A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 4

 A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 4

Edward glanced at the cake counter and saw the boys were in deep debate.

"What's the problem?" Edward asked Ben.

"I'll tell you when you get back tonight," Ben replied. "It's not the boy, though — don't know much about him."

Just then the boys appeared to make their decision. A couple of cakes were placed on plates and handed to the waitress, who vainly tried to make it across to the table before the boys got there. By time she did get to the table the boys were already sitting there forks raised, ready to attack their cakes. 

It was just gone six when Edward dropped Joey and Danny back at Laura's. Joey said he was going to take Danny home and started walking up the street with him. As soon as the boys had left, Edward turned to Laura and said he needed to talk to her about Danny.

"I guessed you would," Laura replied. "Now though is not the time. Telling that tale will take more than five minutes and that's all we've got before Joey gets back. They'll be going into town in the morning. Pop round about eleven; they  should be gone by then."

Edward agreed that he would see Laura in the morning. He declined an offer of a meal and got back in his car and drove to Ben's. As he parked up in front of the garage, Ben opened the front door. The moment Edward got out of the car, Ben told him he better come in that way.

"What's up?" Edward asked as he entered.

"There was a message on my answering machine. Not many people have the house number. Detective Sergeant Conner is one who does. He's left a message that he is trying to contact you, and asked that I let you know he will be round at nine in the morning to see you."

"I wonder what he wants?" Edward mused.

"I shouldn't worry over it. I always got the impression that he was on your side. I don't think he ever believed you killed Amir."

"I'm certain he didn't," Edward informed Ben. "It was that bloody detective inspector."

"He's gone now," Ben remarked.

"He is?"

"Yes, he got appointed to a Detective Superintendent post in the Met, then got caught being too friendly with some bad boys."

"I didn't know," Edward stated. "Didn't see it in the papers."

"It wasn't in the papers," Ben responded. "There was not enough evidence for charges, (so) they went down the disciplinary route. The bastard resigned from the force before it could get to a hearing, so the whole matter was dropped."

"How come you know?" Edward asked.

"Conner told me," Ben replied. "He would pop in to see me every couple of months and fill me in on the local goings on."

"He knew you were acting for me?"

"I doubt he knew for certain," Ben assured Edward. "I think he suspected. Remember, he was at school with us, a year behind. Conner knew how close we were. I think he guessed I was looking after your affairs, though I think he believed we were in contact somehow.

"After that tea we had, I doubt you are all that hungry, but I've got the makings of a couple of omelettes ready. Ham and cheese. Fancy one?"

"I can't have you cooking for me all the time," Edward stated.

"It won't be all the time. Some evenings I have to work," Ben informed him. "Anyway, I like cooking, so enjoy the excuse to cook for somebody, and I happen to know from experience how bad a cook you are."

"You are not going to let me live that down," said Edward.

"Well, it is not everybody who can make beans on toast inedible," Ben replied. "So, drop your stuff off in the granny flat and come back for some food. It should just about be ready by time you get back."

Five minutes later Edward was sitting at the table, a nice fluffy omelette in front of him accompanied by a glass of water. The two men set about eating in silence. When the meal was finished, Edward asked the question which had been on his mind since they had left Betsy's earlier in the day.

"So Ben, what do you know about Danny Meadows?"

"About the boy, not much. To be honest, I thought his mother had left town years ago; don't know when she came back. His mother is Darlyn Meadows, nee Grace. I am sure you remember her."

Edward did and gave a little shudder recalling his school days.

"She married George Meadows," Ben continued. "It was about nine months before your arrest. A bit of a shotgun marriage. Darlyn had found out she was preggies and told George it was his."

"George Meadows as in the Kutrum Bhat's accountant?" asked Edward.

"That's the one," Ben confirmed. "He married Darlyn and the kid was born. About three months later all hell broke loose, the kid was admitted to hospital, don't know what for, but somehow George learned the boy's blood group and it showed that there was no way that Danny could be his.

"By the time Darlyn got back from the hospital with Danny, George had packed up and left. He went back to his mother's. A few months later he left town completely. Word was he had gone to the States. Look Teddy, there is no easy way to say this, but rumour was that George and your Maria had got together and were in a relationship. Maria said she was off to get a better life and vanished the same time as George did."

"So, Maria ran off leaving Danny behind," Edward observed. 

"Yes," agreed Ben. "It was all a bit odd. For one thing, George had never dropped a hint to anyone about going to the States. I knew him fairly well and we would have lunch together every couple of weeks. At no time did he give a hint he was going to bail out. Then he just up and left, hardly took a thing with him. Just enough for a long weekend somewhere.

"Darlyn was working as afternoon hostess at one of the Bhat's places. Her mother used to look after the kid when she was working. Then one day she tells her mother that she has an offer of a good job in Newcastle and the following weekend she's gone with the kid. That was the last time I had heard of her."

"Well, she is clearly back now," Edward stated. "And for some time, as Danny and Joey have been together since kindergarten from what Laura said. They live up the hill from Laura's."

"They must be in her mother's old house," Ben stated. "The mother died about a year and a half after Darlyn left. I suppose that Darlyn inherited the house. She was an only child and her dad had died years before."

"What is it you're not telling me?" Edward asked.

"When it all blew up about George not being the father, there was a strong rumour that DS Conner was the father, though Darlyn denied it," Ben stated. "Conner and his wife had quite a rough patch just before Darlyn got pregnant. They separated for a bit, actually nearly a year and a half, but then got back together. They’ve been a pretty stable couple since then."

"Does DS Conner have any family?" Edward asked.

"Yes, he's got a son, Chris, who plays in the Westbeam Rugby Club Juniors. Damned good forward. He's also got a daughter, who is a lot younger. Don't know much about her."

Edward thought about what he had just been told, and about what Joey and Danny had told him earlier. A few things started to slot into place in his mind.

*  *  *  *  *

Detective Sergeant Conner arrived at Ben's almost exactly at nine in the morning. Not knowing about the granny flat, he rang the bell of the main house. Ben opened the door.

"Good morning, Mr Levi, is Mr Chapman in?" the Detective Sargent asked.

"I believe he is, though I have not seen him this morning," Ben replied. "He has his own apartment. You better come through into the kitchen. I'll pop down and get him."

Ben led the Detective Sergeant into the kitchen and offered him some tea or coffee. The DS chose coffee. Once that was served, Ben made his way down to the granny flat's connecting door and knocked on it. Edward opened the door.

"DS Conner's here. He's in the kitchen, waiting to speak with you," Ben informed Edward.

"I’d better go and see what he wants, then," Edward replied, brushing past Ben and walking down the passage to the kitchen. Ben closed the door, then followed.

Entering the kitchen just behind Edward, Ben asked, "Would you like to use the living room;  you can have more privacy in there?"

"I don't think that will be necessary," the detective sergeant said. "By this afternoon what I've got to say will be front page news in the local rag."

"And what is it you’ve got to say?" Edward enquired.

"Yesterday afternoon, Tariq Sunrai, Sonny Bhat and Sunjay Bhat were charged with the murder of Amir Sunrai," Detective Sargent Conner informed the two men.

"The Bhat brothers charged with murder?" asked Edward with some surprise.

"Yes, the skin and blood samples taken from under Amir's nails, where he had scratched his assailant, gave a DNA match to Sunjay. They have also been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury. At the moment, the CPS is looking at what else they can throw at the them. More charges are expected."

"Well, at least I have a good defence when my retrial comes up," Edward commented.

"That's likely to be fairly soon," the detective sergeant replied. "After all, it is a bit hard to convict somebody of murder when somebody else has already been convicted for it and the conviction still stands. The CPS are going to want to get your retrial out of the way as quickly as possible. I've had the wink that they are hoping to get a free court session sometime the week after next."

"That's fast," Edward stated. "My solicitors said six months to a year."

"We did not have anyone in custody then," the detective sergeant pointed out. "They're in court this morning and will be remanded to appear in the Crown Court. I think the CPS would like to have you acquitted before they get to the Crown Court."

"I imagine they would," Ben stated.

"So, my retrial is being fast tracked?" asked Edward.

"Yes," Detective Sergeant Conner replied. "The CPS confirmed that they will be offering no evidence. There is a letter on its way to your solicitor, so I expect you will be hearing from them the beginning of next week."

"I hope so," Edward replied. "The quicker things get cleared up the quicker I can get back to a normal life."

"And what, may I ask, is going to be a normal life for you?" the detective sargent asked. "You are long out of the businesses you had going with the Bhat brothers."

"I did have other interests," Edward stated.

"I'm aware that you did, though most of my colleagues missed that point," DS Conner replied. "I believe Mr Levi has been taking care of them for you."

"You seem to know quite a lot, Detective Sergeant," Edward said.

"I try to make sure I know what is going on in my patch," the detective sergeant explained.

"Then may I ask you a personal question?" Edward enquired.

"I presume there is a reason for such a question, so yes, you may, but I do not guarantee that I will answer it."

"That's fair," replied Edward. "Is Danny Meadows your son?"

There was I moment of silence. The Detective Sergeant looked round the two men sitting across the table from him. For a moment or two he thought about it, then he answered.

"I believe he is. I had a short relationship with his mother, about the time he was conceived. Seeing him growing up, he's been the spitting image of Chris when he was the same age."

"So, you asked Chris to look out for him when he went up to East Bank College?" Edward asked.

"I didn't need to," DS Conner replied. "My wife and son have known about Danny since we got back together. Chris said he would keep an eye on Danny when he got to the high school."

"I'm surprised you allowed Chris to go there given East Bank's reputation," Ben commented.

"No, bloody choice," the detective sergeant replied. "Can't afford to put him into St Martin's on my salary, and we are well and truly in the middle of the East Bank catchment area. No way could I get him into Highcross or James Hill. I tried the best I could but even with the connections I have it was no use. Though at the end of this year he's off to the technical college. the A level teaching is better there."

"So I have heard," Ben replied.

"If you know Danny is your son, why aren't you helping him and his mother?" Edward asked.

"I've tried, but Darlyn won't let me. She refuses to acknowledge that Danny may be mine," the detective sargent answered. "She threatened to get a restraining order against me which would have really fucked up my career. Remember, I was only a detective constable back then. I think Darlyn reckoned that George Meadows was a better bet financially than I was."

"But George wasn't the father," Ben stated.

"No, he couldn't have been," DS Conner replied. "When Danny was in that accident and taken to hospital, he had to have a blood transfusion. That's when it came out. Danny was AB negative. George knew he was type O so there was no way he could have a child with an AB blood group."

"But you could?" Ben asked.

"Yes, I'm B negative," the DS replied. "Darlyn is type A, and an AB child is quite on the cards for us."

"So, you just left it there," stated Edward.

"No, I do what I can for the kid, when I can, in ways that Darlyn doesn't find out. I've got a cousin who works with the Sally Army. I slip him packets of clothing to pass on to Danny. I try to make sure he has something warm to wear each winter. The problem is half the time Darlyn takes the stuff and sells it.

"When Danny was as the junior school I used to make sure there were always funds on his lunch card. The head teacher is my cousin so she organised it for me. As far as Darlyn was concerned, he was getting free lunches, though she had never bothered to apply for them. I can't do that at East Bank as they have a different system, so I slip Chris a few quid extra each week to make sure Danny has a lunch each day. Sometimes I think it is all he gets to eat. Darlyn's not much for cooking."

"Is she a user?" Edward asked.

"Not as far as I know," replied the detective sergeant. "She's in a bit of a mess financially, though. There is no way she can work and from what I hear she is on minimum benefits. She's lucky that she has got use of the house. At least she does not have to worry about rent."

"She's got use of the house?" Ben enquired.

"Yes," DS Conner answered. "Her mother left it in trust for Danny. Darlyn only has the right to live in it. When Danny turns twenty-five, he gets the house free and clear of all attachments and conditions.

"May I ask why you are so interested?"

"Danny is my son's best mate," Edward stated. "Anything which affects Danny rubs off on Joey, so that means it is my business."

"So Joey is your son?"


"Always thought he was," Detective Sergeant Conner stated. "He always looked a bit like your brother at the same age."

"You remember Mike?"

"Of course I do. He was in the first year when I was in the fourth at school. The only black lad in the school. You had left." With that comment the detective sergeant looked at his watch. "Look, much as I would love to talk more, I'm on duty at twelve and need to do some shopping first."

"You mean this call is unofficial?" Ben asked.

"Of course it is," the DS responded as he made ready to leave. "By the way, Mr Chapman, if there is any way you can help Danny I would be grateful."

"I think I need a tea," Edward said after the DS had gone. He got up and started to move towards the kettle.

"I'll make it," Ben stated, getting to the kettle before Edward. "I don't want burnt water."

"I did learn to boil a kettle inside,"

"How come?"

"We had kettles in our cells in HMP Albany, so we could make a hot drink when we were locked in. After the first few failures, I learnt how to boil water."

Ben laughed but still made the tea.

It had just gone ten past eleven when Edward pulled up outside Laura's. Getting out of the car, he walked up to the door an pushed the bell. Laura opened it shortly after.

"Sorry I'm late," Edward said. "Gale Street bridge was closed; some sort of accident; had to go down to the Town bridge."

"Probably best you were late," Laura said. "The boys have only just gone into town. You better come in. I've just made a pot of tea as I knew you were coming."

Inwardly Edward groaned. There was only so many cups of tea one could drink in a morning.

"Thanks, I could do with one," he forced himself to say.

He followed Laura into the kitchen and took a seat at the table. Laura placed the teapot on the table, then set about pouring a couple of cups of tea.

"So, you want to know about Danny then?" she asked. Although framed as a question, it was more of a statement.


"Darlyn Meadows is his mother, though you probably knew her as Darlyn Grace. She married George Meadows about the time of your arrest. Danny was born about six months after."

"But George wasn't the father," Edward stated.

"You know that do you. Do you know who the father is?"

"Yes, I do," Edward replied.

"That's going to save a lot of explanation. Anyway, back to Darlyn and George. About three months after Danny was born, there was an accident. No one knows quite what happened but it seems that a cupboard gave way when Darlyn was opening it. A whole pile of stuff fell out, including some knives. Darlyn was holding the baby as she opened the cupboard. One of the knives cut him badly and he was rushed to hospital, where they had to give the mite a blood transfusion. That caused all sorts of hell. George realised that he could not possibly be the father. Gave Darlyn a couple of black eyes and left. Shortly after, it came out he had gone to the States.

"Not long after, Darlyn announces she has got a job in Newcastle and ups and leaves. We don't see her again for a year and a half, when she comes back for her mother's funeral. Right pissed she was. Darlyn's mother was not that badly off so Darlyn was expecting a bit, but she didn’t get it. Her mother had put everything, including the house, into trusts and left it to Danny. All Darlyn got was the right to live in the house until Danny is twenty-five, then he gets the lot."

"I think Darlyn must have known she was ill even then. Can't think why else she would have stayed down here, even with a free house to live in, if she had a job in Newcastle. Stay she did, though. For a bit she worked afternoons at one of the Bhat brothers' places

Laura did not need to say more as Edward was fully aware of the type of places that the Bhat bothers ran which employed women in the afternoons.

"It was not more than a year or so before she was too ill to work. Though it is only in the last couple of years that it has became really bad. She was on the sick - by time Danny started reception class at the school. That was the same year Joey started. That's where they met. The pair of them have been stuck together like twins ever since. If you see one, you can be sure the other is not far away."

"What's wrong with Darlyn?" Edward asked.

"Not sure," Laura replied. "It's some sort of autoimmune disease. Her own body's defence system is attacking itself. Apparently there is not much they can do about it. They can slow it down, but they can't stop it. There is some drug that eases the symptoms, but it does not slow down or reverse the disease, so it's not available on the NHS. She spends most of her benefit money buying it on private prescriptions. There is little left for Danny or anything else."

"Surely there must be something that can be done to help?" Edward said. "Couldn't she get help from one of the charities or somewhere?"

"You don't know Darlyn," Laura stated. "She's pig proud and won't take help from anywhere. She would rather starve than take charity. Unfortunately, all too often that means that Danny starves as well. I try to make sure that he has something to eat whenever he is down here, especially during the holidays. I know he won't be getting anything at school then."

"So, it's no use me going along and offering her a handout?" asked Edward.

"Not unless you want a black eye," Laura responded. "I wish I could do more for Danny, but we are not managing that well ourselves."

"If you need help, ask," Edward instructed.

"Oh, we manage, but Joey could do with some things," she replied.

"Let me know what he needs," stated Edward.

"What he needs more than anything is your attention," Laura informed him. "He's had neither a mother or a father around. Me and Jack don't really provide replacements though we do our best. Just spend some time with him, but be careful not to spoil him. You can't buy his affection."

"Joey's a bit bigger than Danny," Edward stated.

"Yes, not by much, but a bit. Comes in useful at times. When Joey grows out of something, I pass it on to Danny."

"So, if I bought some stuff for Joey and it was the wrong size?" he asked.

"I could pass it onto Danny, but how is Joey going to feel?"

"He'll be fine, because I'll buy him the same but in the correct size."

Laura laughed. "Fancy going shopping?"

"Come on then," Edward said.

"Got to be back by two," Laura informed him. "Our Jack phoned half an hour ago, he's just got through Dover customs. It will take him four hours to get home. I need to have a hot meal ready for him."


Just under two hours later, Laura and Edward returned to Laura's house. It took Edward three trips from the car to the house to unload the bags they had bought. Once they were all deposited in the living room, Edward took his leave, leaving Laura to deal with the last part of getting Danny fitted out for winter. On one point, Edward was very pleased with himself. He had found a branch of the outdoors shop that they had looked at in Raycoat, and they had the coat that Danny had admired. Edward had bought two of them, both bright yellow.

It had gone three by the time Edward got back to the granny flat. He noticed Ben's car was not on the drive, so gathered he must have gone out. There were a couple of letters on the living area table for him. One was from his solicitors. It just confirmed that the CPS had indicated that they would not be offering any evidence at the retrial and would accept a plea of not guilty. "About bloody time," thought Edward.

The other letter was a totally different matter. It was from Kutrum Bhat, the uncle of the Bhat brothers. It asked for a meeting. Edward was confused. First, how did Kutrum know his address? Second, why would he want to meet? After thinking about it for a few minutes, Edward decided he needed to speak to Ben about it.

That settled, he got around to packing away the few things he had purchased for himself during the recent shopping spree. Not that he had bought much. Just some more shirts, a couple of ties and a couple of packs of underwear. He had also got himself a couple of books to read. Once everything was put where he wanted them, Edward made himself a mug of tea; despite what Ben said, he was capable of boiling water. Then, he sat down with one of the books and started to read.

Sometime later a knocking at the connecting door brought Edward back to reality. Going to the door and opening it he found a smiling Ben facing him.

"How did things go with Laura?" Ben asked as he stepped into the room.

"Fine," Edward replied. "Found a lot out about Danny, then went on a shopping spree with Laura buying clothes for Joey and Danny."

"I hope that does not cause a problem," Ben said. "I've been doing some digging. From what I hear Danny's mother is very stubborn about accepting anything she sees as being charity."

"Laura's got that sorted. Danny is a bit smaller than Joey, so we bought everything for Danny a size too small for Joey. It will still fit Danny. Laura's was going to wash it all this afternoon, then take it up to Darlyn saying I had got it for Joey but had got the sizes wrong, and as Joey had worn it, meaning it can't be returned. Apparently Danny gets a lot of Joey's cast offs. So there is no problem there."

"Did you find the letters I left on the table?" Ben asked.

"Yes, and I need to talk to you about one of them," replied Edward.

"Well, you better come through to the kitchen and we can talk whilst I finish off preparing dinner."

"You're not cooking for me again are you?"

"No, I'm cooking for myself. Got one of Slater's chicken pies. It's in the oven now. Unfortunately, they are a bit big for one person so I thought we could share."

"Alright Ben, I believe you. However, I will need to do some cooking for myself. I know you don't believe it, but I can boil water. Made myself a tea this afternoon."

"Which you seem to have avoided drinking," Ben stated, looking at the still full mug on the coffee table.

"Got into a book, didn't I?" Edward replied. He followed Ben through to Ben's kitchen. Ben started to sort out some veg to go with the chicken pie.

"So, what is it you need to talk to me about?"

"One of the letters was from Kutrum Bhat, he wants a meeting," Edward informed Ben.

"Fuck!" exclaimed Ben, turning from the sink to face Edward. "What the hell for?"