Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Sample of "Bokassa's Last Apostle"

—   One   —

The View from the Bushes

Wednesday, 2 July 2003

There must be a small fortune in here, he thought as he stared at the contents of the bank box. Why didn’t I know about this? Hundred dollar bills too; still legal tender. He bent over. Who said money doesn’t smell good? Nice choice matey boy, whoever you are. Pity you didn’t come back. He rummaged around a bit and his hands came across a lumpy envelope. ‘Everton?’ he read. ‘Who the hell is he?’

One month later Everton Jones was regaining consciousness in an alley in Golders Green, late on Saturday night.
   He groaned and reached for his head. Fragments of reality danced into his mind, first the ground, cold and stony under his back and then the night air playing with goosebumps on his chest. Eventually, as the final piece clunked into place, he realised … he was naked. ‘What happened?’ he asked feebly.
   A car whooshed past on the road beyond and its headlights lit up a ragged bush hanging over a wall. Everton dragged himself away from the light and gathered his arms around him. I’m in that alley, right where I went with that boy. God almighty, my head. He must have really whacked me. Then he remembered. My bag, fuck my bag. That was brand new. And he’s got all my best clothes. The bastard took everything!
   He looked around. The lights in the house windows were out. Thank God, they’re all in bed, it must be really late. The dim light filtering back from the street found the path down the middle of the alley. It’s like somebody’s just swept it, he thought. Just an empty alley and one stupid boy from Dudley who’s let his dick get the better of him. Fantastic.
   Thank God for that bend, at least I can’t be seen from the road. I don’t know anyone in London. What am I going to do? What was I thinking of? Fuck, the address of the hotel was in my jeans! I don’t know where it is. And that solicitor’s letter. How am I going to know where to go? And all my money! Christ, I’m screwed … And not the way I wanted either …
   A vision of that boy’s bum pointing up at the ceiling over the pool table in the bar forced itself into Everton’s mind. The curly black hair, those green eyes, the look he’d given him in the toilet. God he was convincing, Everton thought. He put all that on just to lure me here? Oh well, they warned me, in Dudley. But my clothes; why did he have to take my bloody clothes? Oh my God, I’ve been robbed by a label queen! The bastard. It’ll take forever to replace them.
   ‘Something of your father’s to give to you.’ That’s what that solicitor said. That’s what I should have been thinking of. What was the fucking point of coming all this way? I should have stayed on the bus. Why the hell did I get out at Golders Green? Nineteen years. Nineteen bloody years since anyone’s heard from him. He’s all I’ve got left, after Mum. I should have asked her about him when I could. But I thought he was dead too. I’ll never know now. I’ve lost everything!
Regret overtook Everton and he began to cry. The first few quiet tears giving way to deep retching sobs as his feelings overwhelmed him.
   He cried himself out, slumped in the alley, and was wondering how he was going to get out of the mess he was in when he heard the sound of a bottle shattering in the street.
   Someone shouted: ‘Everton!’
   He tensed in his hiding place in the alley. Christ! Who knows I’m here?
   A couple of hand claps rang out.
   ‘Everton.’ The voice was louder and flatter.
   He’s just shouting it out, he doesn’t know me.
   Two more claps …
   Right, it’s some drunk football fan.
   He listened.
   He’s getting closer.
   Three more handclaps resounded this time down the alleyway.
   Everton shrank back, crouched on the balls of his feet.
   He’s right at the entrance. His heart raced as he strained to hear.
   Please, please go past.
   But a security light blinked on and footsteps began to crunch the stony ground on the path.
   Christ, he’s coming this way!
   ‘Ev – er – ton, Ev – ert – on, Ev – er – to – on – n.’ It was a lot closer now and more musical, echoing between the brick walls.
   A dog barked and a window banged open in one of the houses. ‘Who’s there?’ a woman’s voice called out.
   Everton jumped up and belted off in the opposite direction, down the alley, his arms flying. The woman screamed and Everton reached down between his legs and scrambled for safety in the darkness. By the time he stopped, he was surrounded by trees.

On Hampstead Heath, Kash and Édouard were manning their stall. A young black boy had just taken his free condoms and lube and disappeared into the night.
   ‘Madame!’ Édouard muttered under his breath.
   ‘Hey, cut that out,’ Kash replied. ‘We ain’t here ta pick up trade. An’ ya can save the “Madame” fer Ricqui an’ the rest a’ ya’ Girlfriends.’
   ‘That’s what he came for.’
   ‘But not us. We’re here ta give out condoms. Ya’re such a dinge. Quit hittin’ on all the black guys will ya? It’s kinda flatterin’ the attention ya pay ma people, but ain’t ya seen a nice white boy who’d do just as well? Heck, there’s enough of ’em in the bushes tonight.’
   Édouard grabbed Kash’s arm. ‘Copine!’ he exclaimed.
   ‘Look, I ain’t one a’ ya’ Girlfriends, an’ …’
   He stopped in mid-sentence as a naked mixed-race man came running down the path, obviously terrified, his big afro swinging about. ‘Hey brother, are ya okay?’ Kash shouted.
   ‘What do you think?’ he replied. ‘I’ve just been robbed.’
   ‘Robbed? Ya’ve had ya’ clothes stolen?’
   ‘I’m not wandering round like this deliberately, whatever some people round here seem to think.’ He looked over his shoulder nervously. ‘But, yeah – and not just my clothes – I’ve got no money, nowhere to stay. I don’t know what to do.’
   ‘Oh ma God; they normally only steal ya’ wallet.’
   ‘Who are you guys and where am I? This place is mental.’
   ‘Ya mean ya don’ know?’
   ‘No, I’m from Dudley.’
   ‘Ya’re on Hampstead Heath honey. But where are ma manners? I’m Kash an’ this is Édouard, he has a room in ma house.’ He extended a hand.
   ‘And I’m Everton. Pleased to meet you … only I can’t exactly shake your hand.’ He shifted the weight on his feet and looked down between his legs. Both his hands were wrapped firmly around his manhood.
   ‘Oh I get it.’ Kash grinned and reached under the table for a bag. ‘Look, I think I’d better lend ya ma gym kit.’
   ‘Could you?’
   ‘Yeah, no problem. Here.’ Kash handed the bag to Everton who went off into the bushes to change.
   A few minutes later he returned. Kash’s clothes fitted him perfectly. ‘That’s better. I don’t know how to thank you.’
   ‘Don’ even mention it. Up to now the biggest drama we’ve dealt with was some guy who’d run inta someone he knew from work. In your case, I guess ya’ll need a place ta stay?’
   ‘You’re right about that. The details of my hotel were in my trousers. And the address of a solicitor I’m supposed to see on Monday. God, this is a bloody nightmare.’
   ‘I know some people I can call, but why don’ ya come with us? I’ve a spare room. Ya’re welcome to it.’
   ‘I don’t know. It’s very kind of you to offer, but …’
   ‘But what? What else’re ya gonna do? It ain’t like I’m tryin’ ’a get ya outa ya’ knickers, quite the reverse. Anyways, I want ma clothes back. I wouldn’t normally do this, but I can’t just leave ya here.’
   ‘I can’t deny that. Yes. Thank you, you’ve saved my life.’
   ‘No problem. Look we’re about done here. Why don’ we just get ya home? Come on Ed, let’s get packed up. Ya can tell us all about it in the car, Everton.’

—   Two   —

Breakfast in Kenton

On Sunday morning, Kash and Édouard were in the kitchen of his house in Kenton, sat around a pile of pain au chocolat and a pot of coffee.
   ‘Look here,’ Kash was saying, ‘Everton’s had a terrible shock. Can’t ya see? I just don’ want ya takin’ advantage of ’im.’
   ‘Me, take advantage of him? You were the one all over him last night. I think it is you who should be keeping your hands to yourself.’
   ‘He sure is gorgeous. But how many more times do I have ta tell ya? I ain’t tryin ’a get inside ’is knickers. Believe me. It wouldn’t be fair. An’ I know you. What about that guy from Senegal last Easter? Ya practically had ta be held back, if I recall. That’s what I’m talkin’ about; hands off, right?’
   ‘As far as I am concerned, Everton is a Girlfriend. And that is my last word. And I think you should treat him like one too, even if you do not take the Girlfriends’ Code seriously.’
   ‘You an’ ya’ darn “Girlfriends”, I s’pose it’s a French thing; though I don’ exactly see Everton mincin’ around like Ricqui. Still, if ya wanna put ’im in that box, that’s fine by me. At least it’ll keep ya’ hands off a’ him.’
   ‘You can say what you like about my Girlfriends; but if it wasn’t for the Code we would all have fallen out long ago. “Girlfriends do not fuck with their Girlfriends.”’
   ‘“Or their Girlfriends’ boyfriends”, yada, yada. How many times? Whatever; we’re both sayin’ the same thing here. Just ya stick ta it; ya hearin’ me?’
   ‘Of course I am. And I will, if you do. Now shush. I think that is him. Quiet now.’

A moment later, Everton tried the door. ‘Oh, you’re having breakfast, I’ll come back later.’
   ‘Waddaya mean? Don’ be so silly ma man, join us!’
   ‘Oh no, it’s alright.’
   ‘So ya’re goin’ ta McDonald’s are ya, even if there was one round here? An’ waddaya gonna pay with? Come on man, sit down!’
   ‘If you put it like that.’
   ‘I do, it’s just ma way.’ Kash scraped back a chair. ‘Here! Ed, pour this gorgeous man a coffee an’ give ’im a croissant.’
   ‘This is nice, thank you,’ Everton replied.
   ‘The French sure know how ta do pastry. Now relax,’ Kash added, ‘an’ make ya’self ta home. Ma folks’re loaded, so it’s no imposition. But what’s ya’ programme? What does that solicitor want?’
   ‘It all sounds very mysterious,’ Édouard added.
   ‘No kidding,’ Everton replied. ‘He wouldn’t say over the phone. Just that he had something of Dad’s to give to me.’
   ‘An’ ya’ pa ain’t around?’ Kash asked.
   ‘That’s right, Mum said he went back to Africa when I was two and no one ever saw him again. I think he must be dead.’
   ‘But you do not know that, perhaps he has come back and wants to get in touch?’ Édouard suggested.
   ‘Or they’ve found ’is will an’ he’s left ya a fortune,’ Kash added. ‘Look on the bright side. What does ya’ ma think?’
   ‘I can’t ask her now, she’s dead,’ Everton said. ‘She had a heart attack two months ago. And he couldn’t have left me anything; they had nothing to start with.’ The room fell quiet for a moment.
   ‘Sorry, I didn’t know. That’s awful.’ Kash broke the silence.
   ‘Thanks, but it’s okay, we weren’t close. Mum found me in bed with a guy when I was in the sixth form and chucked me out. We never spoke after that.’
   ‘Was she …?’
   ‘English, yes.’
   ‘So how’re we gonna find that address?’
   ‘He emailed it to me, so if I can just get online …’
   ‘No problem, there’s a computer in ma study.’
   ‘That’s brilliant, thanks, but …’
   ‘But what?’
   ‘Look, I haven’t got any money, or anything to wear; just what you lent me last night. How am I going to get there?’
   ‘Don’ be ridiculous. Let us look after ya.’
   ‘No, it’s asking too much. I can’t.’
   ‘Ya ain’t got much choice, do ya? If it makes ya feel any better ya can give me somethin’ once ya’re sorted out, then I’ll refuse ta accept it. Now get ya’self upstairs. We’re about the same size. I think I’d better lend ya some a’ ma clothes.’

Wow!’ Everton gasped as he stepped into Kash’s bedroom. In the middle was a huge bed framed by gilded dogs. ‘Where on earth did you get that from? It’s like Tutankhamen’s tomb.’
   ‘I had it made. “Kashta” was the first black pharaoh.’
   ‘You’re Egyptian?’
   ‘No I ain’t. I’m from downtown Atlanta an’ proud of it. It’s a long story. Right now, we need ta get ya kitted out.’ Kash opened a door to a walk-in dressing room lined with clothes.
   ‘Let’s see,’ he said, casting an appraising glance at Everton, ‘they say it’s gonna be “hot” today. I guess ya’d be “hot” in linen.’ He laughed and pulled out a pair of white slacks. ‘Come on, get those off an’ let’s see if they fit.’
   ‘You do know I’m not wearing any knickers …’
   ‘And? I bet ya’d look good without ’em. Don’ worry, I won’t look!’ He handed Everton the trousers and turned the other way.

Waddaya think Ed?’ Kash asked as he came back into the kitchen with Everton. ‘I only wish they looked as good on me.’
   Édouard whistled. ‘Ouaw!’ He rolled his eyes. ‘But you are not wearing any underpants. That trouser shows everything.’
   Everton blushed. ‘You don’t think it’s a bit too daring?’ he asked, looking down. ‘Kash persuaded me.’
   ‘It will certainly get you noticed. Just hope it does not rain and God forbid you get an erection.’ Édouard grinned and drained his coffee. ‘I can’t stay and chat, I have to go to work.’
   ‘You give out condoms in the mornings too?’
   ‘No,’ Édouard replied, looking at his watch, ‘I was only keeping Kash company last night. I work for Eurostar, and I have to be in Waterloo in an hour. I must hurry. Thanks to God I have my uniform ready. Just you remember what I said, Mr Kashta!’ And, grabbing a pain au chocolat, he rushed out.
   Everton looked puzzled. ‘“Mister” Kashta?’ he asked. ‘Kashta’s your surname?’
   ‘I said it’s a long story. I changed ma name when I became a Muslim.’
   ‘Muslim? But you’re black?’
   ‘Ya’ve never heard a’ Louis Farrakhan then?’
   ‘“Louis Farrakhan”. He’s a black activist in the US – converted ta Islam in the fifties – changed ’is name an’ all. It’s all about denyin’ the slavery culture. Come on, I’ve somethin’ ta show ya.’

He led him into the lounge and they sat down together on a stylish white leather sofa. ‘I’ve seduced a few guys on here in ma time but, don’ worry, I’m not after ya … yet. Check this out.’ He reached for the remote. A huge plasma screen came to life and he flicked over to a religious programme on an American satellite channel.
   ‘See that guy in the suit? That’s ma pa. He owns the whole church, this TV channel, you name it. He pays fer all a’ this outa small change; religion’s big business in the States.
   ‘When I was a kid he used ta send me ta these Christian summer camps ta “convert” me fer the Lord. I hated it. So I converted ta Islam an’ changed ma name from “Tobias Napier” ta “Taurique Mohammed el-Haji Kashta”.’
   ‘So that’s why you got that amazing bed. I get it now. What did your dad make of it?’
   Kash laughed. ‘Waddaya think? He was furious! Banished me ta good ol’ London Town, or else he’d cut me off without a penny. Now I live the life of a playboy, an’ all ta keep ’is precious reputation intact, neat, huh?’
   ‘And all I have left of my father’s a big, fat mystery.’
   ‘Hey man, it’s gonna work out. Just go along on Monday. Ya never know, it might be good news.’
   ‘I wish! Look, will you come with me Kash? Now it’s getting so close I’ve got butterflies.’
   ‘Are ya kiddin’ me? I wouldn’t miss this fer the world. Sure I will. Come on, it’s about time we got online an’ found that email, so we know where ta go tomorrow.’

—   Three   —

James Stevens

God, and I thought Dudley was a dump,’ Everton said as they stepped from New Cross Gate station onto the street on Monday.
   ‘Welcome ta south-east London,’ Kash replied. ‘Ever likely no one wants ta live south a’ the river any more. Shame, those houses over there look like they were kinda nice once upon a time. Now where is this place?’
   ‘It’s supposed to be just over the road. Yes, there it is, on the corner.’
   The last shopfront opposite bore an ageing sign with ‘Stevens and Williams, Solicitors’ written on it. There was a hole right in the middle, covered with plastic tape.
   ‘Don’ exactly inspire much confidence,’ Kash observed. ‘This fella looks down on ’is luck. Come on, let’s get this over with.’
   A bell on a curly spring dinged madly as Everton pushed the door open and a black girl sitting at a peeling desk looked up from behind a pale and wilted pot plant.
   ‘Yeah, hello. Do you have an appointment?’ she asked.
   ‘My name’s Everton Jones, I’m here to see Mr Stevens.’
   The girl looked down at the diary, smacked her lips on her chewing gum, and gestured at some threadbare chairs behind them. ‘Oh yeah, sit down. I’ll call him.’
   Minutes later a portly white guy in his late fifties appeared. He was wearing a shiny blue pinstriped suit and was very obviously on edge.
   ‘Mr Jones, so pleased to meet you after all this time,’ he said, and extended a pudgy hand which Everton shook. ‘I’m Mr Stevens, James Stevens. And this is …?’
   ‘A friend of mine, Mr Kashta,’ Everton replied.
   ‘The pleasure is all mine, gentlemen. Would you like to come with me?’ he asked, shaking Kash’s hand. He ushered them into an office, much like the waiting room, and sat down behind an identical desk.
   ‘Thank you for coming to see me,’ he began, and took a piece of paper out of a file. ‘You look just like your passport photo, Mr Jones, thank you for sending me this copy. Now then, you must be eager to know what this is all about.’
   ‘Are you kidding?’ Everton replied. ‘Everyone thinks Dad’s dead. No one’s seen him for nineteen years. Have you heard from him? And what have you got to give me?’
   ‘Actually, I haven’t heard from him. And, although I do have something to give you, I’m not entirely sure it’s from your father.’
   ‘But you were very specific on the phone. You even repeated it several times.’
   ‘Yeah, an’ he’s told me too, “somethin’ of ’is pa’s”,’ Kash emphasised.
   ‘It’s a bit more complicated than that,’ James answered. ‘That’s the real reason I wanted to see you in person. I am convinced your father is involved, Mr Jones. Except, to explain, I will have to start at the beginning.’
   ‘Go on then,’ Everton prompted him.
   ‘Before I can do that I have to ask you a very important question. Do you know your father’s surname?’
    ‘Come on!’ Kash spluttered. ‘If ya don’ even know the guy’s name, where’s the point?’
   ‘That’s right,’ Everton agreed. ‘If you don’t know what he was called, how come you’re so sure he’s my dad?’
   ‘An’ if ya ain’t sure, why’re ya even talkin’ ta Ev in the first place?’ Kash added.
    ‘Oh dear, I’m really not doing very well am I?’ James replied. ‘I hope all will become clear. Please Mr Jones, can you tell me your father’s surname? It is of vital importance.’
   ‘I really can’t help you out there, Mr Stevens,’ Everton answered. ‘I told you he went back to Africa when I was tiny. Mum hardly ever talked about him. When she did she only ever called him “Bartie”.’
   ‘She never used his last name?’
   ‘No. I’ve always been Everton “Jones”. Dad’s a complete mystery to me. All I know is he came here from Central Africa and worked in a bar somewhere in London, met Mum, got her preggers and then went back to Africa. End of story.’
   James sighed. ‘I was afraid you would say that. This leaves me with a massive problem.’
   ‘Perhaps ya’d better start this properly, at the beginnin’?’ Kash asked. ‘Now we’ve established that.’
   ‘Yes, sir, I think I will.’ He settled himself in his chair. ‘A couple of months ago, I had a letter from a bank manager about an old account he was trying to close. In the joint names of “Carlene Jones and Barthélémy Faye”.’
   ‘That’s it then, isn’t it?’ Everton broke in. ‘Mum’s “Carlene Jones”. Dad’s name must have been “Faye”. Bartie’s short for “Barthélémy”. Mystery solved.’
   ‘If only it were that easy,’ James answered. ‘The Carlene Jones who held that account was definitely your mother. I contacted her solicitor and he located you for me. There’s no doubt about that. Only no one can trace Mr Faye and, as there was only about twenty pounds left in the account anyway …’
   ‘You brought me all this way over twenty quid?’ Everton interrupted, indignantly.
   ‘No, no, please. That letter just got the ball rolling. Mr Faye was a client of my former partner, Mr Williams, back in the early eighties.’
   ‘Don’ ya have ’is file?’ Kash demanded. ‘Surely this Mr Williams fella knew who ’is own clients were?’
   ‘Mr Williams had his own ways. And he too disappeared shortly afterwards, as it happens. When I finally found Mr Faye’s file there was almost nothing in it.’
   ‘But there was “something”?’ Everton replied. ‘What was in there?’
   ‘Just two things: a bank statement and a power of attorney.’
   ‘Ain’t that what they do fer old folks in case they go gaga?’ Kash interrupted. ‘Surely Ev’s pa was fit an’ healthy way back then.’
   ‘You would think so, sir,’ James replied. ‘But Mr Williams often kept one in case his clients had to be … away … for any length of time.’ He hesitated. ‘It’s been quite useful, really. But that’s not the problem.’
   ‘Problem? What problem?’ Everton asked.
   ‘I’m not quite sure how to put this, but both the power of attorney and bank statement were for a Mr Barthélémy Lingoupou.’
   ‘You’re kidding me. Who’s this Lingoupou guy? What were those things doing in my dad’s file? Or was my dad really Mr Lingoupou? I’m totally confused now.’
   ‘So am I. That’s why I asked you. You see, Roger – that is, Mr Williams – unfortunately never kept notes. It wasn’t uncommon for his clients to use more than one name.’
   ‘He was using a fake name? But then where’s the problem? They’re both my dad.’
   ‘The problem is proving that to the satisfaction of the authorities. I think it’s the most likely explanation but, by itself, it won’t stand up. Where this really gets interesting is what I found in his safety-deposit box.’
   ‘He had a safety-deposit box? Which one of them?’
   ‘Mr “Lingoupou”. I’ve only got one power of attorney, and it’s in his name. When they told me about the box, I went down to investigate. I’m afraid it was pretty much empty, apart from a few papers and this.’ He reached into a drawer and took out a yellowing envelope with “Everton” written on it. ‘I think I can definitely give this to you.’
   Everton felt the lumpy package. ‘There’s something inside.’
   ‘Naturally. Why would someone go to all this trouble to leave you an empty envelope?’ James smiled. ‘Why don’t you open it after you’ve left. It probably contains some of his personal effects. But I’m not quite finished. I also found this.’ James handed Everton a piece of paper which he read out:

Roger, Please look after my money and make sure Carlene and Everton are alright. If I get away safely I will telephone you, Bartie.

‘“His” money? An’ that could be either a’ the “Barties” right, Mr Stevens?’ Kash jumped in
   ‘Got it in one, sir. Whatever his last name, that instruction is unambiguous. So I can let Mr Jones have access to what’s left of the money in Mr Lingoupou’s account with a clear conscience. I’ve persuaded the bank to issue a cash card. The pin number’s “1111”, although you can change it, if you wish. There’s only five thousand in there. But you’re welcome to it.’
   ‘What!’ Everton shouted. ‘Five thousand? That’s a fortune! How can I thank you? Kash, I’m sorted!’
   ‘It’s Bartie whom you have to thank, I’m just a poor solicitor, following an old client’s instructions.’
   ‘Hold on,’ Kash interrupted. ‘What’s this guy doin’ with a whole bank box just fer one tiny envelope? Was there anythin’ else in there? I kinda pictured it full a’ money.’
   ‘Mr Kashta, please. I think I’ve gone as far as I can. Without the necessary documentary proof I have to treat them as two separate people, whatever we might think. If Mr Jones can prove he is his Mr Lingoupou’s son that would be a different matter. As it stands …’
   ‘As it stands, ya can’t do jack shit.’
   ‘In a nutshell … yes. It’s not as if my client – whoever he turns out to be – is dead. He’s just disappeared. You should be grateful he left instructions to help Mr Jones. If I got proof that Mr Lingoupou had indeed died I would have to wind up his affairs. As it stands, he’s only “missing”. Whilst ever he is alive – or at least not dead anyway – the power of attorney remains in force.’
   ‘An’ that makes a difference?’
   ‘Trust me, sir, it makes all the difference in the world.’
   James showed them out, and sighed. He pulled a share certificate out of his desk drawer and examined it carefully. At the top it had ‘Barthélémy Lingoupou’ written on it:

Société de l’Aigle–Soleil, action N°13. Nom de Titulaire: Barthélémy Lingoupou. En cas de la mort du titulaire, la société doit être contacté à son siège social, avenue Boganda 49, Bangui, Empire de Centrafrique. Conditions exceptionelles s’appliqueront.

He reached for the phone. ‘Shanice, can you get me international directory enquiries, please. And bring me that French dictionary; it looks like I’m going to need it.’

—   Four   —

Not What it Seems

‘Five thousand pounds!’ Everton screamed, as they got out onto the street.
   ‘Keep it down, man.’ Kash silenced him. ‘Take a look at this neighbourhood. I wouldn’t go shoutin’ it out if I were you.’
   ‘You’re right. Come on, let’s get away from here and celebrate. Where’s a good place to go?’
   ‘I know this real swish bar in town, an’ the train goes directly there. Come on. Get ya’ cute little tush over the street.’

The screen on the post office cashpoint in Charing Cross blinked back at them. ‘Balance £5,423.89’. ‘It’s true, it’s really true. I don’t believe it.’ Everton tapped in a two hundred and fifty pound withdrawal. ‘Where’s that bar? The drinks are on me!’
   ‘Behind ya. See, where it says “Kudos” on that window? It’s real cool.’
   ‘And it’s gay, right?’
   ‘Waddaya think?’

Five minutes later they were settled down on a comfortable brown suede sofa in the stylish upstairs bar. ‘This is really nice, but not very busy,’ Everton said, putting down his pint.
   ‘They start comin’ in around five. It’s always like this until then. Where’s that envelope? I’m dyin’ ta see what’s inside.’
   Everton took it out of a pocket and held it gingerly. ‘Here goes …’ He ripped it open and something metallic tinkled onto the marble table top. ‘Whoops, what’s that?’
   ‘Looks like some kinda ring.’
   ‘And it’s massive. Is that a real diamond in the middle? What’s the black stone made of?’
   ‘I dunno; it’s cut an’ polished, must be some sort a’ gemstone. Could be a black diamond. How do they do that, set one stone inside another?’
   ‘I don’t know, but if that’s a diamond it must be worth a fortune, it’s massive!’
   ‘An’ black diamonds are really rare. Hey, it’s shaped like Africa. Come on, try it on.’
   Everton tried each finger in turn, but the best fit was his ring finger. He placed it on his left hand and held it out.
   ‘That’s gorgeous, you’re right, it does look like Africa. What else is in there?’
   Everton shook the remaining contents of the envelope onto the table. Out fell a thong with a leather pouch sewn up with white string attached and a small piece of card. ‘Is that all?’
   ‘Looks like it. What does it say on that card?’
   Everton picked it up and read:

If you wear one, wear the other, and stay away from women. Do not come after me. Keep these safe, they are the keys to your happiness. Good luck my son, you’ll probably need it.

‘That’s a bit odd,’ Everton said, ‘some crummy necklace and, what does he mean, “keys to my happiness” and “stay away from women”?’
   ‘Maybe he knew ya’d turn out ta be a fairy?’
   ‘Yeah, right.’ Everton laughed. ‘I’m not exactly going to find keeping away from women too much of a problem.’
   ‘No, that’s right.’ Kash laughed as well. ‘But it’s all a bit spooky. Kinda like a message from the grave. Go on then.’
   ‘The necklace. He wanted ya ta wear that an’ all. It’ll look good on ya. It’s real ethnic.’
   ‘Do you think so?’
   ‘Give it a go, here, let me.’
   Kash turned Everton’s shoulders around, reached inside the flowery shirt and tied the thong around his neck. ‘Jeez, it’s long, I’m gonna have ta knot it halfway down an’ dangle the ends down ya’ back.’
   Everton turned to look in the mirror behind them. ‘You’re right, it’s really nice.’
   ‘Ya look real African now.’
   ‘But I don’t feel like it. I never knew my dad. It feels really strange wearing his necklace.’
   ‘Ya’re sure he’s dead?’
   ‘I think he must be. What did that note in the box say? “If I get away safely”? Sounds like he was running away from something.’
   ‘I wonder what? But, more ta the point, what the hell else was in that box? I ain’t too sure I trust this Mr Stevens fella.’
   ‘I really liked him. Look, he wasn’t sure who the money belonged to, but he gave it to me anyway.’
   ‘Hey, Ev, ya don’t hire a bank box just ta keep a necklace safe fer nineteen years. There had ta be more in there.’
   ‘Like a great big diamond ring? Come on Kash.’
   ‘No, you “come on”,’ Kash replied. ‘This guy just thought that envelope had a few knick-knacks in it. He was pretty cagey about the rest. I bet he’d be real pissed if he knew there was a rock like that in there. The only way we’re gonna get ta the bottom a’ this is by findin’ out about ya’ pa. Sounds like there’s a mighty interestin’ story there an’ all.’
   ‘You’re right. I wonder what he was running away from?’
   ‘Or where he was runnin’ to? Where was he from?’
   ‘Central Africa. Look, that little diamond is right in the middle. If it is meant to be Africa, I bet that’s where he came from.’
   ‘I dunno, but it figures. I think it’s time we talked ta Ricqui.’
   ‘One a’ Ed’s Girlfriends.’
   ‘He’s got a girlfriend? I thought he was gay.’
   ‘They’re all big girls, so they call ’emselves “Girlfriends”. Ricqui’s the most outrageous of ’em all. He’s a hooker, actually.’
   ‘What!’ Everton spilt his beer on the table.
   ‘Hey, cool it, it ain’t no big deal. If ya like sex an’ money it’s a pretty reasonable choice. I couldn’t do it though.’
   ‘Nor me. Why do you want me to meet a prostitute?’
   ‘Beause he’s African. I bet he can fill us in about ya’ pa.’
   ‘Oh, right. That makes sense.’
   ‘Cool, an’ I know exactly where ta find ’im. The two of ’em always go ta “Pleasuredrome” on Mondays.’
   ‘Pleasure what?’
   ‘Pleasure-“drome”, it’s a sauna, just over the river.’
   ‘A gay sauna, you mean wandering around in the nud?’
   ‘Well ya get a towel, which is one better’n when we met. D’ya wanna know about ya’ pa or what?’

Sometime later Everton and Kash walked into the café at the heart of the massive industrial-style sauna complex. Édouard was seated at one of the stainless steel tables holding forth to a short black guy who was festooned in towels, looking for all the world like Carmen Miranda.
   ‘Et tu ne puisses pas imaginer, le pain, ma fille, c’est plus grand que je n’ai jamais …’ Édouard broke off and shrieked when he saw Kash ‘Et voilà la Copine Kash, avec Everton!
   ‘Ed, an’ Ricqui – this is the guy I was tellin’ ya about Ev.’
   ‘Enchanté ma fille. Édouard n’a pas menti.’ Ricqui extended his hand and Everton took it. Lifting it to his mouth, Ricqui kissed it with an extravagant flourish. ‘My, my, Kashta, your taste is improving.’
   ‘Cut that out. Look here, have we got some story ta tell! What about coffees all round?’ Kash asked, and took Everton to the counter.

Returning with the drinks, Kash and Everton sat down and recounted their visit to James Stevens’ office.
   ‘And that is a real diamond?’ Édouard asked when they had finished explaining. ‘It is beautiful.’
   ‘It is pretty amazing,’ Everton answered. ‘And we haven’t got a clue where it came from.’
   ‘Or that necklace,’ Kash added. ‘Ain’t ya from Congo, Ricqui? Got any ideas?’
   Ricqui opened his eyes wide. ‘This was hidden in a bank for nineteen years?’
   ‘Ever since Dad disappeared,’ Everton replied.
   ‘That’s incredible. But, that is no necklace you are wearing.’
   ‘What is it then? It looks like one.’
   ‘Haven’t you noticed the ends are a bit long for that?’
   ‘Now you mention it, I had,’ Everton answered. ‘We had to knot it in the middle to make it fit, didn’t we, Kash?’
   ‘Yeah,’ Kash admitted. ‘So go on, Ricqui, what is it?’
   ‘I think it is a grigri.’
   ‘A gri - what?’ Everton asked.
   ‘Gri - “gri”,’ Ricqui repeated. ‘I haven’t seen one of these in ages.’
   ‘An’ what the hell’s one a’ those?’ Kash asked.
   ‘A sort of magic charm, to keep evil spirits away, demons, that sort of thing.’
   ‘Come on, Ricqui,’ Everton replied. ‘Pull the other one. It’s 2003 for fuck’s sake.’
   ‘You may laugh, Everton, but they are taken very seriously in my country. If you keep to the special conditions, they can stop bullets, make you invisible …’
   ‘Slay vampires, yeah, yeah,’ Kash broke in. ‘It all sounds like the booger man ta me.’
   ‘Hold on.’ Everton stopped him. ‘What was that about “special conditions”, Ricqui?’
   ‘The most powerful ones come with a list of things you have to avoid or they lose their magic power. Like not eating certain foods, even not having sex or …’
   ‘Kash,’ Everton shouted, ‘that card!’
   ‘What card?’ Ricqui asked.
   ‘Sorry, we didn’t tell you that bit. There was a card in the envelope saying I should avoid women if I wore this “grigri”. Does that mean it’s a powerful one?’
   ‘It could be.’ Ricqui grinned. ‘You should not have too much difficulty avoiding women.’
   ‘That’s what I said.’ Everton laughed. ‘But why would Dad have wanted one, and how’s some crummy necklace supposed to keep demons away?’
   ‘It isn’t a necklace, Everton, you wear it around your waist. And there’s something inside which gives it magical power.’
   Everton pulled a face. ‘I don’t even want to think about that, it’s bound to be something horrible. You’re telling me it’s been dangling around next to my dad’s … knackers? That’s nasty!’ He took it off and dropped it on the table. ‘I need a shower now, it’s made me feel all dirty. Where are they?’
   ‘I want to have a word with Kash,’ Édouard replied. ‘Why don’t you show him where they are, Ricqui?’
   Kash shot a questioning glance at Édouard. ‘Are ya sure?’
   ‘Perfectly.’ Édouard returned Kash’s glance with a fierce stare.
   ‘Come on, Everton.’ Ricqui’s face lit up as he took him by the hand. ‘The showers near to the entrance are more private.’
   ‘Alright,’ Everton agreed, holding the grigri at arm’s length, ‘and I can throw this thing into my locker on the way.’

What the hell d’ya think ya’re doin’?’ Kash asked once they had gone. ‘Ricqui’ll eat ’im alive.’
   ‘Give him some respect, he thinks Everton is your boyfriend.’
   ‘Don’ tell me, “Girlfriends’ Code”, right?’
   ‘Exactly, Everton is perfectly safe with Ricqui. But what about you, Mr Kashta? What have you been up to?’
   ‘Hands in the air, Ed.’ Kash put his hands up in mock surrender. ‘Trust me. We just went ta see that solicitor together. Everton asked me ta go with ’im.’
   ‘And then you lured him here. Anything to get his clothes off.’
   ‘Right, an’ that ain’t what Ricqui’s up ta right now? Girlfriends’ Code or no Girlfriends’ Code that guy’s got about as much sincerity as ya’ little pinky thing, brother.’
   Édouard bristled. ‘Do not take your size complex out on me, Mr Kashta. Mine is bigger than yours and … anyway …’
   Bells began to ring out, cutting him short, and the electropop was replaced by an announcement: ‘The fire alarm has been activated. For safety reasons we have to evacuate the building. Please make your way to the exit where you will receive a full refund.’ A collective groan went up from all directions, followed by the sound of slamming doors and footsteps. Men began to appear, making their way out.
   ‘I should darn well think so,’ Kash grumbled. ‘Don’ think we’re done, Ed. We’ll finish this later. Right now I s’pose we’d better go find the others.’

When they got to the locker room, Everton and Ricqui were already there. ‘What’s going on, Kash?’ Everton asked. ‘They say there’s a fire or something.’
   ‘I cannot see any smoke,’ Édouard observed.
   ‘The only smoke I noticed was from the weed they were smokin’ in the cabins,’ Kash replied. ‘I’m just pissed I didn’t get ma rocks off.’

As they queued up to be let out, they were greeted by three policemen in the entrance. ‘What the fuck?’ Kash exclaimed. ‘That beats it, some “fire alarm”, they’re raidin’ the joint!’
   ‘It’s just a formality,’ the first policeman explained. We’re responding to complaints this establishment has been admitting underage children. Once you’ve received your refund, we’ll need to see some ID and you can be on your way.’
   When it came to Everton’s turn, all he had to show was the bank card James had given him. ‘This is all I’ve got,’ he explained. ‘I was robbed on Saturday. This is my father’s bank card. I’m called Everton Jones.’
   ‘Can I possibly have that for a moment?’ the guy asked him. ‘I need to call this in.’
   ‘Waddaya mean?’ Kash interrupted. ‘Can’t ya see he’s of age?’
   ‘Please, sir, could you keep out of this?’
   ‘Look, I pay ma taxes. I don’ need some fascist in a uniform threatenin’ ma friends. Can’t ya let the guy alone?’
   ‘I’m afraid if you continue speaking to me like that I’m going to have to arrest you, sir,’ the copper replied, and walked outside to call in Everton’s card.
   ‘The pigs in this country are real polite ain’t they,’ Kash observed, when he’d gone, ‘but still pigs.’
   ‘I’m sorry, sir,’ the policeman addressed Everton when he returned, ‘the owner of this card is wanted by the police. I’m afraid you are going to have to come with us.’
   ‘What!’ Kash spluttered. ‘Didn’t ya hear what he said? That’s ’is pa, not ’im.’
   ‘Please don’t force me to arrest you, sir,’ the copper replied, ‘obstructing a police officer is a very serious offence.’
   ‘It’s okay, Kash,’ Everton said. ‘Just get Mr Stevens in the morning. Thank you for standing up for me, but it’s going to be alright.’ He turned to the policeman. ‘Okay, where do I go?’

—   Five   —

Peckham Nick

Inside Peckham Police station, Everton was explaining to the desk sergeant.
   ‘You’ve got this all wrong, that’s my father’s cash card. My solicitor’s going to be here tomorrow, well, Dad’s solicitor really. Anyway, he’s got a copy of my passport and everything. I’m Everton Jones … Jones,’ he emphasised. ‘Not Barthélémy Lingoupou.’
   ‘In that case, we’re going to have to wait until he gets here, “police and criminal evidence” and all that. Meanwhile, I’m afraid this is the scary bit, just a formality: “Mr Barthélémy Lingoupou”,’ he continued mechanically, ‘“I am arresting you in pursuance of an extradition warrant issued by the government of the Central African Republic. You have the right to remain silent; but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.” Now, if you could please put your belongings on the table?’
   Everton placed a wad of notes, a packet of Marlboro, the cash card, grigri and ring on the desk in front of him. And that’s all I’ve got right now, he thought, as the sergeant catalogued the collection.
   At that moment the phone rang. ‘Excuse me please.’ The desk sergeant picked up the receiver. ‘Yes … yes … that’s right … yes, sir, right away.’ When he replaced the receiver he turned to Everton. ‘I have to go and speak with the superintendent. If you could just sign this receipt for your belongings and check the description is correct, then the constable will take you downstairs and make you as comfortable as possible, in the circumstances.’
   ‘Hold on a minute.’ Everton stopped him. ‘You said “extradition warrant”. I’m not going to be deported, am I?’
   The sergeant chuckled. ‘Sorry, sir. I don’t mean to make light of it. It’s Mr Lingoupou who’s going to get deported, when we get our hands on him. If your story checks out, you’ve no need to worry.’
   ‘Thank God for that. What did he do … Mr Lingoupou?’
   ‘They haven’t told me that, Mr Jones. It would all be dealt with at an extradition hearing, if it comes to it, that is.’
   ‘I hope you’re going to keep all of that safe?’ Everton asked, as the guy put his things in an envelope and sealed it.
   ‘Of course. Although, if this card is Mr Lingoupou’s, I will need to discuss the matter with your solicitor tomorrow. Now if you don’t mind, Mr Jones, I really have to go and see the super. He’s not a very patient man. Constable, if you wouldn’t mind …’

After what seemed like hours later, the door of the cell opened and a young Somali copper came in with a cup of tea.
   ‘Hello Mr Jones, my name is PC Niksha, and they’ve asked me to have a few words, is that okay?’
   ‘Sure,’ Everton replied. ‘Look, can you call me “Everton”? All this “Mr Jones” stuff is getting on my wick.’
   ‘Fantastic, and please call me “Abdi”.’
   ‘Okay, cool, er … Abdi.’
   Abdi took off his cap and put it down beside him. His short, soft hair was just long enough to betray some ruffled, tufty curls which, Everton thought, would be much better for being allowed to grow out. At the minute they just made it all rather untidy. Still, there was a certain something. His face was very symmetric, with a slim nose, thin lips, high cheekbones and forehead, piercing amber eyes and all framed by that bushy hair.
   ‘I can’t understand it,’ Abdi went on. ‘My boss is jumping up and down. “‘Barthélémy Lingoupou’, after all these years! What the hell are immigration doing? How the fuck did he get past them?” It’s obvious you’re not him, but …’
   ‘Look, Abdi, that cash card was given to me by my dad’s solicitor, “Barthélémy Lingoupou’s” solicitor,’ Everton emphasised. ‘He’ll be here tomorrow; this is all a big mistake.’ He went on to explain the day’s proceedings. When he had finished, Abdi leaned back and turned to look at Everton.
   ‘Don’t worry, I’m sure that will convince my boss. What a story. You’ve really been through it recently, haven’t you?’
   ‘Not half.’ Everton sighed. ‘I’ve only been in London two days, and I’ve been robbed, beaten, had everything stolen and now I’ve been arrested! Did you know I was left stark naked on Hampstead Heath?’
   ‘Actually, I’ve been checking your story. There were reports of a disturbance in Hampstead on Saturday. But it’s all a bit vague. Some woman said she saw a guy prowling around, but couldn’t give a clear description. All she remembered seeing was a naked black man with, well, to be frank, a massive dick.’
   ‘All she noticed about me was my dick? That’s quite funny, now I come to think of it. It isn’t my fault if I’ve got a big one.’
   ‘So it’s true then?’
   ‘I suppose so. Hey, you aren’t going to want me to show it to you, are you? That’s going a bit far isn’t it?’
   ‘Don’t worry,’ Abdi replied with a wide grin. ‘But, I must admit, it is a bit tempting.’
   ‘Not you as well? Maybe I do need that thing after all. Everyone seems to be fighting over me just now.’
   ‘What “thing”?’
   ‘A kind of necklace they took from me at the desk. It was given to me yesterday. It used to belong to my father. Ricqui, one of the guys I was with, thinks it’s some sort of “grigri”, a magic charm to keep demons away. What do you think?’
   ‘We do believe in something like demons, only we call them “jiins” or “genies”.’
   ‘You mean like “Aladdin and his lamp”? Somehow I don’t think I’m about to get three wishes.’
   ‘We have that story too.’ Abdi grinned. ‘Don’t forget the jiin became very dangerous when he was finally released from the magic spell. But my mother would definitely say you were being chased by an evil spirit, after all you’ve been through. Don’t you think you’ve had rather too much bad luck for it all to be pure coincidence?’
   ‘Maybe you have a point there,’ Everton replied. ‘Do you really think that manky old thing can protect me? Ricqui says I should wear it dangling between my legs, you know, next to my – apparently – massive dick.’ His face lit up with a broad grin. ‘It all sounds like monkey business to me.’
   ‘I don’t know, maybe it’s just your magnetic personality, or maybe it is your big dick that’s getting you into trouble, not a jiin at all.’
   ‘Are you hitting on me as well?’
   ‘Not necessarily,’ he replied, ‘I am still on duty.’ But his eyes twinkled mischievously and he began to blush. ‘When I read that on the file, I just thought it was the white prejudice about black guys having big dicks. It’s not always true, is it? But those trousers leave little to the imagination, do they.’
   ‘Is that why everyone’s after me? It’s something I’ve just got used to. They used to tease me a lot at school and that. I’m quite proud of it really, but it does sometimes get in the way. And I don’t just mean physically.’ He laughed.
   ‘Actually I think you are absolutely beautiful and charming. If I weren’t on duty …’
   ‘So you are after me! That’s a turn-up for the books. I never thought I’d be grateful for being arrested.’ He chuckled. ‘You’re not half bad yourself. All the girls like a boy in uniform.’
   ‘Everton,’ Abdi asked, after a rather long pause, ‘please look at me. You have such beautiful hair. May I?’ He reached up to Everton’s afro. ‘You know, I really shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t help myself, you’re just absolutely …’ His sentence broke off as his lips finally found their mark.

After Abdi had gone, it wasn’t long before another policeman opened the cell door. ‘Mr Jones,’ he asked, ‘could you possibly come with me? Your solicitor and friends have arrived.’
   ‘At last,’ Everton said, ‘but what happened to PC Niksha?’
   ‘Who?’ he answered. ‘He must have gone off duty. Why? Does that matter?’
   ‘No reason,’ Everton replied, ‘only he’s been very erm … kind … and I wanted to say thank you.’

—   Six   —

James Stevens to the Rescue

After they had got out of the police station on Tuesday morning, James bundled Everton, Kash and Édouard into his car.
   ‘There’s a McDonald’s just down the road. How about I buy you all breakfast?’ James suggested. ‘The food in police stations is disgusting.’
   ‘Actually, the “sausage” was rather nice,’ Everton said, and blushed. ‘But, okay, why not?’
   Inside the drive-in, James left them at a table and went over to order the food.
   ‘Everton, it is so good to see you,’ Édouard began. ‘What was it like? Was it really horrible?’
   ‘Yeah,’ Kash added, ‘we got no sleep at all, fuckin’ pigs. I thought ya’d be in a worse state than this. Waddaya think, Ed? Our Everton here’s positively glowin’, it’s almost as if …’ They were both now staring at Everton, who had turned a deep crimson colour and was grinning from ear to ear.
   ‘Look guys,’ he said, drawing them closer and lowering his voice, ‘I’ve been bursting to tell you. Don’t let on to James, but I got off with a copper in the police station.’
   ‘No way,’ Kash shouted. ‘Way ta go, Girlfriend!’
   ‘Incroyable, mon Dieu cette Copine est puissante!’ Édouard squealed.
   ‘Oh ma God,’ Kash interrupted, ‘I’ve just got it. So the “sausage” was …’
   ‘Yes,’ Everton replied, ‘very tasty.’ They collapsed in fits of girly laughter. ‘Hey, sshh, James is coming back.’ Everton silenced them. ‘I’ll fill you in later.’
   ‘Anything you care to share with me?’ James asked, as he laid down a brown plastic tray loaded with food.
   ‘No,’ Everton replied, shooting a conspiratorial glance at Kash and Édouard, ‘we were just catching up on last night – before I was arrested – weren’t we guys?’
   ‘Yeah, fer sure,’ Kash added. ‘James here must have a better idea about us since hearin’ about last night, mustn’t ya?’
   ‘To be honest, it was obvious from our last meeting,’ James replied. ‘In fact, I rather like representing gay people. Coming back to what’s just happened, it’s very rare for a gay venue to be raided like that. I can’t think why they did it. Now, tuck in boys. Everton, you must be starving.’
   ‘This sausage muffin is wonderful,’ Everton teased, staring at Kash as he took a bite. ‘So lovely and juicy,’ he added, as Kash and Édouard coughed and spluttered uncontrollably.
   ‘Something gone down the wrong way?’ James asked. ‘That’s a lovely ring, Mr Jones. I’ve only just noticed. Is it new?’
   ‘No, it was in that envelope. Kash thinks it’s a black diamond.’
   James frowned. ‘Who’d have thought it?’ He smiled a rather forced smile. ‘It is extremely beautiful. Have you thought of getting it valued? If that really is a black diamond it must be worth a great deal.’

Back in his office, James opened the conversation, ‘I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to see you again quite so soon. I do hope this doesn’t become a habit.’
   ‘I’m not planning to get myself arrested again, if that’s what you mean.’ Everton grinned.
   ‘I daresay not.’ James chuckled. ‘It’s all my fault; if I hadn’t given you that cash card, none of this would have happened.’
   ‘Ain’t ya forgettin’ Lingoupou’s a wanted man,’ Kash added. ‘That didn’t exactly help.’
   ‘Quite so, Mr Kashta.’ James Stevens looked over at Édouard. ‘I suppose I can speak openly.’
   ‘Sure ya can. This is a friend a’ ours, Édouard Duchene. He knows all about it.’
   ‘I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr Duchene.’ James shook his hand. ‘And call me “James”, please. I think we all know each other well enough. Now, Everton, did they tell you what they want Mr Lingoupou for?’
   ‘No, just that he’s wanted by the Central African Republic.’
   James frowned. ‘It would be really good to know. That’s the second time I’ve heard the name of that country.’
   ‘It’s where Dad was from.’
   ‘Yes, we come back to the essential questions: who was your father, how can we prove it and, now, another one: what did he do?’
   ‘Never mind about that,’ Kash complained. ‘Ev’s pa was both people. We all know that, even if we can’t prove it. An’, if he was hidin’ from the authorities back in ’is country, why should we be surprised if he used a fake name? Can’t ya tell us what else there was in that box?’
   ‘Mr Lingoupou is still my client. I can’t go giving away his things without his instructions unless I know you are his son, Everton. But I did find this in there.’ He reached into a drawer and pulled out a small green book. ‘This is his passport. It’s out of date, and so of absolutely no use to him. I think I can let you have it with a clear conscience. It may help you track him down. I hope that shows I have your best interests at heart?’
    ‘Thank you,’ Everton replied. ‘That’ll be really useful.’ He turned to the picture at the front. ‘Look Kash, he was gorgeous. Just look at his eyes, they’re so cute.’
   James Stevens coughed. ‘Speaking of passports, Everton, all your difficulties have arisen because you don’t have proper ID. If Kash and Édouard don’t mind waiting here, can you come with me so we can take some photos? If you sign a blank passport application, I’ll do the rest, using the information you sent me. You’ll have it tomorrow afternoon.’
   ‘Tomorrow? Mine took ages.’
   ‘It’s a speciality of mine,’ James replied and reached for his digital camera. ‘Come with me. See you later guys.’

 ‘That’s a turn-up,’ Kash said, when they were gone.
   ‘Yes,’ Édouard replied, ‘Everton’s father a wanted man.’
   ‘No, not ’im, that copper, looks like ya’d better back off.’
   ‘What do you mean? “I” should back off. You are the one after him.’
   ‘Not this again. Get it straight. Listen ta ya’ French friends. This whole “Girlfiend’s Code” thing finally makes sense ta me. He’s a Girlfriend. Go with the programme. Anyways, he’s met a guy. Give him some space, back off, right.’
   ‘Do you really think he is in love with him? All they have done so far is have a quick shag in the police station. What if he turns out just to be a fuck buddy, or a one-night stand?’
   ‘Then that’s a whole other story. But I have a hunch Everton still believes in love. Though, if it does turn out ta be just a quick fling, maybe we can persuade this guy ta come round an’ have ’im do us all one after the other.’
   ‘That is more like it.’ Édouard laughed. ‘Like last time? That was quite a party.’
   ‘Sure was. Maybe we should have another one soon? But, if we do see this guy again, please let the two of ’em alone.’
   ‘Okay, Girlfriend, I will. But sshh now, here they come.’

I see you’ve all become fast friends,’ James said as he sat down. ‘Everton is going to need his friends around him. If the Central African Government is involved, this could turn nasty.’
   ‘How so, James?’ Kash asked. ‘It’s his pa … well, Mr Lingoupou they’re after. An’ ya can’t wiggle outa that.’
   ‘It is, Kash,’ James replied. ‘You’re extremely astute and a good friend to Everton. I wish I knew what Mr Lingoupou’s supposed to have done. He is my client, after all. If there is one thing I’ve learned in this business it is that information is of the utmost importance. The police now know about that cash card. If money is involved, the authorities may try to seize it.’
   ‘Heck, I never thought a’ that,’ Kash replied.
   ‘Well I have. The desk sergeant gave me quite a hard time over it, as a matter of fact. I have never lost a single penny of any of my clients’ assets. That is why I can’t tell you more about Mr Lingoupou until I am sure you are his son, Everton. If I were you, I’d keep quiet about the safety-deposit box and your father’s other name. They could be important.’
   ‘Are you saying they’ll try to get this card?’ Everton asked.
   ‘In time, yes. But the police are slow to act unless pushed.’
   ‘So what do you want me to do?’
   ‘Spend the money, my dear boy!’ James laughed. ‘Convert it into goods and services, you’ll have ample time for that!’
   ‘I think I can manage that,’ Everton replied with a grin.

—   Seven   —

Barthélémy Lingoupou

Back in Kash’s house in Kenton, they were telling the story to Ricqui. Everton was showing off his father’s passport.
   ‘It’s all in French,’ Everton said, perplexed. ‘What’s this, Édouard, “Empire de Centrafrique”?’
   ‘Mon Dieu, ce bâtard!’ Ricqui crossed himself.
   ‘What’s that?’ Kash asked. ‘English, please, Ricqui.’
   ‘Sorry, “Empire” de Centrafrique reminded me about …’
   ‘Bokassa!’ Édouard gasped, and crossed himself as well.
   ‘What’s with the religious shit?’ Kash asked. ‘It’s like ya’ve both seen a ghost.’
   ‘In some way, yes,’ Ricqui replied, ‘Emperor Bokassa’s ghost. When Everton’s father got this passport, Centrafrique was run by a very bad man, Emperor Bokassa.’
   ‘An emperor, in Africa?’ Everton asked.’
   ‘There are a lot of kings and princes in Africa. But Bokassa was just a man, a brutal dictator. Who was so crazy that, one day, he decided he would make himself an emperor. That’s why it says “Empire de Centrafrique” on the front.’
   ‘Even the name “Bokassa” is still very scary,’ Édouard added, sombrely. ‘The country is poor, but rich in diamonds. Most of which …’
   ‘Don’ tell me. Our man kept fer ’imself?’ Kash interrupted. ‘That figures.’
   ‘I don’t know much about it, but they say he carried handfuls of them around in his pockets. He gave some to President Giscard d’Estaing. When the press found out, there was a massive scandal. It cost him the presidency.’
   ‘Now ya come ta mention it, I think I did hear about that,’ Kash observed.
   ‘He kept crocodiles in his swimming pool,’ Ricqui continued. ‘They say he even used to eat people.’
   ‘That’s ridiculous,’ Everton interrupted. ‘Come on Ricqui, missionaries in cooking pots? I don’t believe it. Next thing you’ll be telling me he had a bone through his nose.’
   ‘I don’t know … they say they found body parts in his fridge after he was deposed. That’s what the papers said, anyway.’
   ‘An’ when was this?’ Kash demanded.
   ‘I can’t remember; sometime in the seventies. The French toppled him when he was out of the country. Then he went to live in Abidjan.’
   ‘Don’t tell me he’s still alive?’ Everton asked, aghast.
   ‘No, no. In the end they let him go back to Centrafrique. He died without a penny a few years ago.’
   ‘Thank God for that.’
   ‘Amen ta that,’ Kash concurred. ‘But let’s look at the dates in that passport. Looks like ya’ pa was runnin’ from this Bokassa guy, Ev.’
   ‘That makes sense,’ Everton said. ‘I bet he was. What does it say, Édouard?’
   ‘Let’s see.’ Édouard squinted at the first page. ‘It was issued on 13 December 1977 in Bangui; obviously, when Bokassa was still in power. Then …’ He turned the page and stared at it blankly. ‘What is this?’ He showed them an elaborate stamp with spidery handwriting underneath it. ‘I have never seen anything like this before. It is like a big eagle on top of a sun.’
   ‘What does it say?’ Everton asked.
   Édouard read out:

Sa Majesté Jean Bédel Bokassa Premier Empereur de Centrafrique par la volonté du peuple Centrafricain au sein du parti national, le MESAN, déclare que tous les citoyens de l’Empire doit laisser passer ce monsieur sans lui poser n’importe quelles questions du tout, ou de l’empêcher d’aucune façon, sur peine de mort.

‘What does it mean?’ Everton asked.
   Édouard looked at it again and thought. ‘Basically, it starts with a pompous title, then goes on to say Bokassa declares that all citizens of the empire must let this man go wherever he wants without any questions at all, or hindering him in any way, under pain of death. But, why is it written by hand?’
   ‘More to the point, who wrote it?’ Everton asked.
   ‘I don’t know … an official?’
   ‘It couldn’t be him, could it? Bokassa?’
   Édouard pondered. ‘It could be. Yes, I think that is very likely. The language at the end is not very diplomatic. More like a direct threat. An official would have said “titulaire” or “holder”, not “ce monsieur or “this man”. And “du tout” is a very direct way of saying “at all”. No, it wasn’t an official. It must have been him.’
   Kash whistled. ‘Ev’s pa was in cahoots with this guy. Jeez.’
   ‘I think so. If you had read this at the time, it would have scared you to death.’
   ‘I’m beginnin’ ta get the picture. So he wasn’t runnin’ away then, they were pals?’
   ‘I’m not sure. Let’s see when he travelled.’ Édouard turned the page. ‘That is something else I have never seen before:

Ministère des affaires étrangères, République de la France, visa diplomatique.

‘He had a diplomatic passport? I wasn’t expectin’ that.’
   ‘Nor me,’ Everton said, ‘I thought he was a barman.’
   ‘Yes,’ Édouard replied. ‘He had a diplomatic visa issued by the French Government. Your dad was a big man, Everton.’
   ‘So what happened? If he was a diplomat, how did he end up serving drinks in London?’
   ‘An’ what was he doin’ fer this guy?’ Kash asked. ‘Are there any more stamps, Ed?’
   ‘Yes, lots.’ Édouard flicked through the pages. ‘The first trip to Paris on 10 January 1978, Charles de Gaulle, he left on the 13th. Then he made another visit, a bit later. Oh, and now a visa for la Suisse – an ordinary one – and lots of stamps for Genève. He arrived on 11 January 1978 and left on the 12th. Oh, I see. Every trip was to Genève, via Paris.
   ‘An’ then back home?’ Kash asked.
   ‘It does not say. There are no stamps from Centrafrique. I suppose they would have been too frightened by that other thing to stamp his passport in Bangui.’
   ‘I guess so. What about his last trip?’
   ‘He left Genève on 21 September 1979. I think that’s the last one.’ He turned the page. ‘Oh la la. He went to Heathrow.’
   ‘What! When?’ Everton shrieked.
   The same day, no exit stamp.’
   ‘That’s when he came to England?’ Everton asked. ‘And he never left? Oh my God, do you think he’s still here?’
   ‘He did not use this passport.’
   ‘No. We’ve got it, ain’t we?’ Kash said. ‘But he could’a’ had another one. We need ta find out about that date. Then we’ll know why he came here. When did he disappear, Ev?’
   ‘I don’t know exactly. Mum just said I was two.’
   ‘Well, roughly then. Darn, we need ta know. Work it out.’
   Everton counted on his fingers. ‘It must have been in 1983.’
   ‘So, somethin’ happened in ’83 which spooked ’im. That’s a start. What about provin’ he’s ya’ pa? How does havin’ ’is passport help?’
   ‘What do you know about your father?’ Ricqui asked. ‘Perhaps some of the details will match?’
   ‘All I know is he was from Central Africa,’ Everton replied. ‘That’s not much help, is it?’
   ‘No it ain’t,’ Kash replied. ‘We need proof ta nail this James Stevens guy. He’s holdin’ out on us an’ if we can prove Ev’s Lingoupou’s son, we’ll ’ave ’im.’
   ‘Is there someone in your family who can tell you anything?’ Ricqui asked.
   ‘They’re all dead, ain’t they?’ Kash observed.
   ‘All except Marlene,’ Everton replied.
   ‘Auntie Marlene, Mum’s sister.’
   ‘Ya never mentioned her.’
   ‘I didn’t think it was important. She used to visit every Christ-mas and Easter. But they spent all their time talking about men.’
   ‘I think I like the sound a’ her.’
   ‘She’s nice. But I lost touch when Mum chucked me out.’
   ‘What about ya’ pa’s birthday? When was that?’
   ‘No idea.’
   ‘Shame, if it matched the birthdate on this passport we’d be sorted. That was a good idea, Ricqui. Would Marlene know?’
   ‘Probably, Everton replied, but I don’t know her address. It’s somewhere in London, though.’
   ‘Well get thinkin’, Ev We need ta find her. After what we’ve just found out, I’ll bet James Stevens is sittin’ on more’n a pile a’ knick-knacks. Did ya see the look on ’is face when he saw ya ring? I told ya. He’s probably goin’ after all Lingoupou’s assets with that power of attorney. We gotta stop ’im.’
   They were interrupted by the doorbell. ‘Who the heck’s that?’ Kash grumbled. ‘Wait here, guys, I’ll see who it is.’

When he came back, he had someone with him. Everton screamed, ‘Abdi!’
   ‘Hi darling,’ Abdi replied.
   ‘Found this guy on the doorstep,’ Kash explained. ‘Looks like he’s mighty pleased ta see ya.’
   Everton ran over and hugged Abdi. ‘Isn’t he cute? How did you find me? I know you said you would come and see me, but I never thought you’d show up so soon.’
   ‘Don’t I get a kiss?’ Abdi asked, with a pout.
   ‘Yes of course, my “knight in shining armour”.’
   ‘My “damsel in distress”,’ Abdi said, kissing Everton back. ‘I got this address from the sarge’, he explained. ‘I hope you don’t mind, erm …’ He looked questioningly at Kash
   ‘Sorry, this is Kash,’ Everton explained, ‘and Ricqui and Édouard. Guys, this is Abdi. He’s the guy I told you about.’
   ‘I kinda figured that,’ Kash answered. ‘An’ of course I don’ mind, Abdi. But, are you guys gonna stand there glued together forever, or are ya gonna set ya’selves down? I’ll go get some champagne from the fridge. This calls fer a drink.’
   ‘No thanks,’ Abdi replied. ‘I’m a Muslim, I don’t drink.’
   ‘So’s Kash,’ Everton said, then stopped and looked at Kash ‘Hold on, you drink, don’t you? I never thought about that.’
   ‘This should be interesting,’ Édouard said, with a smirk. ‘Get out of that, Mr Kashta!’

—   Eight   —

Abdi Niksha

Sunlight was streaming through the curtains when Everton Jones awoke on Wednesday morning. He reached up an arm to pull the cover over himself but he couldn’t find it. Abdi must have pulled the sheet right off and looked at me, Everton thought. Fuck, what a turn-on! Where is he? The shower came on in the en suite next door. Everton got up and went over to the bathroom door.
   Inside, Abdi was singing to himself in Somali. Carefully, Everton poked his head around the side. Abdi was facing the other way, a dark, athletic shape wreathed in a halo of water and steam in the middle of the marble wet room. Everton sneaked in and sat down on the sink so that he could watch.
   ‘Do you know something?’ He asked out loud after a while. ‘I think I’ve seen more naked men in this last week than in the whole of my life.’
   Abdi dropped the soap and shrieked, ‘Everton! You made me jump.’ He turned round, splashed water on his face with his hand and walked out of the jet.
   ‘No, no, stop right there, I’m just getting my own back.’
   Abdi broke into a broad grin and moved back under the water. ‘Sorry, I couldn’t resist it. Feast your eyes.’ He picked up the soap, lathered up and continued washing.
   ‘I love those muscles,’ Everton said, standing up, ‘do you want me to do your back?’
   ‘Come on then,’ Abdi called from beneath the foam, ‘and I’ll do yours.’
   ‘Good morning,’ Everton said, after they finished a long and passionate kiss.
   ‘Good morning, darling,’ he replied, and returned another long kiss, ‘thank you for last night.’
   ‘The pleasure was all mine,’ Everton said, then stuck his tongue deep into Abdi’s mouth.
   To his great surprise, Abdi bit it. Everton’s eyes opened wide and he pulled it back out again. Abdi held his face in his hands, and looked him straight in the eyes, then kissed him lightly on his lips. Everton returned the kiss, then again, then put his tongue back in and Abdi bit it again, this time a little harder, scraping it with his teeth. Everton let him do it, greedily sticking it in as far as he could. They circled the bathroom, Abdi holding him fast in his mouth, directing him by the pressure on his tongue. Then, grabbing his hands and raising them above his head, he pinned him to the wall and moved down to his neck, his nipples and, finally, down between his legs …

The same morning, in his office in New Cross Road, James Stevens was taking a phone call.
   ‘Your English is excellent, Mr Yapandé. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. … Lingoupou? Yes, my client is Mr Lingoupou. … The reason for my call? It’s his shares in your company. … Just the one? Alright then, share. … Written on the certificate? I’m sorry, my French is very rusty. … His address? No one’s quite sure where he is. He’s supposed to be in Africa somewhere. … Dead? I wouldn’t know. … Really? That’s odd. Could you explain? … My interest? I’m sorry, I should have said, I’ve power of attorney for Mr Lingoupou and I was wondering if the share could be transferred to his client account and whether you can tell me what’s become of the last nineteen years’ dividend payments …?’

In Kash’s kitchen, whilst Everton and Abdi were slithering around in the shower, Kash, Édouard and Ricqui were having breakfast.
   ‘Isn’t he cute?’ Édouard was saying.
   ‘He can be as cute as he likes,’ Kash grumbled, ‘but he’s still a copper. It’s mighty inconvenient.’
   ‘Certainement,’ Ricqui agreed, ‘have you told Everton what I do?’
   ‘Sorry, pal, I did. How was I ta know he was gonna bring a copper home with ’im?’
   ‘But Everton would not be so stupid as to tell him?’ Édouard asked. ‘Would he?’
   ‘No. I don’ think so. I’m sure ya’re okay, Ricqui. It’s the rest I’m concerned about.’
   ‘What do you mean?’
   ‘Don’ ya remember? James Stevens told us the police might try an’ get their hands on Ev’s pa’s dough. Ain’t it just a tiny bit of a coincidence a copper’s shown up on the doorstep?’
   ‘I hope you are not jealous, Mr Kashta?’ Édouard asked sternly.
   ‘Hey pal, let’s not go there again. I’m just concerned fer Ev. I hope he ain’t gonna give anythin’ away. The first chance I get I need a word. An’ we need ta play it by ear until we’re sure about this guy, okay?’
   ‘You can count on me,’ Édouard replied.
   ‘And I am not going to be here for long,’ Ricqui said. ‘I have an appointment this evening. I have to be gone by four.’
   ‘Well then, let’s keep this social. How about a barbecue fer brunch? That ought ’a help us steer clear a’ any dangerous topics.’

By early afternoon they were all gathered around a table on Kash’s patio. Ricqui and Kash were fussing around the barbecue.
   ‘Ouoauow! It is hot this afternoon do you not think so, Everton?’ Édouard asked, fanning himself with his hand. ‘I do not remember a day like it.’
   ‘Yeah, I’m glad you lent me these cool linen slacks, Kash,’ Everton said.
   ‘And so everybody,’ Édouard added, coolly, ‘they make the most of your very considerable assets, my friend.’
   ‘I had noticed,’ Abdi cut in. The barbecue sizzled and a cloud of smoke shot up.
   Kash wafted his hands in front of him. ‘An’ goin’ commando’s helped,’ he added, giggling and coughing at the same time.
   ‘Does anyone want more saumon?’ Ricqui asked them. ‘There are two more pieces ready.’
   ‘Not for me,’ Everton replied. ‘It’s absolutely delicious, but I couldn’t eat another thing. Thank you, Ricqui, you’re a wonderful cook.’
   ‘I was a chef in Paris before … I came here’ He glanced over at Abdi.
   ‘It’s alright,’ Abdi said, ‘I found out about all that business at the “Way Out Club” in the station. They checked the files of everyone who was at the sauna. I don’t care what you do. Or what Kash is growing in his garden.’
   ‘Fuck!’ Kash shouted. ‘I’m a goddam idiot. Why the hell did I suggest bringin’ a copper out here?’
   ‘Eh?’ Everton asked, confused. ‘I don’t get it.’
   ‘Haven’t you noticed, Everton?’ Abdi grinned. ‘Over behind the ferns. I’m sure Kash is only growing it for the foliage.’
   ‘Oh my God!’ Everton cried, then lowered his voice. ‘You’re growing cannabis?’
   ‘Maybe just one or two pots,’ Kash admitted, with a little grin. ‘Like Abdi says, it’s just fer the foliage.’
   ‘And the police don’t care about a cannabis plant here or there. It’s the dealers we want. Anyway Kash, I’d be in enough trouble if the sarge knew what I got up to in the cells with Everton. I’ll keep your secret.’
   ‘That’s good ta know, thanks pal.’
   ‘This is a very nice garden,’ Abdi continued. ‘Did you do it yourself?’
   ‘No way, I got a guy ta do it, when I had the hot tub put in; told him ta make it like a tropical island, with lots a’ tall, leafy plants. That way, I can skinny-dip without bein’ seen.’
   ‘That’s a good idea,’ Everton concurred.
   Just then, a bell rang on the wall by the French windows. ‘Hold on, guys,’ Kash said, ‘that’s the door. I won’t be a moment.’ When he came back, he had a DHL package in his hands. ‘Here, Everton, I think this is yours.’
   ‘I bet that’s my passport, let’s see,’ he said and tore it open. ‘Yeah, look at that, James is good, isn’t he? Your lot can’t get me mixed up with “Mr Lingoupou” now, can they, darling?’
   ‘No, they can’t,’ Abdi replied.
   ‘If that is who your father really was,’ Édouard added.
   ‘Hey, Ed.’ Kash glared at Édouard.
   ‘Sorry, Kash’
   ‘What was that?’ Abdi asked.
   ‘It ain’t no big deal,’ Kash replied. ‘That solicitor ain’t one hundred percent sure Mr Lingoupou’s Ev’s pa, that’s all.’
   ‘That’s right,’ Everton added, ‘and we’re trying to prove it. But I can’t remember where my auntie Marlene lives, and she’s the only one left who might know anything about him.’
   ‘Is that all, darling?’ Abdi replied. ‘There are some benefits of having a copper as a boyfriend. If you know her date of birth, all I have to do is call the station. They’ll find her just like that for you.’
   ‘Can you? They were twins, she was born on the 23 March 1958 and her name is “Marlene Jones”. Thank you, darling, this deserves a great big kiss. Isn’t that brilliant, Kash?’
   ‘Fantastic,’ Kash replied. ‘Look, Ed, why don’ ya show Abdi here where the phone is. Thank ya, Abdi, that’s mighty kind a’ ya.’

When they had gone he turned to Everton. ‘What’re ya doin’, Ev? Abdi’s a great guy, an’ he’s bein’ mighty helpful, but we need ta be careful. We gotta try an’ avoid tellin’ ’im anythin’ he don’ already know. Remember what James said.’
   ‘Oh, yeah,’ Everton replied, ‘I’d completely forgotten. But you must admit, it’ll be useful if he can find Marlene for us.’
   ‘I can’t hardly deny that. The guy is turnin’ out ta have his uses.’
   ‘You could say that,’ Everton added with a broad grin. ‘And that’s not the only one!’

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