Kelly didn't speak until we were on the ferry, in the café drinking coffee, we didn't feel like food. In the car Lorraine had rung round, finding out what she could, whilst Kelly just lay curled up on the back seat. She hadn't cried yet, and from experience when my mum died, crying is necessary, it helps with the grief.
"So what now?"
The question from Kelly broke the silence, Lorraine answered.
"We're going to the police station, they'll take us to the scene, at the moment I'm not sure where it is, or why they were there. As best as I know at the moment they were upstairs in a shop in Barnsley, there was a gas explosion which destroyed the shop and the houses either side."
"Will I have to see the bodies?"
"You're dad's solicitor has identified them, so if you don't want to see them that's OK. They're having a post mortem this morning, but the solicitor assures me it's just a formality as it's an unexpected death."
"What about us? Will this affect us at all?"
"Well I hope not, we're your friends, and friends pull together in times of need."
At this Kelly broke down, deep sobs shook her body. Lorraine moved in and held her tight whilst I grabbed some paper towels. After a few minutes the tears subsided, between sniffs she whispered "You're my only friends, and don't want to lose you too".
Kelly got up to tidy herself up in the bathroom, "do you need me honey?"
"No it's OK Lorraine, my coffee is cold, can I have another?"
"Sure, take your time, and I'll fetch you another when you come out."
When she'd gone I asked Lorraine about the friends comment, which was something I'd wondered about, as she never mentioned any.
"It's very sad, you've seen her house haven't you", I had, only once when I drove her home after our first night together, I didn't take much notice then, but I remembered it was big, and behind a high wall. "She lives in luxury, but she's isolated, that big wall keeps people away. Then there's her school, she should go to the school I went to, but her mum decided it wasn't very good, which is probably true, so Kelly goes to a private girl's school. It's very strict and the girls are very snobby, very few of them will talk to her, and I don't think she has any contact with them outside of school. Her whole world was her family, you, me, and the people she met when working in the hotel.
"I think her parents were just doing what they thought was best, the area where they live isn't exactly Mayfair. They built that high wall and installed CCTV after one of the neighbours was killed by a burglar. It's just that Kelly hasn't been allowed to grow up like a normal girl. This week may well be the happiest week she's had in a long time, at least this terrible news happened after her birthday." She looked up to see Kelly coming out of the bathroom, she didn't look much better, "go and get us some more coffee, and a Mars bar or something, she needs chocolate to cheer her up."
I did as I was told, fetching coffee, they had no Mars so I bought a couple of Galaxy bars.
"Oh Dave you are a sweetie, are these for me?" Kelly took the Galaxy bars and started to eat one, but not without too much enthusiasm. She did look a bit better when she'd finished it though, and almost perky after she'd drunk her fresh coffee, by which time it was time to get back to the car.
We were met off the ferry by a female police constable, who'd been sent from the Southampton station to check Kelly was OK. I was introduced as Lorraine's partner to explain my presence. She radioed her control room and advised them of my licence plate, "you're flagged for the next 6 hours, so as long as you don't drive like an idiot any tickets will be cancelled"
Lorraine and Kelly thanked the constable for her concern and we hit the road. As it was still before 7am Southampton was pretty clear and within a few minutes we were on the M3, and 10 minutes later we were on the M40, where I opened up and was soon cruising along the mostly empty motorway at 120mph, approaching Oxford traffic built up so I dropped down to 80, and the M1 had a lot of roadworks which kept us below 60mph. Tension was building up in the car, we wanted to get home, even though nothing at home would be welcoming. After Northampton the road opened up again, so I put my foot down, cancelling the cruise control which had been set at 50mph for the last hour, I quickly hit 120mph again and in less than an hour we were on the outskirts of Doncaster where we hit traffic again, just after 10am on a Saturday, lots of shoppers heading into town.
The traffic noise awoke Kelly, who'd been asleep curled up on the back seat. Lorraine squeezed my knee, I looked back and smiled at Kelly through the mirror.
We wove through traffic, slowly circling the town centre until we reached the Police Station. I was thankful for the amazing Mercedes car, as we arrived as relaxed as possible, the cramped confines of my previous car would not have helped on a day like this.
Kelly's parents' solicitor met us at the front desk, he introduced himself as Maxwell Carruthers, he looked like an old-school solicitor with his three-piece suit and club tie. He checked his slim gold watch, "you made good time..." he looked at me, awaiting my name.
Lorraine took up the bait, "Dave Foster, my partner. He'd kindly taken myself and Kelly away for a few days, to celebrate her birthday."
"Quite, well the investigating officer is still at the scene, so we'll go there straight away. My car is just out front, we'll give Mr Foster's car a rest as it must be out of breath after the high speed run up here."
He led us to his Jaguar, one of the new XJ series, I expected nothing less from this man. He drove us with both car and speed, and we were soon on the outskirts of Barnsley. We parked up in the middle of the road, any further progress prevented by crime scene tape and a pair of fire engines. Beyond the road looked to be mostly motor-parts dealers and tattoo parlours, a DVD rental shop stood out with its bright blue and yellow signage, a typical scene on the outskirts of many city centres, a buffer-zone between the high pressure selling of the main shopping centre and the housing estates, behind this street would be back-street garages, small factories and depressed terraced housing.
We got out of the car and were approached by a wiry man in a tatty suit, he walked up to Carruthers who pointed out Kelly, the man took Kelly's hand, "Hello Kelly, my name is Detective Inspector Brown, I'm so sorry for your loss." He looked over at Lorraine and I, "are these people related to you in any way?"
Kelly didn't like that question one bit, she looked up at the detective and stormed, "I have no relatives any more, they're all gone, these people are the best friends anyone can ever have, they're better than relations as I chose them myself. Anything you want to say to me can be said in front of my friends."
"Steady on girl, be careful what you say," butted in Carruthers.
"And you can be quiet, my family have all been killed, if I want to yell and scream please let me. Now Detective Brown, is that right?" he nodded, "I feel better now, can you tell us all everything, because I've got to admit I'm puzzled about why my whole family would be in this part of Barnsley on a Friday night, our home and business are in Doncaster."
"Before I go into that, can I have your friends' details please."
"Oh yeah, sorry. This is Lorraine Peters, she's my oldest friend, and is the receptionist at my parents' hotel, she took me on holiday to celebrate my 16th birthday, which was yesterday. That's David Foster, Lorraine's partner, he's been very kind and driven us around for the last week."
"Thank you, if you'll all follow me we'll got to the onsite incident room, where we'll try to help each other out."
Hidden by the fire-engines was an articulated lorry, inside were a number of police and fire service person sat at tables with laptops.
"Do any of you want drinks, we have some hot stuff that's almost coffee, and some other stuff that looks similar, but is almost tea."
Kelly giggled at this, which was a good sign I think, "Can I have an almost coffee please", we all concurred except for Carruthers who opted for almost tea. We sat round a large table with our drinks and the detective picked up a folder from a desk and joined us. The almost coffee was almost OK.
"Right, here's what we've got so far. The building was an adult bookstore, it belonged to a company called Xcite Trading Ltd, which we've traced to your father..."
"What, my dad owned a porn shop? Never..."
"Actually your dad owned a chain of 8 of them around this area."
"When did this happen, I knew nothing about them,"
Carruthers interrupted, "if I could just join in at this point, I've checked our records this morning and I have some further details. Your father didn't deal with me directly in relation to this business, it was done through our property department, which is why I knew nothing earlier.
"Five years ago your father purchased this business from a man called Johnny Parks, although we're not 100% sure that's his real name. According to our files Mr Parks was in considerable debt to non-official financial institutions, they were threatening to kill his family, your father was approached by a mutual friend who knew he was looking to invest in a new business. Terms were agreed and your father took control, Mr Parks paid off his creditors and I can find no further trace of him anywhere.
"Your brother Stephen Adams is listed as the company director, and our assumption is that he was in day to day charge of the company"
"Thank you very much Mr Carruthers. Now from our questioning of neighbours we think your family entered the property at 9pm, long after the staff had left, the explosion took place at around 11pm, so they were upstairs in the office for approximately 2 hours.
"The fire brigade are fairly sure that the gas boiler in the basement is the cause, and the fire investigations team are in place now to confirm whether this is the case.
"Now Mr Carruthers very kindly agreed to identify the bodies, and did so earlier today, so we don't have to put you through that. Will you need any help any help with funeral arrangements and other matters?"
Lorraine broke in, "Dave and I will be sorting out the funeral. Mr Carruthers, I assume there are wills for at least Kelly's parents."
"That is correct Ms Peters, we have wills from all three family members, and life insurance documents. We can go through the documents in my office on Monday, let me see, 10:30 ok for everyone."
"Fine by me," answered Lorraine, Kelly nodded.
"I have to check, one minute please," I answered and walked outside to phone my boss. "Barry ... Yes a mostly excellent holiday ... that's right brilliant weather ... yes Monday, I need to talk to you about that, you see my girlfriend's err cousin who was with us on holiday has run into a problem, well more than that actually, her family have just been wiped out in a gas explosion ... yes that one, so anyway I'm going to need an extra few days off to sort things out here if that's OK ... nice one Barry, I won't forget this." I walked back in and said 10:30 on Monday would be fine.
A few minutes later a female constable approached the table, DI Brown stood up the great her, "ahh Constable Fletcher good of you to join us. This Kelly and her friends Lorraine and Dave, and I'm sure you know Maxwell Carruthers, Kelly's parents solicitor."
"Hello Kelly, I'm the family liaison officer and will be helping you whenever you need it."
"Hi Constable Fletcher, pleased to meet you"
"Please call me Jo, do you mind if we find somewhere a little more comfortable, there's a pub down the road with a meeting room I can use, and they have much better tea & coffee."
We all agreed and moved down the road to the Queen's Arms, it was a little rough, as to be expected from the area, I was pleased to see that Carruthers was very uncomfortable. The room upstairs was clean and comfortable with a large conference table in the middle. On the table was a pot of tea and coffee and a plate of biscuits.
Jo Fletcher started, "OK, first off, I'd just like to express my sincerest regrets about last night's tragedy."
"Thank you Jo, I really appreciate that."
"Now, down to some business that's necessary, but unpleasant. At 16 you are still technically a minor, so you may have to be made a ward of court, unless you have any relatives that can take care of you."
"What! I don't have any relatives." She looked over at Carruthers for confirmation.
"I'm afraid you don't dear."
Lorraine interrupted, "excuse me Mr Carruthers, would it be possible for someone to adopt Kelly?"
"Why of course, providing the right conditions are met by the adoptive parents, and Kelly agrees, she can be adopted, and would therefore avoid going into local authority care."
"Do you mind if Dave and myself leave the room for a chat?"
"Go ahead, I have a few other matters to discuss with Kelly" replied Jo Fletcher.
Lorraine led me into the kitchen area next door, which was empty.
"I want to adopt Kelly, although I'm only 6 years old, and more of an older sister, I love her deeply as if she were my child."
"Ok, the courts may have an issue with a single woman adopting a teenager."
"That brings me to my next point, and it's a little unorthodox." Lorraine got down on one knee, "Will you marry me Dave?"
"Oh, that's supposed to be my job, err ... yes of course!"
Lorraine squealed and kissed me, then remembered where she was, she checked my cheek then wiped off some lipstick. We returned to the rest of the group, Jo Fletcher had just finished discussing the paperwork involved in claiming from her family's life insurance policies, Carruthers said he would handle most of the work personally.
"Kelly, I'm going to start proceedings to adopt you as soon as Dave and I get married"
"Yay, that's the best news I've had all day, obviously. Can I be your bridesmaid?"
"Of course, I wouldn't have anyone else."
"Well now that's sorted, we'll pack up and I'll see you all on Monday at Mr Carruthers' office."
Carruthers drove us back to Doncaster police station, and we transferred to my car and we drove to Kelly's house, were we unpacked the car in silence, all of us on auto pilot. I was pondering my snap acceptance of Lorraine's proposal, I loved both girls, but I think I loved Kelly in a different way to Lorraine. I loved Lorraine in a proper adult way, as a woman, a beautiful, sexy woman, but I loved Kelly as a girl, almost like Lorraine, loving her as a daughter, a dangerously beautiful, sexy daughter. I would marry Lorraine, adopt Kelly, then just see where life takes us.
Kelly slept in her own bed that night, with her cuddly toys. It was only a single, and we didn't want to leave her alone, so we made up a bed on her floor and Lorraine and I slept in each other's arms. A couple of times in the night I woke to hear Kelly sobbing quietly, the first time Lorraine whispered in my ear "it's OK, let her cry, she needs to otherwise it gets bottle up and turns to anger against the world, I know that from my own experience, I couldn't grieve the loss of my mum because I hated her for leaving me alone, I became very angry and once attacked a man just because he asked me if I was OK. Kelly's mum help me a lot with my anger."
On Sunday Kelly didn't want to do anything but sit at home and watch TV. I started going through her dad's papers whilst Lorraine surfed the internet to read up on adoption.
After a couple of hours I called Lorraine into the study, "I think I know why they were in the shop late on Friday night"
"Reading through his diary I can see lots of notes about discrepancies in stocks, 50 of something ordered, 48 booked into stock, stuff like that. There's letters from suppliers commenting that there only seems to be problems with deliveries to their shops, other customers rarely have problems.
"There's also notes about missing cash, and he seems to have started checking into sales on eBay of a product where he had sole licence to sell in the UK, so the items for sale must be coming from his stock."
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to carry on the investigation, this is now Kelly's business, and I'm not going to let someone rip her off. I have experience of checking ledgers and stock trails, do you want to have a run to a couple of the shops while they're closed today?"
"Yes, that's a good idea. Let's see if Kelly's OK before we set off."
Kelly was lounging on the sofa watching NCIS by the look of things, a bag of popcorn on her chest and a bottle of coke on the floor. She saw us come in, "Lorraine, I want you to become the hotel manager, is that OK?"
"Yes of course, I've got a college diploma in hotel management, so I think I'll be OK. We were coming to see you about another matter."
"Oh, what's up?"
I took over, "I've been checking in your dad's papers, and the reason they were in the shop on Friday is that someone was ripping them off, he was investigating a few problems with stock and money. We're going to have a look in a couple of the stores, see if there's anything that jumps out at me. Want to come?"
"Nah, I'm OK here, Dave, do you want to be the director of the shops, or whatever Steve was?"
"I'll do my best, but work may get in the way."
"Right sweetheart, we'll be gone for a couple of hours, don't eat too much of that crap while we're out"
We drove over to the Doncaster branch, I'd picked up a bag with the keys and alarm codes to all the shops before we left. This branch wasn't very far from the hotel, I parked up round the back then we walked round to the front entrance.
"Hey, I know this place, I've bought a few things from here in the past. Those handcuffs I used on you the other day were from here. Wow, to think Kelly's family owned this place all along, if I'd known I'd have shopped elsewhere, what if they've got CCTV, her mum might have seen me, oh dear."
"Well let's open up and see if there's any CCTV cameras."
I found the right set of keys and alarm code in my bag. The first hurdle was the shutters, three locks with identical looking keys, except they weren't identical, and it took several attempts to get them right.
Lorraine just stood there laughing, "You'd make a brilliant burglar Dave..."
"It's your turn at the next shop, and I'll just stand around laughing..."
The front door was a lot easier, and once I'd disabled the alarm I had a quick scout for cameras, I couldn't find any, which put Lorraine at ease about her porno shopping past. The front of the shop was mostly fantasy dress-up stuff, school girls, French maids, teddy bears...
"Teddy bears, why a teddy bear costume here?" I pondered out loud
"Oh there's a couple that cover this, some people have a weird fetish for teddy bears, and some have a fetish for furry things of all kinds, like bunny rabbits and stuff. There's some really weird people around, but it's fine as long as they stay out of my way."
Along the other wall were dildos, vibrators, massive, massive dildos, strap-ons, "Jesus what's that?"
"That's a butt plug for someone who's over indulged in the past"
"It's as big as my fist."
"So, it'll fit someone, but I bet they have toilet problems"
In the middle of the floor was a stand with condoms, play oils, hand-cuffs and stuff, we moved through a 1960's coloured plastic streamer curtain to the back room. Here we had porno DVDs and magazines arranged by genre, some of which I'd never heard of and really didn't want to know about.
Lorraine did a circuit with expert eyes, "we're OK, there's nothing illegal here although I'll need to check some of the BDSM stuff to be totally sure as they look borderline. Take a look behind the counter, just to check out the cliché."
I looked and there was nothing obvious. Lorraine grabbed a couple of magazines and fresh sealed bags and took them to one side to check, I looked over her shoulder and shuddered. "Why do those women go along with this treatment?"
"Many are drug addicts and this is all the work they can get when they're at the bottom of the spiral, I've heard that some of the real end of the line girls are killed in the worst of this stuff, their pay going to their family or kids, a kind of suicide by proxy. A lot of the women though have self-esteem issues, they see this treatment as a kind of loving care. Fucked up I know, but there you have it, some people are just plain weird.
"These magazines are borderline, the Extreme Pornography rules forbid the publication of images of acts that could result in death or serious injury to the breasts, genitals or anus, and I'd say that some of this shit is pretty damn close to that. I think we should burn these magazines just in case."
"I'm not going to ask how you know all this Lorraine, I'll just defer to your judgement on this lot as it's way out of my area of expertise. I'm guessing this is where the pay channel movies come from at the hotel."
"A misspent youth. Shall we go upstairs to the office?"
The office was small, but tidy. The financial books were not out on the desk, so I find the same combination and opened it. There were several bundles of cash, a ledger and some magazines. I gave them Lorraine to check whilst I looked through the cash books. There was nothing obviously amiss, but I'd need to check the till receipts and stock records, this was going to be a big job.
"Holy shit I don't believe it..." cried Lorraine
"We've only got some child porn here, no don't come over and look. Can you pop round to the Spar down the road, see if you can get some light fuel, the petrol type, and matches. I'm going to pull this office apart and see if there's any more of this disgusting crap."
I ran downstairs and all the way to the Spar. I got a couple of bottles of Oasis while I was there and a big bar of Dairy Milk.
Back upstairs Lorraine found another magazine under the carpet, she'd been thorough. She opened the window and then got the waste paper basket, put the 6 magazines that were either plain illegal or borderline, doused them with lighter fluid and dropped a lit match in the bin.
"Dave, your first job here is to sack the fucker who uses this office."
We watched the magazines burn, then I put out the flames with a jug of water and flushed the ashes down the toilet, then we locked that shop up and headed to the next shop in silence, dreading what we'd find.
We headed for Pontefract, 20 miles or so to the north. The shop was in a very similar part of town, I managed to park in front this time and proceeded to battle with the shutters again.
The store was almost identical, although there was a lot more leather, rubber and chains in the fetish clothing section, and there was a selection of furniture with restraints, none of it looked comfortable.
Lorraine had a thorough look through the magazines but didn't turn up anything too dodgy, so we headed for the office. Again it was much like the previous office, tidy but cheaply furnished. There were a few posters on the wall of page 3 girls from years ago like Sam Fox and Linda Lusardi. I found the safe and opened it, as before the safe contained ledgers and cash, no magazines this time though, but there was a small bag of white powder, Lorraine opened it and dipped her finger in the powder.
"Coke, misspent youth again. Flush it."
It went down the toilet next door, I checked the books, which looked OK but you never can tell, so I'd be coming back. Looking through the I found the stock checks and receipt records, one of which matched the box next to the desk. I opened the box and checked it against the receipt, everything was there, but the receipt showed two DVDs, three magazines and two boxes of something called Menhancer were missing.
"Lorraine, I think we have a problem. Check the receipt, then check the box."
"Everything is there, but the receipt has stuff missing. Another candidate for sacking I think. Give me 5 minutes to check for stuff under the carpets and we'll get back home."
She found nothing hidden, so we headed back home, Kelly was still lounging in front of the TV, so we went to the kitchen to make dinner.
The next day was Monday, Lorraine phoned Kelly's school first thing and explained what had happened and that Kelly would be off for at least a week.
"The evil bitch, she was more concerned with Kelly's education than her welfare. I know she has exams in a fortnight, but I doubt she's in the mood for revising at the moment."
"I'm sure they can let her sit them late under the circumstances."
"You'd think so, anyway let's get ready for the reading of the wills. Do you have anything clean?"
"Yes, I've got an emergency suit in a carrier in the car, in case I have an unexpected meeting, the shirt may need ironing though, I'll go and get it."
"Kelly, Kelly, time to get ready, we've got to go and see that nice Mr Carruthers this morning"
--"Ok, I'm coming."
For the meeting Kelly and Lorraine were both dressed in long, dark dresses, Kelly's had a high neck to cover any distracting cleavage. My suit was a deep blue, and my shirt was white, unfortunately my tie was a bit bright, so I borrowed one of Kelly's dad's.
PC Jo Fletcher met us at the door and hugged Kelly who was gently weeping as the reason for coming here slowly sank in.
Maxwell Carruthers' office was a reflection of its owner, strictly of the old school. Oak lined, floor to ceiling book cases along one wall, his Oxford degrees framed and flanking a portrait of the Queen. It smelt of old leather from the furniture and book bindings.
Carruthers stood up and came around the desk to greet us, shaking us all by the hand.
"I welcome you all today for the solemn occasion of the reading of the last Will and Testimony of William Adams, Jocelyn Adams and Stephen Adams, before we begin would anyone like a drink?"
I asked for a coffee, Jo, Kelly & Lorraine wanted tea. A teapot and 4 cups arrived, along with a cup and small cafetiere for me.
"Very well then, I shall begin with Stephen Adams, this will is very simple.
"I Stephen Adams, being of sound, do hereby grant all my monetary and physical assets to my sister Kelly Adams to be disposed of as she sees fit."
Kelly sobbed, Lorraine hugged her close and kissed her on the top of her head,
"My assistant ran a financial search and there is presently a sum of £25,356.34 in a savings account at the Nat West, along with a negative balance of £35.69 in a current account. There are presently no mortgages or loans registered in his name. The sum of £35.69 will be moved from the savings account to offset the negative balance in the current account. The remaining balance will be transferred to an account of your choosing."
Jocelyn Adams' will was simpler, she had no assets as such, as everything was in her husband's name. She did have a life insurance policy which paid 60% to her husband, and 20% each to Kelly and Stephen. This would now go to Kelly as either £300,000 lump sum or £15,000 a year for life.
William Adams' will was very complex, there were some payments to charities and a hospice, but the gist was that the hotel and shops, their house and cars, and approximately £400,000 in bank accounts were transferred to Kelly, along with another life insurance policy which paid out close to £2m lump sum.
"err thank you Mr Carruthers, I'm sure you will offer me the best advice on how to manage these assets."
"We have a registered independent financial advisor who can offer you excellent advise, and I suspect that your two friends only have your best interests at heart. I think you will manage very well."
Jo Fletcher led us back out to the street, Kelly kissed her on the cheek, "thank you for being lovely", Jo flushed a little.
"I'm still around to offer you any help you need, you have my number, and so does Ms Peters"
--"I know, but I think you probably don't get thanked enough in your job. I some wonderful people who can help me, but I bet most of the people you help have nobody."
The rest of the week was spent sorting through paperwork, life insurance claims, adoption paperwork, legal business transfers, it was mind-numbing but essential. In the evenings Lorraine and I travelled round the shops, across the week we visited them all twice. Four of the shops currently looked straight, the two shops we visited on Sunday showed additional evidence of wrong doing, and a third shop had a lot of violent pornography and some animal porn, along with discrepancies with delivery receipts.
On Thursday, in my role as Director of Operations of Xcite Trading Ltd I terminated the contracts of three managers, reminding each one of them that I could easily have kept hold of the evidence which would be enough to jail them all. Luckily there was no trouble, which could be down to the fact that I was at least a head taller than all three of them. The Sheffield branch manager seemed like a sensible guy, so I asked him for recommendations for new managers, and after a few inter-branch transfers we had new managers in place by the weekend.
--During the week Kelly's mood got darker, she wasn't coping as well as we'd hoped. She got angry at little things. I had no idea what to do, but Lorraine did what she could. On Saturday we went out shopping, followed by a film and dinner at Frankie & Bennys. This cheered her up and Sunday we had a pleasant stroll in the park and fed the ducks and geese.
Monday morning and Kelly was crying again, Lorraine and I suspected it was because she couldn't face school. I had to get to work, I couldn't risk another day off, I would have to go back north, so I wouldn't be back for 3 days at least. I kissed Lorraine and Kelly good-bye and set off.
Lorraine phoned the school to make an appointment to visit the principal, something had to be done with Kelly's exams, she was too stressed to sit them. She got an appointment at 10am, left Kelly in bed and set off for the school. Without thinking she'd put on a strappy summer dress and sandals.
The meeting didn't go well. The principal, Miss Kendrick, was a middle-aged spinster, very thin, very severe, wearing a tweed skirt and jacket with a shirt and tie. Lorraine guessed as soon as she walked through the door that the meeting would be a resounding failure, but she'd never been one to give up.
"So you are Miss Peters, Kelly Adams' guardian."
"Yes I am, we are starting proceedings to formally adopt Kelly as soon as all the other business has finished"
"How old are you?"
"Why is that important?"
"Well you are very young, too young I think to look after a teenager."
"I've been fending for myself since I was Kelly's age, my mum walked out on me on my 16th birthday and never came back. Kelly's parents help me out, her parents treated me like a daughter and gave me a job and a roof over my head, so I shall return the favour.
"Kelly doesn't need someone to bring her up, she's more mature than many adults, as I'm sure you are aware. She just needs someone to guide her through college, to look after her business interests, and to protect her from vicious predatory adults. My fiancé and I will do that."
"I'm not sure I agree to one of my pupils being brought up by someone like you."
Lorraine leapt to her feet leaned across the desk, "what exactly do you mean by that?"
"I mean someone who walks around with no underwear on, with piercings in personal places, and with tattoos. It is not a very good example to extend to nice young ladies."
"You mean the type of young ladies who bully a girl because her mum & dad don't own a Rolls Royce, who taunt her until she tries to kill herself. I'm not sure I want my daughter to attend the type of school that tolerates this kind of behaviour. She will not be completing her education here and will be enrolling for the City College for her A-Levels, they were very kind to me when I was there, pierced nipples or not. Good bye."
Lorraine gave me blow by blow of the meeting while I was driving to see a client.
"We can get her a private tutor, get onto one of the Academy schools nearby to see if she can sit her exams there, we'll have to pay, but I can afford it. I'll give Barry a call and see if I can swap to the Eastern region as soon as possible. I'll call you later."
After my first meeting, which went well, we may have another new customer, I grabbed some dinner at McDonalds and called Barry.
"Dave, just the man, where are you?"
"I'm in Penrith, between clients, I need to talk to you."
"Well before you do, I need to talk to you. I'm in Kendal, can you get down here ASAP."
"No problems, I've a meeting in Lancaster at 4pm, so I'll swing by Kendal first, where do you want to meet?"
"I'm with someone at the Best Western, when can you be here."
"Give me 30 minutes, I'll be there."
I entered the meeting room and Barry was there with James from Prism Systems.
"Sit down Dave, have a coffee, we have some exciting news, James..."
"Dave, I'm sure you know what we make at Prism Systems, I've never told you, but you're a smart man."
"You make the guidance systems for Stinger missiles amongst other things."
"See Barry, I told you Dave was the cleverest salesman I'd ever met. So Dave, if you know that, take a guess who owns Prism Systems."
"Excellent, now Raytheon are a very secretive enterprise. They like to keep everything "in house" so to speak. So the upshot is that Raytheon are not 100% happy about us buying in technology, so they've applied their usual logic and decided to buy the technology, Barry."
"Thanks James, so basically Raytheon have bought our software division, and part of the deal is you, providing you agree, it'll mean a move to the East coast, which isn't to everyone's taste."
"Wow Barry, I was going to ask if I could move to the Eastern region, because I'm getting married to a girl who lives in Doncaster. So that's perfect."
"What happened to Jane, I thought you were set for life there."
"It fizzled out, things have been moving fast in my life for the last few months and Jane wasn't part of it. I've found a stable platform now, but it's in Doncaster, and I just couldn't live there and work in Cumbria, so this news is ... just perfect."
"Righto Dave, if you agree to this deal you need to be made aware of a few things. To all intents and purposes you would be working for the US Government, now they pay the right people very well, but they expect 100% loyalty in return, you'll need to sign their version of the official secrets act, and the punishment for breaking that is usually death, literally, at a time when you least expect it. If that doesn't scare you then welcome aboard."
"What about my new car, do I need to hand it back?"
"errr, I'd not thought of that."
"Oh don't worry about that, if you like it I'll buy it for you, if you don't like it I'll get you something you do like."
"I like it."
"Good, Barry please add it to the assets we're buying. Welcome aboard Dave, can you be at the Grantham offices at 9am on Monday."
James got up and shook my hands then left the room.
"Wow Barry that's not what I expected."
"I'm sorry to see you go Dave, but we were really given no option, they were buying the software with or without you, but considering the work you put into the deal I simply wasn't fair to leave you out."
"You're a good man Barry, you really are. What now?"
"Well I suggest you take the rest of the week off to move your shit down to Doncaster, check with regional office to see if they'll lend you a van."
--I left the hotel, phoned the next client to cancel the meeting and drove back to Doncaster.
When I got back to the house the girls were both delighted to see me so soon, after a group hug we sat down in the kitchen with mugs of tea to discuss today's events.
Lorraine had telephoned City College and they would arrange for Kelly to sit all her exams, they had a meeting with one of the assistant heads in the morning.
We then got to my major news, they were both overjoyed that I would be moving in, and that brought us round to impending nuptials. Lorraine phoned the registry office and we can get married a week on Saturday at 2pm, this was fine with me, so she booked it. Lorraine would go dress shopping with Kelly tomorrow after they'd finished at the college, I told her she could have my credit card.
"Don't be silly Dave," broke in Kelly, "I've got loads of money now, Stephen's money is in my account now, and dad's money will be sorted and in by the weekend. The life insurance will follow in a few weeks, the house is paid for, the hotel makes a good profit, and you say the shops are showing a good profit even though some managers have been stealing. This means you can stop paying for everything now. Besides Lorraine is now the hotel manager, getting a manager's salary."
"Very well then, you go and spend your own money. I've got the rest of the week off, so I'll borrow a van and get my stuff moved down here, there's not much to be honest, then I'll put my flat on the market."
That night we went out to celebrate, we went 10-pin bowling which Kelly won, I'd like to say I let her, but she beat me fair and square. Afterwards we went for dinner at a Greek restaurant, I like Greek food, it's similar to Turkish and North African, lots of slow cooked meat stews. It's such a shame that there aren't many Greek restaurants around.
The next few days saw me putting in a lot of miles on the motorway as I could only borrow a medium sized van, so I had to make four trips to collect everything. I managed to fill the van for one trip with just my records and books. On Saturday I went suit shopping, which required a trip to Leeds, seemingly the rule about the groom not seeing the bride's dress before the wedding doesn't extend to the bride not seeing the groom's outfit, as both Kelly & Lorraine insisted on joining me to ensure I dressed smartly.
In Harvey Nicholls I saw a Ralph Lauren Purple Label suit that was quite unnecessarily expensive, it fit me perfectly, with perhaps —" taking off the legs, but I couldn't justify a four figure price. Kelly could see how much I loved it, so she insisted that she buy it for me.