A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 8

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 008

Saturday morning, Edward went to the garden centre and got a couple of plastic-bladed spring rakes for collecting the leaves. He then drove to Laura's to fetch the boys. They were both waiting for him when he got there dressed in the stuff he had bought them last Saturday during the shopping spree with Laura.

"I don't think you want to be wearing those," Edward stated.

"Why not?" asked Joey.

"Because you're going to get dirty," replied Edward. "Why don't you go and change into something that you don't mind getting dirty in. Put your good stuff in a bag to bring with you. You can change into that if we decide to go anywhere after."

"But I'll have to go home to get changed," Danny stated.

"No, you don't," Laura said. "Joey has plenty of old clothes. I am sure he can find something for you to wear that he won't mind getting dirty."

"Come on, we better go and get changed," Joey told Danny, then led the way upstairs.

"I've been telling them for the last half hour that they needed to be in old clothes," Laura said. Edward smiled.

Ten minutes later they were leaving. As they walked down the path from Laura's, Joey was looking around. "Where's your car?"

"It's there," Edward stated, pointing to the BMW.

"You've not got the Golf?" Danny asked.

"No, that was Ben's spare car, the one his mother uses when she is here. I bought this on Monday, and it was delivered Wednesday," Edward told them as they came up to the car.

Joey looked at it, walking all round it, then getting in the back with Danny.

"Nice," he pronounced.

It took Edward just over twenty minutes to get back to Ben's. As they pulled up, Ben opened the front door and instructed Edward to bring the boys into the kitchen.

"It's cold out there. I thought they would like something to warm them up before they go out," Ben stated, as he poured mugs of hot chocolate out for all four of them. "Have either of you boys cleared leaves off a lawn before?"

"No," both boys replied in unison.

"Right, I'll tell you what you have to do, then I'll come out into the garden and show you. It's a big lawn and will take you a couple of hours to clear," stated Ben. "First, though drink your chocolate. There are some biscuits in the tin if you would like any." He indicated the round Quality Street tin sitting at the end of the table. Joey, who was nearest to it, pulled it in front of him and opened it. It was full to the brim with biscuits.

Edward would have sworn it was empty yesterday, and it had been sitting on the top of the fridge/freezer. He gave Ben a questioning look. Ben just smiled back then turned his attention back to the boys, who were tucking into the biscuits.

"Don't take too many," Ben instructed. "You don't want to spoil your lunch, and you need to leave some for later anyway." Both boys smiled sheepishly but stopped taking biscuits out of the tin.

When they had finished their hot chocolates, Ben took them out into the garden and showed them what had to be done. Edward stood on the terrace and watched. He had never realised there was so much to gathering fallen leaves. From what he could see of what Ben was showing the boys, the leaves had to be raked into piles, then scooped up with some special boards and put in the wheelbarrow. When that was full, it had to be taken to a specific place at the back of the garden, where the contents were dumped on an already existing mound of leaves.

Once the boys had gone through the whole cycle of raking the leaves, putting them into the barrow and getting them to the leaf pile, Ben left them to it. He joined Edward on the terrace.

"I didn't know that clearing leaves was so complicated," Edward said. "Do you think I am underpaying them?"

"No, you're not," Ben responded. "Anyway, we will be treating them later."

"We will?" asked Edward. "How?"

"It should take them a couple of hours to clear the lawn," Ben informed Edward. "I thought that we could have a late lunch and then we could take the boys to the cinema. Then we can go to one of the pizza places in town as you wanted to feed them pizza."

Edward looked at Ben, amazed that he was thinking along those lines. "Okay," he said with some surprise, because that was exactly what he had been thinking of doing with the boys.

"Did you have something different in mind?" Ben asked.

"No," replied Edward. "I had not really thought that far ahead." He had but did not want to admit it to Ben. He did not want to tell Ben that he had been thinking the same thing.

"You know that Danny is a bright spark," Ben commented.


"Yes. While I was showing them what to do, he kept asking questions, really intelligent questions that made a lot of sense. I may have to re-think my garden," Ben stated.

"Why?" Edward asked.

"Danny pointed out that it is really not logical to have a lawn that size, with the trees so close around it. He suggested I should have a path around the lawn. Most of the leaves would fall on the path and be a lot easier to collect."

"How about the leaves on the borders?" I asked.

"They're not really a problem," Ben replied. "They'll break down and the worms will deal with them."

It took the boys nearly two hours to get the lawn cleared of leaves, although that did involve quite a bit of horseplay between them. Finally, though, they were finished. The lawn was clear of leaves and there were two rather dirty boys standing at the back door.

"I think you two need to clean up and get changed before lunch," Ben stated. "That door there leads to the utility room, beyond that is a shower room. There are fresh towels in there you can use. Do you have some clothes to change into?"

"Yes," Joey replied. "Dad told us to bring our good clothes; they're in the bag."

"Where's the bag?" Ben asked.

Joey suddenly looked a bit sheepish. "In Dad's car."

"I'll go and get it," Edward said. "I'll put it in the utility room, and you can get dressed in there." He went to get the bag from the car. Joey and Danny made their way into the utility room and then through to the shower room. Edward dropped Joey's bag off in the utility room. When he did, he could hear the shower running and the laughter of two young boys.

About twenty minutes later the two clean and smartly dressed boys came out of the utility room and joined Edward at the table.

"What have you done with your dirty clothes?" Edward asked.

"We put them in my bag," Joey replied.

"Inside a bin bag," Danny stated. "I told him to bring one, so he did not get his bag dirty."

"Good thinking," said Edward. That got him a smile from Danny.

Lunch was omelette and salad for Edward, and Ben had the same. The boys got some strangely shaped deep fried objects, which Ben informed Edward were made from turkey, with chips and peas. They immediately plastered the whole meal with tomato ketchup, then proceeded to devour it with relish, except for the peas. Edward commented on them not eating the peas.

"They're kids," Ben replied. "Kids have a universal distrust of anything that is green."

"We're not kids," Joey objected. "We're nearly twelve."

"My point exactly," responded Ben. "You are nearly twelve. That means you are a kid and you remain a kid for just over twelve months when you turn into the ultimate horror, a teenager." 

"I can't wait," Joey responded.

Ben laughed.

"What should I call you?" Joey asked.

"Humph?" said Ben in response.

"I asked what I should call you?" Joey repeated. "I don't know your surname, Dad never said, he just calls you Ben, but it wouldn't be right for me to call you Ben."

"What do you want to call me?" Ben asked.

"Are you going to be around with Dad a lot?"

Ben looked over at Edward. "I hope so."

"Then I think I should call you Uncle Ben," Joey stated. "Is it alright if Danny does the same."

"Don't see why not," Ben said as he stood to collect the plates, ruffling Joey's hair as he did.

"Hey!" exclaimed Joey.

"Uncle's privilege. They have the right to mess with their nephew's hair," stated Ben.

"Shit!" exclaimed Joey.

"You're right there," said Danny. Ben ruffled his hair. "Hey, I'm not your nephew."

"You are now, I'm adopting you as a nephew," Ben said.

"Does that mean I get Christmas and birthday presents from you?" Danny asked.

"I knew there had to be a downside," Ben said.

Edward laughed. Ben continued to tidy up and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Whilst he was doing so, Edward talked to the boys about school.

"They don't teach us much," stated Danny. "I know more about climate change than our science teacher."

"How much does he know about it?" Edward asked.

"Nothing," Danny said. "He didn't even know what the North Atlantic Conveyer was till I told him."

"What is it?" Ben asked as he put the final dish in the dishwasher.

"It a current that moves warm water from the equator to the north," Danny replied. "The Gulf Stream is part of it. "

"I've got some information on it if you are interested?" Edward informed Ben.

"I'm not but I suspect Danny might be," Ben stated.

"What have you got?" Danny asked.

"I've got a whole lot of statistics about the current, its flow, density, temperature and other measurements, over the last hundred years."

"Cool, can I look at them?" enquired Danny.

"Not now, we have things planned for the afternoon," Edward replied. Danny looked a bit disappointed, so Edward continued. "However, if you want to look at them we will have to arrange a time for you to come. It will take a couple of hours to go through as there is quite a bit of it. I have it on disk, so I can let you have a copy if you like. Can't do it now but will do a copy and drop it off at Joey's for you."

"No use," replied Danny. "Don't have a computer."

"And we don't have time to spare," commented Ben. "We need to get a move on if we are going to catch the start of the film. Joey grab your bag, you can leave it in the car whilst we're at the cinema."

The film was an action film based around one of the characters from an American super-hero comic. A lot of fights, a lot of explosions and a lot of action. Very little story and even less acting. Edward was not impressed with it. The boys though seemed to have been thoroughly entertained by it. At least that was the impression Edward got as they tucked into pizza at an upmarket pizza restaurant not far from the cinema.

"When are you going to pay us?" Joey asked Edward during the meal.

"As soon as we have finished this meal, but that is no reason to rush the meal."

"That's fine, Dad, just so long as you don't forget."

"He won't," Ben assured Joey. "I'm his accountant and I'll make sure he pays."

"Thanks, Uncle Ben," Joey quipped. "Nice to see somebody on my side."

Ben laughed.

"I’d better pay you now then," stated Edward. He took out his wallet and then handed each boy a ten and an extra five pound note. That done he turned to Ben. "Do I need to get a receipt for your books."

"No, I witnessed the payment so know it's been made," Ben retorted. He then insisted on paying for the meal.

Edward noticed that it had started to spot with rain, so he suggested that he go and get the car, then bring it round to the restaurant, rather than them all getting wet. Something that Ben and the boys quickly agreed to. About ten minutes later Edward pulled up outside the pizzeria. By now it was raining quite hard, so Ben and the boys had to make a dash for the car.

"I think we would have been better off if we had walked to the car with you," Ben stated, climbing into the passenger seat. "At least we would only have been damp."

Edward shrugged his shoulders and started to drive in the direction of Mitcham Street.

"Do we have to go home now?" Joey asked. "It's still early."

Edward glanced at the clock on the dashboard, it read six forty-three. "It's nearly quarter to seven."

"That's early," Joey replied. "I don't have to be in till nine. Anyway Jack's taking Laura out for a meal so they will be back late."

"What about Danny?" Edward asked.

"I'm staying at Joey's tonight," Danny replied. "I usually do at the weekends."

That was something that Edward had not known. He realised that he had a lot to learn about the habits of both boys. Nobody had thought to mention this arrangement to him.

As they were approaching the turnoff that would take them up to the top of Mitcham Street, Ben told Edward to drive straight on, then take the road to the bridge and go to his place. As they turned into the driveway of Ben's house Ben pulled his keys out and pressed a button on the fob. The garage doors started to open.

"Drive straight in," Ben instructed. "The space on the left is clear." Edward did as he was instructed.

Once inside the house Ben told the boys to go into the living room and find a film to watch from his video collection. He did warn them not to choose one which was too long. Once he had the boys settled with some pop and crisps, he guided Edward into his study.

"What's going on?" Edward asked.

"We were being followed?" Ben advised him.

"Not surprising," stated Edward. "I've no doubt Kutrum's had me followed from the day I arrived."

"This wasn't any of Kutrum's people," Ben replied.

"How do you know?"

"I spotted them," Ben answered.

"Good point. What was it?" Edward enquired.

"Bronze Lotus Elan," Ben informed him.

"Definitely not Kutrum's," Edward confirmed. "Nobody uses a car that noticeable to follow somebody." He paused for a few moments, then continued. "There was a bronze Lotus Elan in the car park, near where I was parked. It was there when we arrived, so it was not following us then."

"But someone spotted you when you collected the car and has followed since," observed Ben.

"Most likely explanation," Edward agreed. "The question is who? Why did you have me bring the boys back here?"

"As to who, I have no idea," Ben stated. "Given that it was not Kutrum's people that were tailing us, I did not want them to find out too much about the boys, so thought it best to bring them back here, rather than give away Joey's home address."

"That makes sense," Edward admitted. "However, we do have the problem. We have to get Joey and Danny home for nine."

"I think I may have a solution to that," Ben stated. "We send them home by taxi."

"But they'll follow the taxi," Edward pointed out.

"Not if they are following you," Ben countered. "If you are seen leaving, they will follow you. Get off  down to  Betrum's off licence by Lower Bridge. They have a good wine selection. Get a couple of decent reds; we can have one with dinner tomorrow. Whilst you are there, I'll get the boys into a taxi and taken home."

At twenty to nine Edward drove out of the garage, down the drive and turned right onto the main road. He had not even reached the bend in the road before he saw the lights of the Lotus Elan come on in his rear view mirror. He figured they must have been parked just above Ben's. Edward continued down towards Lower Bridge and parked up outside Betrum's Wines and Spirits. Once inside he purchased two bottles of red wine which old man Betrum assured him was of decent quality. As he left the off licence he caught sight of the Lotus parked about twenty metres up the road. Edward got into his car and drove round Bridge Square, to return the way he came. The Lotus followed him.

Ben reported that the boys had been taken home by taxi, something they considered a great adventure, neither boy ever having  ridden in a taxi before. Edward confirmed that the Lotus Elan had followed him.

"If it is not Kutrum's people, then who is it?" Ben asked.

"I have no idea, but I think we will probably find out very soon," Edward stated.

They found out the following morning. Just after ten, Ben knocked on the connecting door.

"There is a lady here to see you," Ben informed Edward as Edward opened the door. "And there is a bronze Lotus Elan on the driveway."

"Where is she?" Edward asked.

"In the front lounge," Ben replied.

"I'll be there in ten; haven't shaved yet," Edward responded. Ben nodded and left.

In a little over five minutes, Edward entered the front lounge and came to a sudden stop. There, standing in the bay window looking out, was an elegant Indian lady, dressed in a expensive sari. Edward recognised her immediately, even before she turned to face him. It was Amir's mother. Tariq's wife and Kutrum's sister.

"Hello, Edward," she said as she turned.

"Good morning, Nadia," Edward responded.

"No doubt you are surprised to see me," Nadia stated.

"That I would say is something of an understatement," Edward agreed.

"I think this conversation might be easier if we were both seated," Nadia said, seating herself in the armchair by the bay window. The weak winter sun lighted her face, a face which reminded Edward of Amir. Edward took the armchair on the opposite side of the bay window.

"First, let me say I never believed that you killed Amir," Nadia continued. "Don't look so surprised. I was well aware of my son's tastes and that you and he were lovers. He told me about you wanting to build a life together and how much you were in love. The few times I ever saw you together, I could see that love between you. I also know that you were planning on moving out."

Now Edward was really surprised. He had no idea that anyone had a slightest inkling about what he and Amir had planned.

Nadia smiled. "Who do you think suggested Aruba to him? My mother's family are descended from indentured labour that was recruited in India to work the Caribbean sugar plantations after the banning of slavery. They did well out of it, becoming merchants and traders. My mother's family have interests all over the Caribbean, so I have inherited property in Aruba. That is where you were going to stay when you got there."

"I didn’t know," Edward stated. "All I knew was that Amir had said that there was a villa on Aruba we could use, and it was safe as there was no connection with Tariq."

"That's correct," Nadia answered. "Tariq does not even know that I own that property. Neither does my brother, in case you are interested."

"Surprised is probably the more correct term. I always thought Kutrum knew everything."

"A good working assumption," Nadia stated. "However, there are some things that he does not know, mainly the inheritance I got from my maternal grandmother. As far as Kutrum is concerned, it was a few thousand of pounds. That is all that was in her English will. He did not know that there was a separate Dutch will covering her interests in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, of which Aruba is a part.

"It was my intention to hand those holdings over to Amir when he was safely in Aruba."

"I see," stated Edward, slumping slightly back into the armchair. This was all a bit much for him to take in. He had never had any idea that Amir's mother knew about them or was actively assisting Amir in his plans to get away.

"I doubt if you do," Nadia said. "There was far more going on twelve years ago than you knew about. There is far more going on today than you suspect. My brother is not a nice man; my husband is even worse. Amir knew this. That is one reason why he wanted to get out.

"Amir was also worried what might happen if Kutrum got any inclination of his plans." Nadia paused, opened her handbag and pulled out a thick packet. "He instructed me that if anything happened to him unexpectedly, I should get these to you as soon as I could."

She handed the packet over to Edward. He opened it and looked inside. There were a number of writable Compact Discs.

"Edward, I have known you were out of prison for over a week, ever since the police arrested Tariq. The thing is, I did not know where you were. Yesterday I met some women friends for an evening at the cinema. As I returned to my car, I saw you getting into your car so followed you. Even when you arrived here, I could not be sure you were living here or just dropping off friends, but when you went down to the wine shop and returned I was fairly certain you would be here, at least overnight.

"I could have called on you then, but I would not have had that with me." Nadia indicated the package Edward now held. "I had to recover it from where I had is stored. I could not do that until this morning.

"I have no idea what is in it. Amir said that whoever had it could destroy my brother. Despite what is being said by the police, I do not think the killing of my son was an honour killing. People like my husband have no honour. There is far more to it than that, and I hope you can find the answer in what you hold in your hands.

"I loved my son and I know he loved you just as much as you loved him. Use what you have there to give a mother vengeance for loss of her son."

"If I can, I will," Edward said.

Nadia stood. "I must go. Kutrum's men will be reporting that I have visited you and it must not be too long a visit."

"He will want to know why you came and why you followed me last night," Edward pointed out.

"That's simple. I saw you in the car park last night and wanted to know where you lived. This morning I came to confront you about the rumours concerning your relationship with my son. No way could my son be gay," she laughed. Edward escorted her to the door.

When he returned to the lounge, Ben was there.

"The doors were open," Ben stated. "I heard it all."

"Well, that makes things easier. What do you think?"

"That all depends on what is in that packet. We must remember its contents are at least twelve years old. They may not be relevant now," observed Ben.

"Good point. I think we need to look at them," Edward stated.

"Them? What's in there?" Ben asked, indicating the packet Edward was holding.


"Let's go to the study and find out," Ben suggested. He turned and walked towards his study. Edward followed. Some half an hour later, Ben looked at Edward. "What do you make of it, Teddy?"

"To me it looks like a pile of gibberish," Edward answered. "Nothing on here makes sense. I suppose we need somebody who knows computers to sort it out for us, which means waiting till Mike gets here in December."

"Somehow I feel that waiting that long may be a mistake," Ben stated.

"Do you know anyone who understands computers?" Edward asked.

"I do, and so do you. The thing is, I am not sure if we should get them involved."

Shortly after two a non-descript mud splattered white van pulled up outside Ben's house. Nobody got out of the van until Ben opened the front door. Then Lefty and Dickey moved quickly from the van into the house.

"How did you get your van in such a mess?" Edward asked as they entered the lounge from where he had watched their arrival.

"It took hours of work," Dickey replied.

"Actually about half an hour," Lefty replied. "Dickey did it after Ben's call. Ben said he thought the house was probably under observation."

"They can just about read the registration with all that mud," Dickey replied. "The registration they will read belongs to an emergency heating breakdown service, based in Sheffield. Your boiler broke down, Ben."

"So, what is it you need us to look at?" Lefty asked.

"You better come through to the to the study," Ben said, leading the way.

Ten minutes later Lefty and Dicky had looked at three of the CDs.

"Let me get this straight," said Lefty. "These CDs contain encrypted zip files; you need a password to decrypt them during the unzip. As you have been able to unzip them, I presume you have the password."

"Yes," answered Edward. "It is the one Amir and I used for encrypting our emails."

"Each of the zip files unzips to give you a number of files, all of which show as being type TXT."

"Yes," replied Edward.

"Given that you know the password to unzip the files, we can presume they were intended for you, so let's look at the first file." Lefty opened it using an ASCII file reader, closed it down then opened it using a different program. Then laughed.

"What's funny?" Ben asked.

"This, it's bloody simple but bloody effective," Lefty stated. "He's just renamed all the files to type .TXT, that is an ASCII text file. The thing is they are not ASCII text files. This one is a JPEG file."

"How do you know?" Edward enquired.

"The header, that's the first few bytes in the file, generally identifies a file type. In this case we have FF D8 FF; they are the signature of a jpeg file. If I change the file suffix to .JPG we should be able to read it."

He made the changes, renaming the file as a jpg file. Then Lefty double clicked on the file. After a few seconds, a picture opened up on screen. The four men looked at it with their eyes wide open.

"Isn't that?" Ben asked.

"Yes, it is," Edward stated. "It's the small conference room at the Chilton Hotel."

"Didn't see that," Ben replied. "I was looking at the man fucking that kid."

"Who is he?" Edward asked.

"Oh shit, you've been inside for twelve years, I do not suppose you've followed much of the news," Ben stated. "He's a member of the bloody cabinet. Not sure what portfolio he holds at the moment."

"Interesting. Have you looked at the mirror that we can see at the back of the room? Lefty can you enlarge this image?" Edward asked.

With a few movements of the mouse, Lefty enlarged the image so that the mirror in question filled the screen. The image of a man holding a camera could clearly be seen in the mirror. As could a number of other boys and men.

"But that…" Ben started to say.

"Kutrum," Edward added.

"I presume you want to see what else in on the disks?" Lefty asked.

"I think we need to," replied Ben.

"Well, I suggest you don't do it on this computer," Lefty stated.

"Why not?" Ben asked.

"Because images of this type are illegal," Lefty informed him. "We need to get these files off this computer and all traces of them removed." With that Lefty shut down the computer.

"I thought you said we had to remove the files?" said Edward.

"We do, and we will in a bit," Lefty replied. "Dicky, can you get the toolbox from the van please?" Dicky nodded and left. He was back in a couple of minutes with what looked like a thick leather purse. He handed it to Lefty, who opened it and removed a CD. Using a bent paper clip he opened the CD tray of the computer and inserted the CD, then he restarted the computer, pressing three keys as it started. After a moment a list of options appeared on the screen. Lefty selected 'Boot from CD'.  After a minute a welcome screen appeared which was totally different from any Ben or Edward had seen.

"What is that?" Ben asked.

"Linux," Dicky informed him. "This is our own special version of Linux, with a GNU front end. We use it as it supports options that are not available in Windows."

Lefty opened a terminal and then changed directories down to where the files were held.

"There's nothing else in this directory that you want is there?" he asked.

"No," Edward stated. "We thought it best to unzip the CDs into a empty directory."

"Good thinking," Lefty replied. He then entered a command 'shred -uvz -n 4 *.*. The hard disk in the computer could be heard working, lines of information appeared on the screen.

"This is going to take some time but when it's finished there will be no trace of those files on this computer."

"But how do we view the contents of those CDs?" Edward asked. "I want to find out what Kutrum is up to, and what is going on."