jack's more your grandfather than father," Laura pointed out. "Anyway, he's not around enough for what you need."

"So, you're dumping me?" Joey asked, letting his anger show.

"No, if you really don't want to go you can stay, but I think you should give it a try," Laura stated. "You need a father around and I think your father could probably do with a son. It will give him some responsibility.

"Now eat up before it gets cold. There is no point in worrying yourself about things at the moment. Your father has got to get himself sorted out before anything happens with you."

*  *  *  *  *

Edward was rather surprised when he got to the address that Ben had given him. The house before him was massive. It looked early Victorian, though there had been a number of extensions made to it at various times, not all of them in keeping with the original style. He made his way up the long, curving drive to the front of the house, then up the three steps to the front door. For a moment, he was torn between using the lion head knocker to knock the door or to press the bell. He decided to press the bell.

"Thought you weren't going to turn up," Ben said when he opened the door. It was nearly seven before Edward had left Laura's and it was quite a walk to get across the river to the West Side. It then took Edward the better part of half an hour to walk from the river up the escarpment to River Edge where Ben had his house.

"Went and saw Joey," Edward stated, he was looking around as he spoke."This is a new place."

"Ruth got the old place," Ben replied. "You better come in and I can show you the granny flat. Drink?"

"No, thanks," Edward answered. "The hostel are pretty down on any drinking."

Ben led the way down the hall, which at the end led into the kitchen, and then through the utility room. A door at the back of the utility room gave access to the granny flat.

"It has its own access on the far side of the garage," Ben explained as he unlocked the door and led Edward into the flat. He switched on the light as they entered. The room they entered was an open plan living cum kitchen space. A large window and a patio door looked out over the garden. Not that there was much to see in the dark. A corridor led down to an outside door. Off the corridor was a bathroom and the bedroom, both with windows looking out over the garden.  

Edward spent a good ten minutes looking round the place. He opened the outside door to see where it led. There was a passage between the garage and the boundary wall that gave access to the back garden. The door opened onto that passage.

"It works," was Edward's comment.

"So, you'll take it?" Ben enquired.

"Yes, better than the bloody hostel."

Ben laughed. "Right, I'll get Mrs Downs to make the bed up in the morning. She's my cleaner cum  housekeeper. Comes in three days a week. Tomorrow is one of those days. She cleans and hoovers in here once a week; only takes her about thirty minutes."

"How long have I got it for?" Edward asked.

"Until the twenty third of December," Ben replied. "Mother is coming on the 24th and I much prefer to have her in here than the main house."

"So, I need to find somewhere by then," Edward stated.

"Not necessarily," Ben replied. "If you haven't got somewhere by then, you can move into the main house over Christmas. I've got plenty of room. I would have offered you that from the start but thought you might like your own space."

"I appreciate it," Edward commented.

Ben guided them back to the main house and into the kitchen area. "Tea?"

Edward glanced at his watch. "Better not. It's nearly nine and it's a walk back to the hostel; curfew is at ten."

"I'll drive you back," Ben stated as he filled the kettle and put it on to boil.

"Nice place you have," Edward said, as he looked round the kitchen.

"It's not bad," Ben replied. "Too big for me, really. Five bedrooms in the main house, then there is the granny flat."

"Then why have it?" Edward asked.

"Mostly because of the garden. I love to garden and this one is just right for me. The granny flat is important as well. It allows mother to stay but not be on top of me."

"How is she?" Edward enquired.

"She's doing fine," Ben said. "She remarried a couple of years after dad died but it did not work out. Ended up with a bloody good settlement. Now she can travel to her heart’s content, for which I am grateful."

"Not much's changed then?"

"No, she is still the same busybody," Ben replied. "How did things go with Joey." The kettle boiled and Ben made the tea whilst Edward explained the events of earlier in the day.

"One question, Ben. Any idea how I came to be named as father on the birth certificate? I always thought that when the parents were not married the father had to be present to register the birth and to get his name on the certificate."

"You're nearly right there, though there are a few exemptions. In this case, Maria was too ill after Joey's birth to register the birth, so I did. Remember, I had your Power of Attorney, so could act on your behalf. I completed a Statutory Declaration for you as parent using the Power of Attorney."

"Thanks," Edward replied. "It's a good job you did, at least I have rights."

"You intend to exercise them?" Ben asked.

"Yes," Edward replied. There was a pause as he thought for a moment. "No kid deserves to grow up on the East side."

"We did," Ben pointed out.

"And look where it's got us," Edward replied. Ben just nodded. He understood what Edward meant.

"So, you're going to take him out of there?" Ben asked.

"That's what Laura wants me to do," Edward informed him.

Ben glanced at the clock. "Finish your tea, I better get you back to the hostel."

*  *. *. *  *

Thursday morning Edward informed the staff in the bail hostel that he had found accommodation. They had to speak with probation and the police but by eleven Edward had permission to move into the granny flat at Ben's. Actually, the permission was to move to Ben's address as it was the same as the granny flat's. Edward had rather skirted over the fact that he had separate accommodation there.

Edward phoned Ben to let him know it had all been approved. Ben told him that he would pick him up at one and move his stuff for him. Actually there was quite a bit of stuff ­ it is surprising how much one can accumulate during twelve years inside. Ben was rather surprised when Edward started to cart it out of the hostel to Ben's BMW.

"Crickey, what is all this stuff?" Ben asked.

"Mostly my university course," Edward answered. "That lot is my masters, this here is for my PhD."

"You've got a PhD?" queried Ben.

"Not yet, got a couple more years to do, but I am nearly there," Edward replied. Ben looked at him. "Well, I had to do something to pass the time in the cells. Getting an OU degree seemed like a good idea. The thing is, once you get into studying, it becomes addictive, so I just kept going."

"So, what have you got?" Ben asked.

"My masters is in Environmental Studies, specifically Climate Change," Edward replied. "I am doing my PhD on the variation in glacier melt rates and its impact on local water cycles."

"Sounds complicated," Ben replied. "Let's get this lot into the car."

Some twenty minutes later, they were unloading the car and carrying the bags down the passageway to the granny flat. Once everything was in the living room, Edward turned to Ben and apologised. "Sorry, Ben, I can't offer you a tea, got nothing in yet."

"That's fine," Ben replied. "Come through to my side." He unlocked the connecting door and led the way through to his kitchen, where he made a pot of tea.

"By the way, there is a VW Golf in the garage you can use," Ben stated. "Mother usually drives it when she is here. I added you to the insurance this morning." With that he took a set of car keys off the car rack and tossed them to Edward. "You better get your licence updated using this address."

"Will do," Edward replied.

"I need to get back to the office before Mary scares away all my clients," Ben stated.

"Do you have that many?" Edward asked.

"Quite a few," Ben replied. "It surprising how many people around here want to keep the legit side of their activities separate from their other activities."

"And you supply the service," stated Edward.

"I only deal with the legit stuff. I make sure both the police and HMRC know it, so I don't have problems and neither do my clients."

"I know," remarked Edward. "That's why I left you in charge of my affairs."

"Right. What are you going to do this afternoon?"

"I need to let Laura know where I am. I suppose I should get a mobile phone. Not sure how to do that," Edward stated. "Also I need to do some shopping. I’ll probably use the car and go to the supermarket

"Since you went inside, they have built a new retail park down by the motorway junction," Ben informed him. "There is an ASDA there, and also a phone shop. You can get a pay as you go phone there. I'll top up your cash card up for you when I get into the office."

"I also need to get a computer," Edward stated.

"There is a PC World there," Ben told him. "Should be able to get what you need. I've got a ISDN line here as I work quite a bit from home, and there is wireless cover in here. I'll set you up on the network when you've got what you want. Must leave though — can't leave Mary in charge too long."

With that Ben left, and Edward started sorting out his various bags and putting things into some sort of order. Shortly after three, he took the car and drove out to the retail park. There he was able to get some basic groceries in the supermarket, plus some toiletries he wanted. He then went to the phone shop and got himself a pay as you go phone. He also managed to find a laptop computer he liked in PC World, though he ended up paying far more for it than he had intended.

Edward was a bit annoyed to find that he had to charge the phone before he could use it. It was getting on for four thirty, so he decided he would call round to Laura's and let her know where he was living and also give her his phone number. Fortunately, the saleswoman in the shop had written it down for him. When he got there, Joey opened the door.

"You again," he said, looking around Edward to see the car. "Bit of a naff car, ain't it."

"Probably is Joey, but it has four wheels and gets me about. A friend lent it me. Is your granny in?"

"Yha, you better go through to the kitchen. She's cooking tea."

Edward entered. As he did, Laura called out asking Joey who it was.

"It's me Dad, come to see you," he replied.

Laura came out of the kitchen to meet him. This time he was guided into the living room. Edward took the indicated armchair, Laura sat on the settee, and Joey perched on the arm of the settee next to his gran.

"Wanted to let you know that I've got a place, at least until Christmas," Edward explained. "I'm staying with a friend on Clayton View."

"Where's that?" Joey asked.

"Up on the Heights," Edward replied.

"West side, that's good," Laura said.

"It's only temporary," Edward pointed out.

"Just stay that side of the river," Laura instructed. "You need to get your kid out of here."

"Gran!" Joey exclaimed.

"Look Joey, you've got a father who, despite everything he is, at least has the money to get you out of East Side. You need to make the most of that. This is no place for any kid to grow up, and especially not one as intelligent as you."

"This is my phone number," Edward informed Laura, handing her a slip of paper on which he had copied his number. "Call me if you need me."

"You'll stay for tea?" Laura asked.

"Sorry, can't," Edward responded. "Got a lot to get done and promised my mate I would be back by six." With that he made his excuses and stood to leave. As he walked to the door Joey ran up to him.

"Dad, could you take Danny and me to Raycoat tomorrow?"

"Who's Danny and why do you want to go to Raycoat?" Edward asked.

"Danny's my best mate," Joey responded. "There's an exhibition of Saxon art at the museum in Raycoat, and tomorrow is the last day. I've been trying to get over all month but there are no buses to Raycoat and Gran says it is too far to bike, especially at this time of year."

"Your gran is right there, but aren't you at school tomorrow?"

"No, it's half-term," Joey said. Edward looked over him, then down the corridor where Laura was listening to the conversation. She just nodded to him.

"OK, I'll take you to Raycoat," Edward stated. "I'll pick you up about eleven. It should take an hour in the car, so we can have some lunch there and then go to the museum."

Joey suddenly wrapped his arms around Edward. "Thanks, Dad."

Laura smiled.

*  *  *  *  *

Edward was unloading the car when Ben pulled onto the driveway.

"Looks like you've been busy," Ben stated, as he got out of the car.

"Been spending. Needed to get some food in, also I got myself a phone and a laptop, though I think I overspent on that."

"One normally does," Ben stated. "Look, finish unloading, then come through to the kitchen. You can join me for dinner. I've got a couple of steaks."

"Why did you get a couple when there is only you?" Edward laughed.

"I know what you are like at cooking, remember."

Fifteen minutes later Edward was in Ben's kitchen watching Ben drain some potato cubes in a colander.

"How do you get the potatoes done so fast?" Edward asked. "It takes me twenty minutes to boil them and first I have to get the water to the boil."

"Chef's trick, cut the potatoes into small cubes, they cook faster," Ben replied. "Also I start with boiling water, I boil it in the kettle whilst I am pealing the potatoes. Then again I do not want them fully boiled. As I am about to sauté the potatoes, parboiled is all I require."

With that said, he added some olive oil and a knob of butter into a frying pan on the hob. As soon as the butter had melted, he stripped some rosemary leaves into the pan, then added the cubed potatoes. The steaks were oiled on each side, then peppered before being placed on a griddle pan that had already been heating on the hob.

"If I remember right you like your steak on the rare side of medium rare," Ben said.

"It's so long since I've had steak any condition will do," Edward replied. Ben smiled at the comments. He put some frozen peas in a saucepan, poured boiling water onto them and placed the pan on the hob. A timer he had set buzzed. Ben killed the timer, reset it then turned the steaks over, restarting the timer. Then he gave the potatoes a shake in their pan.

"Did you do anything besides shopping today?" Ben asked.

"Called in to see Laura, let her know I've moved here and give her my phone number,"

"So, you got a phone. What's the number?"

"Yes, I've got a phone, it's on charge at the moment. Got the number written down, I'll give it to you later."

"Good, it will be nice to be able to contact you," Ben stated. "Fancy meeting for lunch tomorrow?"

"Sorry, can't," Edward replied. "I promised Joey I would take him and a friend over to see an exhibition in Raycoat."

The timer buzzed once again. Ben removed the steaks from the griddle, placed them on an enamel plate and put them in the warming oven to rest. Then he gave the potatoes another shake, before resetting the timer and starting it again.

"Well, it's good you are doing something with him," Ben stated. "Aren't they at school, though?"

"No, seems it's half-term," Edward replied. "Thought I would take them over to Raycoat and call in at a couple of estate agents over there while I am out that way."

"You're not thinking of moving to Raycoat, are you?" Ben asked.

"No, but I did think about getting a place in one of the smaller villages. I think the Raycoat agencies probably deal more with them than the ones in town."

"That's almost certain," Ben replied. "There is more money that side of the Pennines."

The timer buzzer sounded again. Ben stopped it, then removed the plate with the steaks on it from the warming oven, together with a couple of plates that had been in there warming. He placed a steak on each of the plates, then added sauté potatoes before he drained the peas to add them to the plates. Once the peas were on the plates he placed a knob of butter on top of the peas and a knob of garlic butter on the steaks.

"Here you are," Ben said, as he put one of the plates in front of Edward. "Would you like a beer?"

"Yes, please."

Ben put the other plate down where he would be sitting and went to the fridge. He removed a couple of bottles of Grolsch. He put both on the table, then got some glasses out of the cupboard.

The two men ate in silence for a while, then Ben asked the question which had been on his mind since yesterday.

"Exactly why did you send those instructions via your solicitor? It hurt you know. I wanted to come and visit you, to let you know I never believed you killed Amir."

"There were too many people looking into my affairs then. I didn’t want them to know about the stuff you were dealing with. I told my solicitor to sort out the necessary papers to give you the power to run my affairs and also give you the instructions that you were not to contact me while I was inside."

"How was it?"

"Inside, you mean?" Edward replied.

"Yes," said Ben.

"Not too bad, once I was convicted and on the island. Remand was bloody awful," Edward stated.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Not really," Edward responded.