A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 1

A Kid Named Joey

 by Nigel Gordon

 Chapter 1 


The man dismounted from the bus at the stop near the corner of Satterley Street and Totten Way. For a minute or two he stood by the stop, looking around, as if trying to refamiliarize himself with a place he had known in the past. Looking back down Totten Way, he could see the bridge that spanned the river, just before it made a right turn. With that turn it ceased to separate the terraces and cottages built for the workers on the East Side from the villas built for management on the West Side. After the turn, it separated the old town centre on the North Side from the newly constructed retail centre backed by industrial estates and retail parks on the South Side.

 Once you had that layout in your head, you knew the town – a town much larger than any of its neighbouring cities, but a town none the less. Like most places of any size, it had its own dark side. A dark side the man knew only too well. After looking around a bit more, he turned and started to make his way down Satterley Street.

 It is doubtful if anyone on Satterley Street recognised the figure of Edward Chapman as he proceeded down towards the river that Wednesday morning. Not that those who were resident on Satterley Street took much notice of who went up or down it. They knew it was generally better not to see things. If any of them had recognised him, they would have decided it was definitely better not to know that he was there.

 As he passed the derelict church, a thin beam of early winter sun shone through the gap between the buildings, lighting up his face. It was a thin face. A face which, although black, had clearly not seen much sun. That was hardly surprising. Edward Chapman had spent the last twelve and a half years inside an eight-foot by eight-foot prison cell on the Isle of Wight. That was when he was not in a smaller cell in some remand or transfer prison.

 Just before the junction of Satterley Street and Hob's Lane, he turned to a door between two shops. Opening it, he entered and climbed the dingy stairs to the first floor. At the top he went through another door into a small reception area.

 "Ben Levi please," he said to the receptionist, in a voice that reverberated through the building.

 "And you are?" she replied.

 "It does not matter, just tell the old git that he has a visitor."

 "I can't do that," she answered. Just then a door down the passage off the reception area opened.

 "Teddy?" a voiced asked. Edward turned towards the passage and the open door. "Thought I recognised the voice. You better come through." The receptionist looked annoyed.

 "Nice to see you, Ben," Edward stated as he made his way past Ben and into the office overlooking the crossroads. "I see nothing has changed much here."

 "The receptionist has changed. Used to be Linda, now I have Mary," Ben said, closing the door, then pulling Edward into a hug. A hug which Edward returned. Then Ben took his seat behind the desk and indicated to Edward that he could take either the chair or the sofa. Edward chose the sofa.

 "That's not really changed," Edward said. "She may be a different face, but the attitude is the same."

 Ben laughed. Then he looked at Edward with a frown. "So, you’re out. I hope it's legitimate; you've not escaped, have you?"

 "No, bail pending retrial," Edward replied.

 "Retrial?" Ben asked, a look of surprise on his face.

 "Leave to appeal was granted a month ago, got a hearing yesterday. My brief presented the new evidence, prosecution had no comment, judges quashed conviction and ordered retrial."

 "What new evidence?"

 "DNA testing. It's a thing some boffin in Leicester came up with," Edward replied. "Turns out that the blood on my shirt was not Amir's. Same blood group but wrong DNA."

 "Does Tariq know?" Ben asked, thinking of Edward's safety.

 "I should expect so, he was arrested a few hours ago."

 "Arrested!" Ben exclaimed.

 "Yes, Ben," Edward replied. "Think about it. If the blood on my shirt was not Amir's, then my alibi stands up. I could not have been leaving Amir's place at nine thirty like his father said. I was at the club by quarter to ten and there is no way to get from Amir's to the club in less than half an hour. Anyway, I would have had to have changed my clothes at my place, then gone to the club."

 "The old man lied," observed Ben.

 "Yes," Edward replied. "Now ask yourself why would he lie?"

 "Fuck!" Ben exclaimed. "You're sure?"

 "Sure that he's been arrested or that he did it?" Edward asked.

 "Both, I think," replied Ben.

 "That Tariq has been arrested, I am sure. They would not let me back here until they had picked him up and the Bhat brothers, too.

 "They've arrested the Bhat's as well," Ben said. Then he paused for a second. "Why?"

 "Assisting an offender, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice," Edward answered. "Now they are in custody, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot more information about their activities comes to light."

 "Oh, it will," Ben confirmed. He had a satisfied smile on his face.

 "So, how am I fixed?" Edward asked.

 Ben stood up and walked over to a safe in the corner of the office. He opened it and pulled out a slim black book, then returned to his desk. Opening a program on his computer, he referred to the book, then entered an identifier and a password. The screen filled with an accountancy spreadsheet.

 "Bit dangerous having the passwords written down," Edward stated.

 "They are encrypted," Ben replied. "You need to know the base key to get the actual password from what is in the book."

 "And they all have the same base key?" Edward asked.

 "No, I'm not that stupid," Ben replied. "Well, as of close of business on Friday you had property worth about five million, you had just over two point four million in equities and savings. At the moment the property is bringing you in one hundred and fifty thousand a year; after charges, a hundred thousand.

 "The equity holdings are bringing in about eighty thousand a year, the savings bring you in about eight thousand. After taxes and my fees you are clearing just over a hundred and forty thousand a year. I have been reinvesting about half of the income, the rest has been charged through as management fees by the one or other of the offshore companies."

 "How much do I have offshore?" Edward enquired.

 "Just over seven hundred thousand, mostly held in certificates of deposit," Ben replied.

 "Three percent return on the property seems a bit low," Edward observed.

 "That's on the current valuation," Ben stated. "The purchase price of that property was just over one and a half million, so on capital invested, you are getting ten percent."

 "That sounds better," Edward said.

 "I've kept your savings account open at the Nationwide; there's eighty grand in it. We will both need to go in there to get you access to the account and open a current account for you. You will not be able to get at it till then," Ben informed Edward. "I suppose you need some cash?"

 "It would be nice," Edward stated. "Only have my discharge grant."

 Ben opened a drawer and pulled out a credit card. "I'll put a grand on this for you. It will tide you over till we can open a current account for you." He jotted some numbers down on the back of one of his business cards. "This is the pin."

 Edward took the card and looked at it suspiciously. "What's this?"

 "It's a preloaded credit card. You can only spend up to the amount that has been loaded on it. They weren't around when you went inside. I keep a few ready for clients like you who need easy access to cash."

 "Right, what else has changed?" Edward asked.

 "You will need one of these," Ben replied, pulling something that looked like a thick cigarette case out of his pocket. He flipped it open to reveal a keypad and a small screen. "Latest in mobile phones. I can't sort you one of these on contract without an address though. Where’re you staying?"

 "I'm in the bail hostel on Grantham Road," Edward replied.

 "The mobile operator won't accept that; you'll have to get a pay as you go for now. I've got tenants in your place," Ben informed him. "I'll give them notice to quit. They'll be out at the end of next month."

 "Don't bother," Edward said. "That place is too big for me, can't see me living in it again. I’ll get a flat down by the locks. I saw they were putting up some new buildings down there."

 "Yes, one and two bedroom places, going for about eighty grand, but a kid needs space to run around and play. There is no space for that there."

 "Why should I want space for a kid?" Edward asked.

 "Because he's your son," Ben replied.

 "What son?"


 "Who the fuck is Joey?" Edward asked.

 "Your son. Maria had him about seven months after your arrest," Ben told him. "You really didn't know?"

"Shit no. The bitch sent me one letter when I was first arrested telling me that she did not want to have contact with me again. I wrote back but never got a reply."

"Blast!" Ben exclaimed. "I should have let you know."

"No, you shouldn't," Edward replied. "I had left instructions for you not to contact me or anything. I didn’t want the fuzz knowing you were managing my affairs. You've done good, Benny."

"You know you're the only person to call me that," Ben replied.

"I've called you that since the first day we met in infants ­ Miss Predegast's class at Mountford School. So, tell me about Joey."

"He lives with his grandmother, Maria's mother, on Mitcham Street. Maria fucked off about three months after the boy was born. Just upped and left one day. No one has seen hide or hair of her since. I've been giving the grandmother an allowance to help with the boy as I knew he was yours. I hope I did right."

"You did right, Ben," Edward confirmed. "How much?"

"Hundred a week, used the rent from the flat on Cavendish Square to cover it. It's got a separate holding company so no chance of it being connected to your other assets."

"I suppose I better go and see lad," Edward stated.

"I think you better get a new suit and a haircut before you go visiting," Ben stated. "And I'd better put two grand on that card." He turned to the computer and brought up a new program. Some three minutes later he informed Edward that it was all set up.

"Are you stuck with the bail hostel?" Ben enquired.

"Nha, it's just a temporary fix till I get a place of my own. What have I got going at the moment?"

"At the moment, Edward, nothing. All the residential properties are let on six month tenancies and, with the exception of your old place, they were all renewed in the last couple of months. Your place is due for renewal end of next month, so I can give them notice."

"Don't bother," Edward instructed. "Even with a kid I am not sure I would want to go back there; too many memories. Might as well sell it and use the money to get something else."

Ben nodded in understanding. "I'll set things in motion. Actually, I think the couple who are in there might be interested if the price is right."

"What's the value?" Edward enquired.

"Three fifty to four hundred," Ben replied. "They are paying eight hundred a month on it, so they could afford a mortgage. I think the deposit might be a problem for them."

Edward was silent for a few moments, thinking.

"What are they like?" he asked.

"Good couple, been in the property for five years now, no complaints. He's a youth worker, works down on the Tower Estate, though got a bit of private income. From what I hear, he is doing a good job down there. She's a senior nurse at the General. They've three kids, two girls, twins, must be ten or eleven now and a boy who is about seven."

"Offer it them at three seven fifty, sort them a low interest loan to cover the deposit," Edward instructed.

"How low an interest?" Ben asked.

"I'll leave that up to you. Whatever it takes to get rid of the place."

"I'll speak to them at the weekend," Ben replied. "I Need to go over there as there are some repairs that need to be sorted. Nothing major but the type of thing that if it is not done now will become something major."

"Right. Now I need somewhere till my retrial comes up," Edward stated.

"How long is that going to be?" Ben asked.

"No idea. Given the court lists not likely to be soon, six months at the least, I think. Might well be past the end of next year."

"I've got a granny flat at the side of my place," Ben stated. "It's one bedroom with a kitchen, living room, and a bathroom. It's empty until Christmas; you can use it till then. That should give you time to find a place."

"Rent?" Edward asked.

"None," Ben replied. "This is giving a friend a helping hand. Mother is coming for Christmas, but you can use the place till then. That should give you chance to find somewhere."

Edward nodded his agreement. Ben wrote down the address on a card and handed it to Edward. "Come any time after six; I'll be home and can let you in and show you the place."

"Don't you have to clear it with Ruth?" Edward asked.

"No, she left me four years ago," Ben informed him. "Took the kids, said she was taking them to Disneyland for a holiday. Next thing I knew, she was filing divorce papers."

"She had grounds?" Edward enquired.

"Yes," Ben stated. "Does your brother know you're out?"

"Not yet," replied Edward. "Mike knows I had leave to appeal and that a hearing was on its way. I wrote to him and told him. He sent me a best of luck card, which I got  last Friday. So, he knows about the appeal but not that it was heard or the result. I've got an email address for him. I was going to the library to set up an email account, then email him and let him know. It's a bit of a pain, him being in Oz."

"Safer for him though," Ben stated. "After your arrest there was a lot of talk about revenge for Amir's death. Mike was the obvious target. Conner warned him that he better get out."

"Detective Constable Conner?" Edward asked.

"Yes, but he is Detective Sergeant Conner now," Ben replied. "I was with Mike when he visited. Told Mike to get out of town and get as far away as he could. He said the Bhat brothers were after him."

"Never understood how Mike managed to get to Oz," Edward stated.

"Carl Duggan helped," Ben stated. "He never believed you had killed Amir. Said the two of you were just to close. Carl's got business interests out in Oz and sent Mike out there on what was supposed to be a three week business trip. Once he was there, Mike applied for a visa extension and got it. The fact he had an IT degree helped.

"He had to leave after six months, but had got a short term contract in New Zealand, which Carl arranged for him. Whilst there he applied for an emigration visa to Australia. As he already had a job offer and had stuck to his previous visa requirements, he got it in double quick time."

"That must have cost a bit to sort," Edward stated.

"Ten grand," Ben replied. "I covered it until I got your affairs sorted out. Then you paid for it."

"Good. I better see Carl and thank him," Edward said.

"You'll have a job ­ Carl copped it six years ago," Ben replied. "On that bloody bike of his. Went headlong into some Yank on the wrong side of the road."

"Fuck!" Edward exclaimed. "He was a good bloke."

"He was," Ben agreed. "Left a mess behind though, turned out him and Rachel weren't married, and Carl's family descended like vultures. They were pretty pissed off when they found out that Carl had left a will. Took me months to get back what they had grabbed before the will turned up."

"Right," Edward said. "Glad you were able to help. I better get going. I have to clear any change of accommodation with probation, so better tell them I am looking at your granny flat." 

"Get a haircut and some decent clothes before you go to Mitcham Street," Ben instructed again.

*  *  *  *  * 

It was close to four by time Edward made his way down Mitcham Street. By now he was dressed a lot better than he had been when he called on Ben that morning. His long straggly hair had been trimmed and tidied though it still hung down below his collar. The cheap anorak he had been wearing had been replaced by a black leather trench coat. The trainers he had been wearing earlier were gone; in their place was a pair of Caterpillar boots. The rest of his outfit was of similar quality. Edward had spent the better part of a grand kitting himself out this afternoon. He had a purpose.  He wanted to look good when he met his son.

Glancing at the card that Ben had written out, he checked the house number again. Number thirty-nine. A nice semi set back from the road. The front garden was small but neat, with the last of the summer blooms giving a touch of colour. Edward made his way up the path to the door and rang the bell. Shortly after the door opened, and a small woman looked up at him. Edward recognised her as Maria's mother, though he had only met her a couple of times whilst he and Maria were together. Maria had preferred to keep her distance from her mother.

"So, you've come," she said. "You better come in. Come through to the kitchen. I was just about to make a pot."

Edward followed her down the length of the hall into a small kitchen. She indicated he should take a seat at the table.

"I was wondering if you'd turn up," she stated.

"You knew I was out then?" he enquired.

"On the lunchtime news. Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, Tariq and the Bhats arrested. I was fairly certain you were out. Just did not know if you would turn up or not."

"Why wouldn't I?" Edward asked.

"Except for the support, and thanks for that by the way, you've not bothered about the kid in twelve years."

"I did not know he existed," Edward stated.

"What about the support?" she asked.

"Ben Levi organised that. I had left him in charge of my business affairs but told him to have no contact. I did not want to fuzz to know what was going on."

"But Maria said she wrote to you and told you about Joey," the woman insisted.

"The only letter I got from Maria was to say she wanted no further contact with me. Where is she, by the way?"

"God, only knows, though if I find out I'll give her a piece of my mind. Came back here about three months after the kid was born to find a note saying she was fed up with small town life and was going to enjoy herself without the kid. He's been mine since then. Not heard from her since, though Mimi Jacobs says she saw her when she was down in London to see Cats. Says she was dressed up to the nines with some coloured guy. Wouldn't surprise me ­  I know she was seeing Sonny Bhat."

"Maria was seeing Sonny?"

"Yes," she replied. "To be honest, Edward, I think they had something going before you got arrested."

 Edward slumped a bit in his chair. The woman put a mug of tea in front of him. "It looks like you need this." He just nodded, then took a swig of tea.

 "The kid, is he…?"

 "He's yours okay," she replied. "I remember what you and your brother were like at that age and he is the spitting image of you both."  

 "Didn't know you knew us then," Edward stated.

 "I was a teaching assistant at Mountford School," she replied. "I remember both of you young terrors from the playground, though I don't think I had either of you in any class I helped with."

 Edward sat back in the chair and took another swig of tea. There was silence as he thought back to his days at Mountford. Then something occurred to him.

 "Miss Laura?" he asked.

 "That's right," she replied. "I was Laura Cunningham then, became Laura Dean when I married Jack a year after your arrest. My first husband, Bill Cunningham, Maria's father, died in a car crash just after Maria's fifth birthday."

 "I'm sorry to hear that," Edward stated.

 "I'm not," Laura replied. "The man was a bastard. Used to hit me and hit Maria on a couple of occasions. I was about to leave for the women's hostel when the police came to the door to tell me he was dead. Best fucking thing he ever did for me. The life insurance paid off this place and the insurance claim against the driver who ran into him gave me enough to live on without having to work, though I carried on at Mountford. Enjoyed it too much. I retired last year."

 "So, what about your second husband?" Edward asked.

 "Jack, he's a good man, though not around much," Laura replied. "He's a long distance lorry driver, mostly does runs to Germany or Austria. He speaks the lingo there from his time in the RAF. He tries to be home most weekends. Joey adores him."

 "Tell me about Joey?" Edward asked.

 "He's a bright lad, probably too bright to stay around here," Laura stated. Edward knew what she meant. The schools in the area could not cope with really bright kids. They never seriously challenged the kids. As a result, the kids got bored and that led to them getting into trouble. Edward knew the scene only too well. He had been one of the bright kids, and he had got into plenty of trouble.

 "What do you suggest?" he asked.

 "Get him away from here," Laura replied. "I know you're not bad off, Maria told me some of the stuff you were involved in, like your share in the Night Out."

 "That went ages ago," Edward stated. "The Bhat brothers were my partners."

 "That explains a lot," Laura stated. "I suppose after you went inside you lost your control."

 "Yes," Edward replied. "They got the Night Out and the Chilton Hotel, David's Wine Bar and a couple of other places. I'd always been the silent partner, so it was easy to get me off the accounts once I was locked away."

 "Couldn't Ben Levi have done something for you?"

 "He did what he could, managed to save all the legitimate stuff, but some stuff was questionable, and he won't touch that."

 "Good to hear," stated Laura. "I gather you're not bad off then, even with losing out to the Bhat brothers."

 "No, I'm not," Edward replied.

 "Then get the kid away from here," she answered. "He needs a good school where he will be challenged."

 Edward nodded in agreement, whilst wondering how he was going to do it.

 Just then the back door opened and in exploded a young boy, looking about eleven or twelve. His thick black hair stuck up in a mess, he had mud on his torn jeans and his on his shirt. For a moment there was silence as he looked at the two people at the table. Then he asked the man sitting across from his grandma, "Who are you?"

 "Joey," his grandmother announced, "this is your father."

 Joey looked at Edward. Edward had no doubt that Joey was his son. He looked exactly like his bother Mike had at Joey's age, even down to the torn jeans. He was about to say something to Joey, but Joey got in first.

 "Where the fuck have you been for the past eleven years?"