A Prisoner Of Birth
To Jonathan and Marion
I would like to thank the following for their invaluable advice and help with this book, The Hon Michael Beloff QC, Kevin Robinson, Simon Bainbridge, Rosie de Courcy, Mari Roberts and Billy Little LVCM (Hons), BSc (Hons), Soc Sci (Open), Dip SP amp; C (Open)
"YES," SAID BETH.
She tried to look surprised, but wasn't all that convincing as she had already decided that they were going to be married when they were at secondary school. However, she was amazed when Danny fell on one knee in the middle of the crowded restaurant.
"Yes," Beth repeated, hoping he'd stand up before everyone in the room stopped eating and turned to stare at them. But he didn't budge. Danny remained on one knee, and like a conjurer, produced a tiny box from nowhere. He opened it to reveal a simple gold band boasting a single diamond that was far larger than Beth had expected-although her brother had already told her that Danny had spent two months' wages on the ring.
When Danny finally got off his knee, he took her by surprise again. He immediately began to tap a number on his mobile. Beth knew only too well who would be on the other end of the line.
"She said yes!" Danny announced triumphantly. Beth smiled as she held the diamond under the light and took a closer look. "Why don't you join us?" Danny added before she could stop him. "Great, let's meet at that wine bar off the Fulham Road -the one we went to after the Chelsea game last year. See you there, mate."
Beth didn't protest; after all, Bernie was not only her brother, but Danny's oldest friend, and he'd probably already asked him to be his best man.
Danny turned off his phone and asked a passing waiter for the bill. The maître d' bustled across.
"It's on the house," he said, giving them a warm smile.
It was to be a night of surprises.
When Beth and Danny strolled into the Dunlop Arms, they found Bernie seated at a corner table with a bottle of champagne and three glasses by his side.
"Fantastic news," he said even before they had sat down.
"Thanks, mate," said Danny, shaking hands with his friend.
"I've already phoned Mum and Dad," said Bernie as he popped the cork and filled the three champagne glasses. "They didn't seem all that surprised, but then it was the worst-kept secret in Bow."
"Don't tell me they'll be joining us as well," said Beth.
"Not a chance," said Bernie raising his glass. "You've only got me this time. To long life and West Ham winning the cup."
"Well, at least one of those is possible," said Danny.
"I think you'd marry West Ham if you could," said Beth, smiling at her brother.
"Could do worse," said Bernie.
Danny laughed. "I'll be married to both for the rest of my life."
"Except on Saturday afternoons," Bernie reminded him.
"And you might even have to sacrifice a few of those once you take over from Dad," said Beth.
Danny frowned. He had been to see Beth's father during his lunch break and had asked for permission to marry his daughter-some traditions die hard in the East End. Mr. Wilson couldn't have been more enthusiastic about Danny becoming his son-in-law, but went on to tell him that he had changed his mind about something Danny thought they'd already agreed on.
"And if you think I'm gonna call you guv when you take over from my old man," said Bernie, breaking into his thoughts, "you can forget it." Danny didn't comment.
"Is that who I think it is?" said Beth.
Danny took a closer look at the four men standing by the bar. "It certainly looks like 'im."
"Looks like who?" asked Bernie.
"That actor what plays Dr. Beresford in The Prescription."
"Lawrence Davenport," whispered Beth.
"I could always go and ask for his autograph," said Bernie.
"Certainly not," said Beth. "Although Mum never misses an episode."
"I think you fancy him," said Bernie as he topped up their glasses.
"No, I don't," said Beth a little too loudly, causing one of the men at the bar to turn around. "And in any case," she added smiling at her fiancé, "Danny's far better looking than Lawrence Davenport."
"Dream on," said Bernie. "Just because Danny boy's shaved and washed his hair for a change, don't think he's gonna make a habit of it, sis. No chance. Just remember that your future 'usband works in the East End, not the City."
"Danny could be anything he wanted to be," said Beth, taking his hand.
"What've you got in mind, sis? Tycoon or tosser?" said Bernie, thumping Danny on the arm.
"Danny's got plans for the garage that will make you-"
"Shh," said Danny, as he refilled his friend's glass.
"He'd better have, 'cause gettin' spliced don't come cheap," said Bernie. "To start with, where you goin' to live?"
"There's a basement flat just round the corner that's up for sale," said Danny.
"But have you got enough readies?" demanded Bernie. " 'Cause basement flats don't come cheap, even in the East End."
"We've saved enough between us to put down a deposit," said Beth, "and when Danny takes over from Dad-"
"Let's drink to that," said Bernie, only to find that the bottle was empty. "I'd better order another."
"No," said Beth firmly. "I've got to be on time for work tomorrow morning, even if you haven't."
"To hell with that," said Bernie. "It's not every day that my little sister gets engaged to my best mate. Another bottle!" he shouted.
The barman smiled as he removed a second bottle of champagne from the fridge below the counter. One of the men standing at the bar checked the label. "Pol Roger," he said, before adding in a voice that carried: "Wasted on them."
Bernie jumped up from his place, but Danny immediately pulled him back down.
"Ignore them," he said, "they're not worth the space."
The barman walked quickly across to their table. "Don't let's be havin' any trouble, lads," he said as he removed the cork. "One of them's celebratin' his birthday, and frankly they've had a bit too much to drink."
Beth took a closer look at the four men while the barman refilled their glasses. One of them was staring at her. He winked, opened his mouth and ran his tongue around his lips. Beth quickly turned back, relieved to find that Danny and her brother hadn't noticed.
"So where you two goin' on honeymoon?"
"Saint Tropez," said Danny.
"That'll set you back a bob or two."
"And you're not coming along this time," said Beth.
"The slut's quite presentable until she opens her mouth," said a voice from the bar.
Bernie leaped to his feet again, to find two of them staring defiantly at him.
"They're drunk," said Beth. "Just ignore them."
"Oh, I don't know," said the other man. "There are times when I quite like a slut's mouth to be open."
Bernie grabbed the empty bottle, and it took all of Danny's strength to hold him down.
"I want to leave," said Beth firmly. "I don't need a bunch of public-school snobs ruining my engagement party."
Danny immediately jumped up, but Bernie just sat there, drinking his champagne. "Come on, Bernie, let's get out of here before we do some-thin' we regret," said Danny. Bernie reluctantly stood up and followed his friend, but he never once took his eyes off the four men at the bar. Beth was pleased to see that they had turned their backs on them, and appeared to be deep in conversation.
But the moment Danny opened the back door, one of them swung around. "Leaving, are we?" he said. He took out his wallet and added, "When you've finished with her, my friends and I have just enough left over for a gang bang."
"You're full of shit," said Bernie.
"Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?"
"Be my guest, Dickhead," said Bernie as Danny shoved him through the door and out into the alley before he had the chance to say anything else. Beth slammed the door behind them and began walking down the alley. Danny gripped Bernie by the elbow, but they had only gone a couple of paces before he shook him off. "Let's go back and sort them."
"Not tonight," said Danny, not letting go of Bernie's arm as he continued to lead his friend on down the alley.
When Beth reached the main road she saw the man Bernie described as Dickhead standing there, one hand behind his back. He leered at her and began licking his lips again, just as his friend came rushing around the corner, slightly out of breath. Beth turned to see her brother, legs apart, standing his ground. He was smiling.
"Let's go back inside," Beth shouted at Danny, only to see that the other two men from the bar were now standing by the door, blocking the path.
"Fuck 'em," said Bernie. "It's time to teach the bastards a lesson."
"No, no," pleaded Beth as one of the men came charging up the alley toward them.
"You take Dickhead," said Bernie, "and I'll deal with the other three."
Beth looked on in horror as Dickhead threw a punch that caught Danny on the side of the chin and sent him reeling back. He recovered in time to block the next punch, feint and then land one that took Dickhead by surprise. He fell on one knee, but was quickly back on his feet before taking another swing at Danny.
As the other two men standing by the back door didn't seem to want to join in, Beth assumed the fight would be over fairly quickly. She could only watch as her brother landed an uppercut on the other man, the force of which almost knocked him out. As Bernie waited for him to get back on his feet, he shouted to Beth, "Do us a favor, sis, grab a cab. This ain't gonna last much longer, and then we need to be out of 'ere."
Beth turned her attention to Danny to make such he was getting the better of Dickhead. Dickhead was lying spread-eagled on the ground with Danny on top of him, clearly in control. She gave them both one last look before reluctantly obeying her brother. Beth ran off down the alley and once she reached the main road, began searching for a taxi. She only had to wait a couple of minutes before she spotted a familiar yellow FOR HIRE sign.
Beth flagged down the cabbie as the man Bernie had felled staggered past her and disappeared into the night.
"Where to, luv?" asked the cabbie.
" Bacon Road, Bow," said Beth. "And two of my friends will be along in a moment," she added as she opened the back door.
The cabbie glanced over her shoulder and down the alley. "I don't think it's a taxi they'll be needing, luv," he said. "If they were my friends, I'd be phoning for an ambulance."
BOOK ONE. The Trial
Danny Cartwright could feel his legs trembling as they sometimes did before the first round of a boxing match he knew he was going to lose. The associate recorded the plea on the indictment and, looking up at Danny, said, "You can sit down."
Danny collapsed onto the little chair in the center of the dock, relieved that the first round was over. He looked up at the referee, who was seated on the far side of the courtroom in a high-backed green leather chair that had the appearance of a throne. In front of him was a long oak bench littered with case papers in ring binders, and a notebook opened at a blank page. Mr. Justice Sackville looked across at Danny, his expression revealing neither approval nor disapproval. He removed a pair of half-moon spectacles from the end of his nose and said in an authoritative voice, "Bring in the jury."
While they all waited for the twelve men and women to appear, Danny tried to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds of court number four at the Old Bailey. He looked across at the two men who were seated at either end of what he'd been told was counsel's bench. His young advocate, Alex Redmayne, looked up and gave him a friendly smile, but the older man at the other end of the bench, whom Mr. Redmayne always referred to as prosecution counsel, never once glanced in his direction.
Danny transferred his gaze up into the public gallery. His parents were seated in the front row. His father's burly tattooed arms were resting on the balcony railing, while his mother's head remained bowed. She raised her eyes occasionally to glance down at her only son.
It had taken several months for the case of The Crown versus Daniel Arthur Cartwright finally to reach the Old Bailey. It seemed to Danny that once the law became involved, everything happened in slow motion. And then suddenly, without warning, the door in the far corner of the courtroom opened and the usher reappeared. He was followed by seven men and five women who had been selected to decide his fate. They filed into the jury box and sat in their unallocated places-six in the front row, six behind them; strangers with nothing more in common than the lottery of selection.
Once they had settled, the associate rose from his place to address them. "Members of the jury," he began. "The defendant, Daniel Arthur Cartwright, stands before you charged on one count of murder. To that count he has pleaded not guilty. Your charge therefore is to listen to the evidence and decide whether he be guilty or no."
MR. JUSTICE SACKVILLE glanced down at the bench below him. "Mr. Pearson, you may open the case for the Crown."
A short, rotund man rose slowly from the counsel's bench. Mr. Arnold Pearson QC opened the thick file that rested on a lectern in front of him. He touched his well-worn wig, almost as if he were checking to make sure he'd remembered to put it on, then tugged on the lapels of his gown; a routine that hadn't changed for the past thirty years.
"If it please your lordship," he began in a slow, ponderous manner, "I appear for the Crown in this case, while my learned friend"-he glanced to check the name on the sheet of paper in front of him-"Mr. Alex Redmayne, appears for the defense. The case before your lordship is one of murder. The cold-blooded and calculated murder of Mr. Bernard Henry Wilson."
In the public gallery, the parents of the victim sat in the far corner of the back row. Mr. Wilson looked down at Danny, unable to mask the disappointment in his eyes. Mrs. Wilson stared blankly in front of her, white-faced, not unlike a mourner attending a funeral. Although the tragic events surrounding the death of Bernie Wilson had irrevocably changed the lives of two East End families who had been close friends for several generations, it had hardly caused a ripple beyond a dozen streets surrounding Bacon Road in Bow.
"During the course of this trial, you will learn how the defendant," continued Pearson, waving a hand in the direction of the dock without bothering even to glance at Danny, "lured Mr. Wilson to a public house in Chelsea on the night of Saturday, September eighteenth, 1999, where he carried out this brutal and premeditated murder. He had earlier taken Mr. Wilson's sister"-once again he checked the file in front of him-" Elizabeth, to Lucio's restaurant in Fulham Road. The court will learn that Cartwright made a proposal of marriage to Miss Wilson after she had revealed that she was pregnant. He then called her brother, Mr. Bernard Wilson, on his mobile phone and invited him to join them at the Dunlop Arms, a public house at the back of Hambledon Terrace, Chelsea, so that they could all celebrate.
"Miss Wilson has already made a written statement that she had never visited this public house before, although Cartwright clearly knew it well, which the Crown will suggest was because he had selected it for one purpose and one purpose only: its back door opens on to a quiet alleyway, an ideal location for someone with murderous intent; a murder that Cartwright would later blame on a complete stranger who just happened to be a customer at the Dunlop Arms that night."
Danny stared down at Mr. Pearson. How could he possibly know what had happened that night when he wasn't even there? But Danny wasn't too worried. After all, Mr. Redmayne had assured him that his side of the story would be presented during the trial and he mustn't be too anxious if everything appeared bleak while the Crown was presenting its case. Despite his barrister's repeated assurances, two things did worry Danny: Alex Redmayne wasn't much order than he was, and had also warned him that this was only his second case as leader.
"But unfortunately for Cartwright," continued Pearson, "the other four customers who were in the Dunlop Arms that night tell a different story, a story which has not only proved consistent, but which has also been corroborated by the barman on duty at the time. The Crown will present all five as witnesses, and they will tell you that they overheard a dispute between the two men, who were later seen to leave by the rear entrance of the bar after Cartwright had said, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' All five of them saw Cartwright leave by the back door, followed by Bernard Wilson and his sister Elizabeth, who was clearly in an agitated state. Moments later, a scream was heard. Mr. Spencer Craig, one of the customers, left his companions and ran out into the alley, where he found Cartwright holding Mr. Wilson by the throat, while repeatedly thrusting a knife into his chest.
"Mr. Craig immediately dialed 999 on his mobile phone. The time of that call, m'lord, and the conversation that took place were logged and recorded at Belgravia police station. A few minutes later, two police officers arrived on the scene and found Cartwright kneeling over Mr. Wilson's body, with the knife in his hand-a knife that he must have picked up from the bar, because Dunlop Arms is engraved on the handle."
Alex Redmayne wrote down Pearson's words.
"Members of the jury," continued Pearson, once again tugging at his lapels, "every murderer has to have a motive, and in this case we need look no further than the first recorded slaying, of Abel by Cain, to establish that motive: envy, greed and ambition were the sordid ingredients that, when combined, provoked Cartwright to remove the one rival who stood in his path.
"Members of the jury, both Cartwright and Mr. Wilson worked at Wilson 's garage in Mile End Road. The garage is owned and managed by Mr. George Wilson, the deceased's father, who had planned to retire at the end of the year, when he intended to hand over the business to his only son, Bernard. Mr. George Wilson has made a written statement to this effect, which has been agreed by the defense, so we shall not be calling him as a witness.
"Members of the jury, you will discover during this trial that the two young men had a long history of rivalry and antagonism which stretched back to their schooldays. But with Bernard Wilson out of the way, Cartwright planned to marry the boss's daughter and take over the thriving business himself.
"However, everything did not go as Cartwright planned, and when he was arrested, he tried to place the blame on an innocent bystander, the same man who had run out into the alley to see what had caused Miss Wilson to scream. But unfortunately for Cartwright, it was not part of his plan that there would be four other people who were present throughout the entire episode." Pearson smiled at the jury. "Members of the jury, once you have heard their testimony, you will be left in no doubt that Daniel Cartwright is guilty of the heinous crime of murder." He turned to the judge. "That concludes the prosecution opening for the Crown, m'lord." He tugged his lapels once more before adding, "With your permission I shall call my first witness." Mr. Justice Sackville nodded, and Pearson said in a firm voice, "I call Mr. Spencer Craig."
Danny Cartwright looked to his right and watched as an usher at the back of the courtroom opened a door, stepped out into the corridor and bellowed, "Mr. Spencer Craig!" A moment later, a tall man, not much older than Danny, dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, white shirt and mauve tie, entered the courtroom. How different he looked from when they'd first met.
Danny hadn't seen Spencer Craig during the past six months, but not a day had passed when he hadn't visualized him clearly. He stared at the man defiantly, but Craig didn't even glance in Danny's direction-it was as if he didn't exist.
Craig walked across the courtroom like a man who knew exactly where he was going. When he stepped into the witness box, he immediately picked up the Bible and delivered the oath without once looking at the card the usher held up in front of him. Mr. Pearson smiled at his principal witness, before glancing down at the questions he had spent the past month preparing.
"Is your name Spencer Craig?"
"Yes, sir," he replied.
"And do you reside at forty-three Hambledon Terrace, London SW3?"
"I do, sir."
"And what is your profession?" asked Mr. Pearson, as if he didn't know.
"I am a barrister at law."
"And your chosen field?"
"So you are well acquainted with the crime of murder?"
"Unfortunately I am, sir."
"I should now like to take you back to the evening of September eighteenth, last year, when you and a group of friends were enjoying a drink at the Dunlop Arms in Hambledon Terrace. Perhaps you could take us through exactly what happened that night."
"My friends and I were celebrating Gerald's thirtieth birthday-"
"Gerald?" interrupted Pearson.
"Gerald Payne," said Craig. "He's an old friend from my days at Cambridge. We were spending a convivial evening together, enjoying a bottle of wine."
Alex Redmayne made a note-he needed to know how many bottles.
Danny wanted to ask what the word "convivial" meant.
"But sadly it didn't end up being a convivial evening," prompted Pearson.
"Far from it," replied Craig, still not even glancing in Danny's direction.
"Please tell the court what happened next," said Pearson, looking down at his notes.
Craig turned to face the jury for the first time. "We were, as I said, enjoying a glass of wine in celebration of Gerald's birthday, when I became aware of raised voices. I turned and saw a man, who was seated at a table in the far corner of the room with a young lady."
"Do you see that man in the courtroom now?" asked Pearson.
"Yes," replied Craig, pointing in the direction of the dock.
"What happened next?"
"He immediately jumped up," continued Craig, "and began shouting and jabbing his finger at another man, who remained seated. I heard one of them say: 'If you think I'm gonna call you guv when you take over from my old man, you can forget it.' The young lady was trying to calm him down. I was about to turn back to my friends-after all, the quarrel was nothing to do with me-when the defendant shouted, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' I assumed they were joking, but then the man who had spoken the words grabbed a knife from the end of the bar-"
"Let me stop you there, Mr. Craig. You saw the defendant pick up a knife from the bar?" asked Pearson.
"Yes, I did."
"And then what happened?"
"He marched off in the direction of the back door, which surprised me."
"Why did it surprise you?"
"Because the Dunlop Arms is my local, and I had never seen the man before."
"I'm not sure I'm following you, Mr. Craig," said Pearson, who was following his every word.
"The rear exit is out of sight if you're sitting in that corner of the room, but he seemed to know exactly where he was going."
"Ah, I understand," said Pearson. "Please continue."
"A moment later the other man got up and chased after the defendant, with the young lady following close behind. I wouldn't have given the matter another thought, but moments later we all heard a scream."
"A scream?" repeated Pearson. "What kind of scream?"
"A high-pitched, woman's scream," replied Craig.
"And what did you do?"
"I immediately left my friends and ran into the alley in case the woman was in any danger."
"And was she?"
"No, sir. She was screaming at the defendant, begging him to stop."
"Stop what?" asked Pearson.
"Attacking the other man."
"They were fighting?"
"Yes, sir. The man I'd earlier seen jabbing a finger and shouting now had the other chap pinned up against the wall, with his forearm pressed against his throat." Craig turned to the jury and raised his left arm to demonstrate the position.
"And was Mr. Wilson trying to defend himself?" asked Pearson.
"As best he could, but the defendant was thrusting a knife into the man's chest, again and again."
"What did you do next?" asked Pearson quietly.
"I phoned the emergency services, and they assured me that they would send police and an ambulance immediately."
"Did they say anything else?" asked Pearson, looking down at his notes.
"Yes," replied Craig. "They told me under no circumstances to approach the man with the knife, but to return to the bar and wait until the police arrived." He paused. "I carried out those instructions to the letter."
"How did your friends react when you went back into the bar and told them what you had seen?"
"They wanted to go outside and see if they could help, but I told them what the police had advised and that I also thought it might be wise in the circumstances for them to go home."
"In the circumstances?"
"I was the only person who had witnessed the whole incident and I didn't want them to be in any danger should the man with the knife return to the bar."
"Very commendable," said Pearson.
The judge frowned at the prosecuting counsel. Alex Redmayne continued to take notes.
"How long did you have to wait before the police arrived?"
"It was only a matter of moments before I heard a siren, and a few minutes later a plain-clothes detective entered the bar through the back door. He produced his badge and introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Fuller. He informed me that the victim was on his way to the nearest hospital."
"What happened next?"
"I made a full statement, and then DS Fuller told me I could go home."
"And did you?"
"Yes, I returned to my house, which is only about a hundred yards from the Dunlop Arms, and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep."
Alex Redmayne wrote down the words: about a hundred yards.
"Understandably," said Pearson.
The judge frowned a second time.
"So I got up, went to my study and wrote down everything that had taken place earlier that evening."
"Why did you do that, Mr. Craig, when you had already given a statement to the police?"
"My experience of standing where you are, Mr. Pearson, has made me aware that evidence presented in the witness box is often patchy, even inaccurate, by the time a trial takes place several months after a crime has been committed."
"Quite so," said Pearson, turning another page of his file. "When did you learn that Daniel Cartwright had been charged with the murder of Bernard Wilson?"
"I read the details in the Evening Standard the following Monday. It reported that Mr. Wilson had died on his way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and that Cartwright had been charged with his murder."
"And did you regard that as the end of the matter, as far as your personal involvement was concerned?"
"Yes, although I knew that I would be called as a witness in any forthcoming trial, should Cartwright decide to plead not guilty."
"But then there was a twist that even you, with all your experience of hardened criminals, could not have anticipated."
"There certainly was," responded Craig. "Two police officers visited my chambers the following afternoon to conduct a second interview."
"But you had already given verbal and written statements to DS Fuller," said Pearson. "Why did they need to interview you again?"
"Because Cartwright was now accusing me of killing Mr. Wilson, and was even claiming that I had picked up the knife from the bar."
"Had you ever come across Mr. Cartwright or Mr. Wilson before that night?"
"No, sir," replied Craig truthfully.
"Thank you, Mr. Craig."
The two men smiled at each other before Pearson turned to the judge and said, "No more questions, m'lord."
MR. JUSTICE SACKVILLE turned his attention to the counsel at the other end of the bench. He was well acquainted with Alex Redmayne's distinguished father, who had recently retired as a high court judge, but his son had never appeared before him.
"Mr. Redmayne," intoned the judge, "do you wish to cross-examine this witness?"
"I most certainly do," replied Redmayne as he gathered up his notes.
Danny recalled that not long after he'd been arrested, an officer had advised him to get himself a lawyer. It had not proved easy. He quickly discovered that lawyers, like garage mechanics, charge by the hour and you only get what you can afford. He could afford ten thousand pounds: a sum of money he had saved over the past decade, intending to use it as the deposit on a basement flat in Bow, where Beth, he and the baby would live once they were married. Every penny of it had been swallowed up long before the case had come to court. The solicitor he selected, a Mr. Makepeace, had demanded five thousand pounds up front, even before he took the top off his fountain pen, and then another five once he'd briefed Alex Redmayne, the barrister who would represent him in court. Danny couldn't understand why he needed two lawyers to do the same job. When he repaired a car, he didn't ask Bernie to lift the bonnet before he could take a look at the engine, and he certainly wouldn't have demanded a deposit before he picked up his toolkit.
But Danny liked Alex Redmayne from the day he met him, and not just because he supported West Ham. He had a posh accent and had been to Oxford University, but he never once spoke down to him.
Once Mr. Makepeace had read the charge sheet and listened to what Danny had to say, he had advised his client to plead guilty to manslaughter. He was confident that he could strike a deal with the Crown, which would allow Danny to get away with a sentence of six years. Danny turned the offer down.
Alex Redmayne asked Danny and his fiancée to go over what had taken place that night again and again, as he searched for any inconsistencies in his client's story. He found none, and when the money ran out he still agreed to conduct his defense.
"Mr. Craig," began Alex Redmayne, not tugging his lapels or touching his wig, "I am sure it is unnecessary for me to remind you that you are still under oath, and of the added responsibility that carries for a barrister."
"Tread carefully, Mr. Redmayne," interjected the judge. "Remember that it is your client who is on trial, not the witness."
"We shall see if you still feel that way, m'lord, when the time comes for your summing up."
"Mr. Redmayne," said the judge sharply, "it is not your responsibility to remind me of my role in this courtroom. Your job is to question the witnesses, mine to deal with any points of law that arise, and then let us both leave the jury to decide on the verdict."
"If your lordship pleases," said Redmayne, turning back to face the witness. "Mr. Craig, what time did you and your friends arrive at the Dunlop Arms that evening?"
"I don't recall the exact time," Craig replied.
"Then let me try and jog your memory. Was it seven? Seven-thirty? Eight o'clock?"
"Nearer eight, I suspect."
"So you had already been drinking for some three hours by the time my client, his fiancée and his closest friend walked into the bar."
"As I have already told the court, I did not see them arrive."
"Quite so," said Redmayne, mimicking Pearson. "And how much drink had you consumed by, let's say, eleven o'clock?"
"I've no idea. It was Gerald's thirtieth birthday so no one was counting."
"Well, as we have established that you had been drinking for over three hours, shall we settle on half a dozen bottles of wine? Or perhaps it was seven, even eight?"
"Five at the most," retorted Craig, "which is hardly extravagant for four people."
"I would normally agree with you, Mr. Craig, had not one of your companions said in his written statement that he drank only Diet Coke, while another just had one or two glasses of wine because he was driving."
"But I didn't have to drive," said Craig. "The Dunlop Arms is my local, and I live only a hundred yards away."
"Only a hundred yards away?" repeated Redmayne. When Craig didn't respond, he continued, "You told the court that you were not aware of any other customers being in the bar until you heard raised voices."
"That is correct."
"When you claim you heard the defendant say: 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' "
"That is also correct."
"But isn't it the truth, Mr. Craig, that it was you who started this whole quarrel when you delivered another unforgettable remark to my client as he was leaving"-he glanced down at his notes-" 'When you've finished with her, my friends and I have just enough left over for a gang bang'?" Redmayne waited for Craig to reply, but again he remained silent. "Can I assume from your failure to respond that I am correct?"
"You can assume nothing of the sort, Mr. Redmayne. I simply didn't consider your question worthy of a response," replied Craig with disdain.
"I do hope that you feel, Mr. Craig, that my next question is worthy of a response, because I would suggest that when Mr. Wilson told you that you were 'full of shit,' it was you who said: 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' "
"I think that sounds more like the kind of language one would expect from your client," responded Craig.
"Or from a man who had had a little too much to drink and was showing off to his drunken friends in front of a beautiful women?"
"I must remind you once again, Mr. Redmayne," interjected the judge, "that it is your client who is on trial in this case, not Mr. Craig."
Redmayne gave a slight bow, but when he raised his eyes, he noticed that the jury was hanging on his every word. "I suggest, Mr. Craig," he continued, "that you left by the front door and ran around to the back because you wanted a fight."
"I only went into the alley after I'd heard the scream."
"Was that when you picked up a knife from the end of the bar?"
"I did no such thing," said Craig sharply. "Your client grabbed the knife when he was on his way out, as I made clear in my statement."
"Is that the statement you so carefully crafted when you couldn't get to sleep later that night?" asked Redmayne.
Again, Craig didn't respond.
"Perhaps this is another example of something that's unworthy of your consideration?" Redmayne suggested. "Did any of your friends follow you out into the alley?"
"No, they did not."
"So they didn't witness the fight you had with Mr. Cartwright?"
"How could they, when I did not have a fight with Mr. Cartwright."
"Did you get a Boxing Blue when you were at Cambridge, Mr. Craig?"
Craig hesitated. "Yes, I did."
"And while at Cambridge, were you rusticated for-"
"Is this relevant?" demanded Mr. Justice Sackville.
"I am happy to leave that decision to the jury, m'lord," said Redmayne. Turning back to Craig, he continued, "Were you rusticated from Cambridge after being involved in a drunken brawl with some locals whom you later described to the magistrates as a 'bunch of yobs'?"
"That was years ago, when I was still an undergraduate."
"And were you, years later, on the night of September eighteenth 1999, picking another quarrel with another 'bunch of yobs' when you resorted to using the knife you'd picked up from the bar?"
"As I've already told you, it wasn't me who picked up the knife, but I did witness your client stabbing Mr. Wilson in the chest."
"And then you returned to the bar?"
"Yes, I did, when I immediately called the emergency services."
"Let us try to be a little more accurate, shall we, Mr. Craig. You didn't actually call the emergency services. In fact, you phoned a detective sergeant Fuller on his mobile."
"That's correct, Redmayne, but you seem to forget that I was reporting a crime, and was well aware that Fuller would alert the emergency services. Indeed, if you recall, the ambulance arrived before the detective sergeant."
"Some minutes before," emphasized Redmayne. "However, I'm curious to know how you were so conveniently in possession of a junior police officer's mobile phone number."
We had both been recently involved in a major drugs trial that required several lengthy consultations, sometimes at very short notice."
"So DS Fuller is a friend of yours."
"I hardly know the man," said Craig. "Our relationship is strictly professional."
"I suggest, Mr. Craig, that you knew him well enough to phone and make sure that he heard your side of the story first."
"Fortunately, there are four other witnesses to verify my side of the story."
"And I look forward to cross-examining each one of your close friends, Mr. Craig, as I'm curious to discover why, after you had returned to the bar, you advised them to go home."
"They had not witnessed your client stabbing Mr. Wilson, and so were not involved in any way," said Craig. "And I also considered they might be in some danger if they stayed."
"But if anyone was in danger, Mr. Craig, it would have been the only witness to the murder of Mr. Wilson, so why didn't you leave with your friends?"
Craig once again remained silent and this time not because he considered the question unworthy of a reply.
"Perhaps the real reason you told them to leave," said Redmayne, "was because you needed them out of the way so that you could run home and change out of your blood-covered clothes before the police turned up? After all, you only live, as you have admitted, 'a hundred yards away.' "
"You seem to have forgotten, Mr. Redmayne, that Detective Sergeant Fuller arrived only a few minutes after the crime had been committed," responded Craig scornfully.
"It was seven minutes after you phoned the detective sergeant that he arrived on the scene, and he then spent some considerable time questioning my client before he entered the bar."
"Do you imagine that I could afford to take such a risk when I knew the police could be turning up at any moment?" Craig spat out.
"Yes, I do," replied Redmayne, "if the alternative was to spend the rest of your life in prison."
A noisy buzz erupted around the court. The jurors' eyes were now fixed on Spencer Craig, but once again he didn't respond to Redmayne's words. Redmayne waited for some time before adding, "Mr. Craig, I repeat that I am looking forward to cross-examining your friends one by one." Turning to the judge, he said, "No more questions, m'lord."
"Mr. Pearson?" said the judge. "You will no doubt wish to reexamine this witness?"
"Yes, m'lord," said Pearson. "There is one question I'm keen to have answered." He smiled at the witness. "Mr. Craig, are you Superman?"
Craig looked puzzled, but, aware that Pearson would be trying to assist him, replied, "No, sir. Why do you ask?"
"Because only Superman, having witnessed a murder, could have returned to the bar, briefed his friends, flown home, taken a shower, changed his clothes, flown back to the pub and been casually sitting at the bar by the time DS Fuller appeared." A few members of the jury tried to suppress smiles. "Or perhaps there was a convenient telephone box near at hand." The smiles turned to laughter. Pearson waited for them to die down before he added, "Allow me, Mr. Craig, to dispense with Mr. Redmayne's fantasy world and ask you one serious question." It was Pearson's turn to wait until every eye was concentrated on him. "When Scotland Yard's forensic experts examined the murder weapon, was it your fingerprints they identified on the handle of the knife, or those of the defendant?"
"They certainly weren't mine," said Craig, "otherwise it would be me who was seated in the dock."
"No more questions, m'lord," said Pearson.
THE CELL DOOR opened and an officer handed Danny a plastic tray with several little compartments full of plastic food, which he picked at while he waited for the afternoon session to begin.
Alex Redmayne skipped lunch so he could read through his notes. Had he underestimated the amount of time Craig would have had before DS Fuller had walked into the bar?
Mr. Justice Sackville took lunch along with a dozen other judges, who didn't remove their wigs or discuss each other's cases as they munched through a meal of meat and two veg.
Mr. Pearson ate lunch on his own in the Bar Mess on the top floor. He considered that his learned friend had made a bad mistake when questioning Craig about the timing, but it wasn't his duty to point that out. He pushed a pea from one side of the plate to the other while he considered the ramifications.
Once two o'clock struck, the ritual began again. Mr. Justice Sackville entered the courtroom and gave the jury the flicker of a smile before taking his place. He looked down at both counsel and said, "Good afternoon, gentlemen. Mr. Pearson, you may call your next witness."
"Thank you, m'lord," said Pearson as he rose from his seat. "I call Mr. Gerald Payne."
Danny watched a man enter the courtroom whom he didn't immediately recognize. He must have been around five feet nine inches tall, prematurely balding, and his well-cut beige suit was unable to disguise the fact that he'd lost a stone since Danny had last seen him. The usher guided him toward the witness box, handed him a copy of the Bible and held up the oath. Although Payne read from the card, he displayed the same self-confidence as Spencer Craig had shown that morning.
"You are Gerald David Payne, and you reside at sixty-two Wellington Mews, London W2?"
"That is correct," replied Payne in a firm voice.
"And what is your profession?"
"I am a land management consultant."
Redmayne wrote down the words estate agent next to Payne's name.
"And which firm do you work for?" inquired Pearson.
"I am a partner with Baker, Tremlett and Smythe."
"You are very young to be a partner of such a distinguished firm," suggested Pearson innocently.
"I am the youngest partner in the firm's history," replied Payne, delivering a well-rehearsed line.
It was obvious to Redmayne that someone had been tutoring Payne long before he entered the witness box. He knew that for ethical reasons it couldn't have been Pearson, so there was only one other possible candidate.
"My congratulations," said Pearson.
"Get on with it, Mr. Pearson," said the judge.
"I do apologize, m'lord. I was simply trying to establish the credibility of this witness for the jury."
"Then you have succeeded," said Mr. Justice Sackville sharply. "Now get on with it."
Pearson patiently took Payne through the events of the night in question. Yes, he confirmed, Craig, Mortimer and Davenport had all been present at the Dunlop Arms that evening. No, he had not ventured out into the alley when he heard the scream. Yes, they had gone home when advised to do so by Spencer Craig. No, he had never seen the defendant before in his life.
"Thank you, Mr. Payne," concluded Pearson. "Please remain there."
Redmayne rose slowly from his place, and took his time rearranging some papers before he asked his first question-a trick his father had taught him when they had conducted mock trials. "If you're going to open with a surprise question, my boy," his father used to say, "keep the witness guessing." He waited until the judge, the jury and Pearson were all staring at him. Only a few seconds, but he knew it would seem a lifetime to anyone standing in the box.
"Mr. Payne," said Redmayne finally, looking up at the witness, "when you were an undergraduate at Cambridge, were you a member of a society known as the Musketeers?"
"Yes," replied Payne, looking puzzled.
"And was that society's motto: 'All for one and one for all'?"
Pearson was up on his feet even before Payne had a chance to reply. "My lord, I am puzzled to know how the past membership of a university society can have any bearing on the events of September eighteenth last year."
"I am inclined to agree with you, Mr. Pearson," replied the judge, "but no doubt Mr. Redmayne is about to enlighten us."
"I am indeed, m'lord," Redmayne replied, his eyes never leaving Payne. "Was the Musketeers' motto: 'All for one and one for all'?" Redmayne repeated.
"Yes, it was," replied Payne with a slight edge to his voice.
"What else did the members of that society have in common?" asked Redmayne.
"An appreciation of Dumas, justice and a bottle of fine wine."
"Or perhaps several bottles of fine wine?" suggested Redmayne as he extracted a small, light blue booklet from the pile of papers in front of him. He began to turn its pages slowly. "And was one of the society's rules that if any member found himself in danger, it was the duty of all other members to come to his assistance?"
"Yes," replied Payne. "I have always considered loyalty to be the benchmark by which you can judge any man."
"Do you indeed?" said Redmayne. "Was Mr. Spencer Craig by any chance also a member of the Musketeers?"
"He was," replied Payne. "In fact, he's a past chairman."
"And did you and your fellow members come to his assistance on the night of September eighteenth last year?"
"My lord," said Pearson leaping to his feet once again, "this is outrageous."
"What is outrageous, m'lord," retorted Redmayne, "is that whenever one of Mr. Pearson's witnesses looks as if he might be in some trouble, he leaps to their assistance. Perhaps he is also a member of the Musketeers?"
Several of the jurors smiled.
"Mr. Redmayne," said the judge quietly, "are you suggesting that the witness is committing perjury just because he was a member of a society while he was at university?"
"If the alternative was life imprisonment for his closest friend, m'lord, then yes, I do think it might have crossed his mind."
"This is outrageous," repeated Pearson, still on his feet.
"Not as outrageous as sending a man to jail for the rest of his life," said Redmayne, "for a murder he did not commit."
"No doubt, m'lord," said Pearson, "we are about to discover that the barman was also a member of the Musketeers."
"No, we are not," responded Redmayne, "but we will contend that the barman was the only person in the Dunlop Arms that night who did not go out into the alley."
"I think you have made your point," said the judge. "Perhaps it's time to move on to your next question."
"No more questions, m'lord," said Redmayne.
"Do you wish to reexamine this witness, Mr. Pearson?"
"I do, m'lord," said Pearson. "Mr. Payne, can you confirm, so that the jury are left in no doubt, that you did not follow Mr. Craig out into the alley after you had heard a woman scream?"
"Yes, I can," said Payne. "I was in no condition to do so."
"Quite so. No more questions, m'lord."
"You are free to leave the court, Mr. Payne," said the judge.
Alex Redmayne couldn't help noticing that Payne didn't look quite as self-assured as he walked out of the courtroom as he had done when he'd swaggered in.
"Do you wish to call your next witness, Mr. Pearson?" asked the judge.
"I had intended to call Mr. Davenport, m'lord, but you might feel it would be wise to begin his cross-examination tomorrow morning."
The judge didn't notice that most of the women in the courtroom seemed to be willing him to call Lawrence Davenport without further delay. He looked at his watch, hesitated, then said, "Perhaps it would be better if we were to call Mr. Davenport first thing tomorrow morning."
"As your lordship pleases," said Pearson, delighted with the effect the prospect of his next witness's appearance had already had on the five women on the jury. He only hoped that young Redmayne would be foolish enough to attack Davenport in the same way he had Gerald Payne.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING a buzz of expectation swept around the courtroom even before Lawrence Davenport made his entrance. When the usher called out his name, he did so in a hushed voice.
Lawrence Davenport entered the court stage right, and followed the usher to the witness box. He was about six foot, but so slim he appeared taller. He wore a tailored navy blue suit and a cream shirt that looked as if it had been unwrapped that morning. He had spent a considerable time debating whether he should wear a tie, and in the end had accepted Spencer's advice that it gave the wrong impression if you looked too casual in court. "Let them go on thinking you're a doctor, not an actor," Spencer had said. Davenport had selected a striped tie that he would never have considered wearing unless he was in front of a camera. But it was not his outer garments that caused women to turn their heads. It was the piercing blue eyes, thick wavy fair hair and helpless look that made so many of them want to mother him. Well, the older ones. The younger ones had other fantasies.
Lawrence Davenport had built his reputation playing a heart surgeon in The Prescription. For an hour every Saturday evening, he seduced an audience of over nine million. His fans didn't seem to care that he spent more time flirting with the nurses than performing coronary artery bypass grafts.
After Davenport had stepped into the witness box, the usher handed him a Bible and held up a cue card so that he could deliver his opening lines. As Davenport recited the oath, he turned court number four into his private theater. Alex Redmayne couldn't help noticing that all five women on the jury were smiling at the witness. Davenport returned their smiles, as if he were taking a curtain call.
Mr. Pearson rose slowly from his place. He intended to keep Davenport in the witness box for as long as he could, while he milked his audience of twelve.
Alex Redmayne sat back as he waited for the curtain to rise, and recalled another piece of advice his father had given him.
Danny felt more isolated in the dock than ever as he stared across at the man he recalled so clearly seeing in the bar that night.
"You are Lawrence Andrew Davenport?" said Pearson, beaming at the witness.
"I am, sir."
Pearson turned to the judge. "I wonder, m'lord, if you would allow me to avoid having to ask Mr. Davenport to reveal his home address." He paused. "For obvious reasons."
"I have no problem with that," replied Mr. Justice Sackville, "but I will require the witness to confirm that he has resided at the same address for the past five years."
"That is the case, my lord," said Davenport, turning his attention to the director and giving a slight bow.
"Can you also confirm," said Pearson, "that you were at the Dunlop Arms on the evening of September eighteenth 1999?"
"Yes, I was," replied Davenport. "I joined a few friends to celebrate Gerald Payne's thirtieth birthday. We were all up at Cambridge together," he added in a languid drawl that he had last resorted to when playing Heathcliff on tour.
"And did you see the defendant that night," asked Pearson, pointing toward the dock, "sitting on the other side of the room?"
"No, sir. I was unaware of him at that time," said Davenport addressing the jury as if they were a matinee audience.
"Later that night, did your friend Spencer Craig jump up and run out of the back door of the public house?"
"Yes, he did."
"And that was following a girl's scream?"
"That is correct, sir."
Pearson hesitated, half expecting Redmayne to leap up and protest at such an obvious leading question, but he remained unmoved. Emboldened, Pearson continued, "And Mr. Craig returned to the bar a few moments later?"
"He did," replied Davenport.
"And he advised you and your other two companions to go home," said Pearson, continuing to lead the witness-but still Alex Redmayne didn't move a muscle.
"That's right," said Davenport.
"Did Mr. Craig explain why he felt you should leave the premises?"
"Yes. He told us that there were two men fighting in the alley, and that one of them had a knife."
"What was your reaction when Mr. Craig told you this?"
Davenport hesitated, not quite sure how he should reply to this question, as it wasn't part of his prepared text.
"Perhaps you felt you should go and see if the young lady was in any danger?" prompted Pearson helpfully from the wings.
"Yes, yes," responded Davenport, who was beginning to feel that he wasn't coming over quite so well without an autocue to assist him.
"But despite that, you followed Mr. Craig's advice," said Pearson, "and left the premises?"
"Yes, yes, that's right," said Davenport. "I followed Spencer's advice, but then he is"-he paused for effect-"learned in the law. I believe that is the correct expression."
Word-perfect, thought Alex, aware that Davenport was now safely back on his crib sheet.
"You never went into the alley yourself?"
"No, sir, not after Spencer had advised that we should not under any circumstances approach the man with the knife."
Alex remained in his place.
"Quite so," said Pearson as he turned the next page of his file and stared at a blank sheet of paper. He had come to the end of his questions far sooner than he'd anticipated. He couldn't understand why his opponent hadn't attempted to interrupt him while he so blatantly led this witness. He reluctantly snapped the file closed. "Please remain in the witness box, Mr. Davenport," he said, "as I'm sure my learned friend will wish to cross-examine you."
Alex Redmayne didn't even glance in Lawrence Davenport's direction as the actor ran a hand through his long fair hair and continued to smile at the jury.
"Do you wish to cross-examine this witness, Mr. Redmayne?" the judge asked, sounding as if he was looking forward to the encounter.
"No thank you, m'lord," replied Redmayne, barely shifting in his place.
Few of those present in the court were able to hide their disappointment.
Alex remained unmoved, recalling his father's advice never to cross-examine a witness the jury likes, especially when they want to believe everything they have to say. Get them out of the witness box as quickly as possible, in the hope that by the time the jury came to consider the verdict, the memory of their performance-and indeed it had been a performance-might have faded.
"You may leave the witness box, Mr. Davenport," said Mr. Justice Sackville somewhat reluctantly.
Davenport stepped down. He took his time, trying to make the best of his short exit across the courtroom and out into the wings. Once he was in the crowded corridor, he headed straight for the staircase that led to the ground floor, at a pace that wouldn't allow any startled fan time to work out that it really was Dr. Beresford and ask for an autograph.
Davenport was happy to be out of that building. He had not enjoyed the experience, and was grateful that it was over far more quickly than he had anticipated; more like an audition than a performance. He hadn't relaxed for a moment, and wondered if it had been obvious that he hadn't slept the previous night. As Davenport jogged down the steps and on to the road, he checked his watch; he was going to be early for his twelve o'clock appointment with Spencer Craig. He turned right and began to walk in the direction of Inner Temple, confident that Spencer would be pleased to learn that Redmayne hadn't bothered to cross-examine him. He had feared that the young barrister might have pressed him on the subject of his sexual preferences, which, had he told the truth, would have been the only headline in tomorrow's tabloids-unless of course he'd told the whole truth.
TOBY MORTIMER DID not acknowledge Lawrence Davenport as he strode past him. Spencer Craig had warned them that they should not be seen in public together until the trial was over. He had phoned all three of them the moment he got home that night to tell them that DS Fuller would be in touch the following day to clear up a few points. What had begun as a birthday celebration for Gerald had ended as a nightmare for all four of them.
Mortimer bowed his head as Davenport passed by. He had been dreading his spell in the witness box for weeks, despite Spencer's constant reassurance that even if Redmayne found out about his drug problem, he would never refer to it.
The Musketeers had remained loyal, but none of them pretended that their relationship could ever be the same again. And what had taken place that night had only made Mortimer's craving even stronger. Before the birthday celebration, he was known among dealers as a weekend junkie, but as the trial drew nearer, he had come to need two fixes a day-every day.
"Don't even think about shooting up before you go into the witness box," Spencer had warned him. But how could Spencer begin to understand what he was going through when he had never experienced the craving: a few hours of sheer bliss until the high began to wear off, followed by the sweating, then the shakes, and finally the ritual of preparation so he could once again depart from this world-inserting the needle into an unused vein, the plunge as the liquid found its way into the bloodstream, quickly making contact with the brain, then finally, blessed release-until the cycle began again. Mortimer was already sweating. How long before the shakes would begin? As long as he was called next, a surge of adrenaline should get him through.
The courtroom door opened and the usher reappeared. Mortimer jumped up in anticipation. He dug his nails into the palms of his hands, determined not to let the side down.
"Reginald Jackson!" bellowed the usher, ignoring the tall, thin man who had risen the moment he appeared.
The manager of the Dunlop Arms followed the usher back into the courtroom. Another man Mortimer hadn't spoken to for the past six months.
"Leave him to me," Spencer had said, but then, even at Cambridge, Spencer had always taken care of Mortimer's little problems.
Mortimer sank back onto the bench and gripped the edge of the seat as he felt the shakes coming on. He wasn't sure how much longer he could last-the fear of Spencer Craig was being rapidly overtaken by the need to feed his addiction. By the time the barman reemerged from the courtroom, Mortimer's shirt, pants and socks were soaked in sweat despite its being a cold March morning. Pull yourself together, he could hear Spencer saying, even though he was a mile away sitting in his chambers, probably chatting to Lawrence about how well the trial had gone so far. They would be waiting for him to join them. The last piece in the jigsaw.
Mortimer rose and began pacing up and down the corridor as he waited for the usher to reappear. He checked his watch, praying that there would be time for another witness to be called before lunch. He smiled hopefully at the usher as he stepped back into the corridor.
"Detective Sergeant Fuller!" he bellowed. Mortimer collapsed back onto the bench.
He was now shaking uncontrollably. He needed his next fix just as a baby needs the milk from its mother's breast. He stood up and headed unsteadily off in the direction of the washroom. He was relieved to find the white tiled room was empty. He selected the farthest cubicle and locked himself inside. The gap at the top and bottom of the door made him anxious: someone in authority could easily discover that he was breaking the law-in the Central Criminal Court. But his craving had reached the point where common sense was rapidly replaced by necessity, whatever the risk.
Mortimer unbuttoned his jacket and extracted a small canvas pouch from an inside pocket: the kit. He unfolded it and laid it out on the top of the lavatory seat. Part of the excitement was in the preparation. He picked up a small 1mg vial of liquid, cost £250. It was clear, high-quality stuff. He wondered how much longer he'd be able to afford such expensive gear before the small inheritance his father had bequeathed him finally ran out. He stabbed the needle into the vial and drew back the plunger until the little plastic tube was full. He didn't check to see if the liquid was flowing freely because he couldn't afford to waste even a drop.
He paused for a moment, sweat pouring off his forehead, when he heard the door at the far end of the room open. He didn't move, waiting for the stranger to carry out a ritual for which the lavatory had been originally intended.
Once he heard the door close again, he took off his old school tie, pulled up a trouser leg and began to search for a vein: a task that was becoming more difficult by the day. He wrapped the tie around his left leg and pulled it tighter and tighter until at last a blue vein protruded. He held the tie firmly with one hand and the needle in the other. He then inserted the needle into the vein before slowly pressing the plunger down until every last drop of liquid had entered his bloodstream. He breathed a deep sigh of relief as he drifted into another world-a world not inhabited by Spencer Craig.
"I am not willing to discuss the subject any longer," Beth's father had said earlier that day as he took his seat at the table and his wife put a plate of eggs and bacon in front of him. The same breakfast she had cooked for him every morning since the day they were married.
"But, Dad, you can't seriously believe that Danny would kill Bernie. They were best friends since their first day at Clem Attlee."
"I've seen Danny lose his temper."
"When?" demanded Beth.
"In the boxing ring, against Bernie."
"Which is why Bernie always beat him."
"Perhaps Danny won this time because he had a knife in his hand." Beth was so stunned by her father's accusation that she didn't reply. "And have you forgotten," he continued, "what happened in the playground all those years ago?"
"No, I haven't," said Beth. "But Danny was coming to Bernie's rescue at the time."
"When the headmaster turned up and found a knife in his hand."
"Have you forgotten," said Beth's mother, "that Bernie confirmed Danny's story when he was later questioned by the police?"
"When once again, a knife was found in Danny's hand."
"But I've told you a hundred times-"
"That a complete stranger stabbed your brother to death."
"Yes, he did," said Beth.
"And Danny did nothing to provoke him, or make him lose his temper."
"No, he didn't," said Beth, trying to remain calm.
"And I believe her," said Mrs. Wilson as she poured her daughter another coffee.
"You always do."
"With good reason," Mrs. Wilson responded. "I've never known Beth to lie."
Mr. Wilson remained silent, as his untouched meal went cold. "And you still expect me to believe that everyone else is lying?" he eventually said.
"Yes, I do," said Beth. "You seem to forget that I was there, so I know Danny is innocent."
"It's four to one against," said Mr. Wilson.
"Dad, this isn't a dog race we're discussing. It's Danny's life."
"No, it's my son's life we're discussing," said Mr. Wilson, his voice rising with every word.
"He was my son as well," said Beth's mother, "just in case you've forgotten."
"And have you also forgotten," said Beth, "that Danny was the man you were so keen for me to marry, and who you asked to take over the garage when you retired? So what's suddenly stopped you believing in him?"
"There's something I haven't told you," said Beth's father. Mrs. Wilson bowed her head. "When Danny came to see me that morning, to tell me he was going to ask you to marry him, I thought it was only fair to let him know that I'd changed my mind."
"Changed your mind about what?" asked Beth.
"Who would be taking over the garage when I retired."
"NO MORE QUESTIONS, my lord," said Alex Redmayne.
The judge thanked Detective Sergeant Fuller, and told him he was free to leave the court.
It had not been a good day for Alex. Lawrence Davenport had mesmerized the jury with his charm and good looks. DS Fuller had come across as a decent, conscientious officer who reported exactly what he'd seen that night, and the only interpretation he could put on it, and when Alex pressed him on his relationship with Craig, he simply repeated the word "professional." Later, when Pearson asked him how long it was between Craig making the 999 call and Fuller entering the bar, Fuller had said he couldn't be sure, but he thought it would have been around fifteen minutes.
As for the barman, Reg Jackson, he just repeated parrot-like that he was only getting on with his job and hadn't seen or heard a thing.
Redmayne accepted that if he was to find a chink in the armor of the four musketeers, his only hope now rested with Toby Mortimer. Redmayne knew all about the man's drug habit, although he had no intention of referring to it in court. He knew that nothing else would be on Mortimer's mind while he was being cross-examined. Redmayne felt that Mortimer was the one Crown witness who might buckle under pressure, which was why he was pleased he'd been kept waiting in the corridor all day.
"I think we have just enough time for one more witness," said Mr. Justice Sackville as he glanced at his watch.
Mr. Pearson didn't appear quite as enthusiastic to call the Crown's last witness. After reading the detailed police report, he had even considered not calling Toby Mortimer at all, but he knew that if he failed to do so, Redmayne would become suspicious and might even subpoena him. Pearson rose slowly from his place. "I call Mr. Toby Mortimer," he said.
The usher stepped into the corridor and roared, "Toby Mortimer!" He was surprised to find that the man was no longer seated in his place. He'd seemed so keen to be called earlier. The usher checked carefully up and down the benches, but there was no sign of him. He shouted the name even louder a second time, but still there was no response.
A pregnant young woman looked up from the front row, unsure if she was allowed to address the usher. The usher's eyes settled on her. "Have you seen Mr. Mortimer, madam?" he asked in a softer tone.
"Yes," she replied, "he went off to the toilets some time ago but he hasn't returned."
"Thank you, madam." The usher disappeared back into the courtroom. He walked quickly over to the associate, who listened carefully before briefing the judge.
"We'll give him a few more minutes," said Mr. Justice Sackville.
Redmayne kept glancing at his watch, becoming more anxious as each minute slipped by. It didn't take that long to go to the lavatory-unless… Pearson leaned across, smiled, and helpfully suggested, "Perhaps we should leave this witness until first thing in the morning?"
"No, thank you," Redmayne replied firmly. "I'm happy to wait." He went over his questions again, underlining relevant words so that he wouldn't have to keep glancing down at his crib sheet. He looked up the moment the usher came back into court.
The usher hurried across the courtroom and whispered to the associate, who passed the information on to the judge. Mr. Justice Sackville nodded. "Mr. Pearson," he said. The prosecution counsel rose to his feet. "It appears that your final witness has been taken ill, and is now on his way to hospital." He didn't add, with a needle sticking out of a vein in his left leg. "I therefore intend to close proceedings for the day. I would like to see both counsel in my chambers immediately."
Alex Redmayne didn't need to attend chambers to be told that his trump card had been removed from the pack. As he closed the file marked Crown Witnesses, he accepted that the fate of Danny Cartwright now rested in the hands of his fiancée, Beth Wilson. And he still couldn't be sure if she was telling the truth.
THE FIRST WEEK of the trial was over and the four main protagonists spent their weekends in very different ways.
Alex Redmayne drove down to Somerset to spend a couple of days with his parents in Bath. His father began quizzing him about the trial even before he'd closed the front door, while his mother seemed more interested in finding out about his latest girlfriend.
"Some hope," he said to both parental inquiries.
By the time Alex left for London on Sunday afternoon, he had rehearsed the questions he intended to put to Beth Wilson the following day, with his father acting as the judge. Not a difficult task for the old man. After all, that was exactly what he had done for the past twenty years before retiring.
"Sackville tells me you're holding your own," his father reported, "but he feels you sometimes take unnecessary risks."
"That may be the only way I can find out if Cartwright is innocent."
"That's not your job," responded his father. "That's for the jury to decide."
"Now you're sounding like Mr. Justice Sackville," Alex said with a laugh.
"It's your job," continued his father, ignoring the comment, "to present the best possible defense for your client, whether he is guilty or not."
His father had clearly forgotten that he'd first proffered this piece of advice when Alex was seven years old, and had repeated it countless times since. By the time Alex went up to Oxford as an undergraduate, he was ready to sit his law degree.
"And Beth Wilson, what sort of witness do you imagine she'll make?" his father asked.
"A distinguished silk once told me," replied Alex, tugging the lapels of his jacket pompously, "that you can never anticipate how a witness will turn out until they enter the box."
Alex's mother burst out laughing. "Touché," she said as she cleared the plates and disappeared into the kitchen.
"And don't underestimate Pearson," said his father, ignoring his wife's interruption. "He's at his best when it comes to cross-examining a defense witness."
"Is it possible to underestimate Mr. Arnold Pearson QC?" asked Alex, smiling.
"Oh, yes, I did so to my cost on two occasions."
"So were two innocent men convicted of crimes they didn't commit?" asked Alex.
"Certainly not," replied his father. "Both of them were as guilty as sin, but I still should have got them off. Just remember, if Pearson spots a weakness in your defense he'll return to it again and again, until he's sure that it's the one point the jury remember when they retire."
"Can I interrupt learned counsel, to ask how Susan is?" asked his mother as she poured Alex a coffee.
"Susan?" said Alex, snapping back into the real world.
"That charming girl you brought down to meet us a couple of months ago."
"Susan Rennick? I've no idea. I'm afraid we've lost touch. I don't think the Bar is compatible with having a personal life. Heaven knows how you two ever got together."
"Your mother fed me every night during the Carbarshi trial. If I hadn't married her, I would have died of starvation."
"That easy?" said Alex, grinning at his mother.
"Not quite that easy," she replied. "After all, the trial lasted for over two years-and he lost."
"No, I didn't," said his father, placing an arm around his wife's waist. "Just be warned, my boy, Pearson's not married, so he'll be spending his entire weekend preparing devilish questions for Beth Wilson."
They hadn't granted him bail.
Danny had spent the past six months locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London. He languished for twenty-two hours a day in a cell eight foot by six, the sole furnishings a single bed, a formica table, a plastic chair, a small steel washbasin and a steel lavatory. A tiny barred window high above his head was his only view of the outside world. Every afternoon they allowed him out of the cell for forty-five minutes, when he would jog around the perimeter of a barren yard-a concrete acre surrounded by a sixteen-foot wall topped with razor wire.
"I'm innocent," he repeated whenever anyone asked, to which the prison staff and his fellow inmates inevitably responded, "That's what they all say."
As Danny jogged around the yard that morning, he tried not to think about how the first week of the trial had gone, but it proved impossible. Despite looking carefully at each member of the jury, he had no way of knowing what they were thinking. It might not have been a good first week, but at least Beth would now be able to tell her side of the story. Would the jury believe her, or would they accept Spencer Craig's version of what had happened? Danny's father never stopped reminding him that British justice was the best in the world-innocent men just don't end up in prison. If that was true, he would be free in a week's time. He tried not to consider the alternative.
Arnold Pearson QC had also spent his weekend in the country, at his cottage in the Cotswolds with its four-and-a-half-acre garden-his pride and joy. After tending the roses, he attempted to read a well-reviewed novel, which he ended up putting to one side before deciding to go for a walk. As he strolled through the village he tried to clear his mind of everything that had been taking place in London that week, although in truth the case rarely strayed from his thoughts.
He felt that the first week of the trial had gone well, despite the fact that Redmayne had proved to be a far doughtier opponent than he had expected. Certain familiar phrases, obvious hereditary traits and a rare gift of timing brought back memories of Redmayne's father, who in Arnold 's opinion was the finest advocate he had ever come up against.
But thank heavens, the boy was still green. He should have made far more of the time issue when Craig was in the witness box. Arnold would have counted the paving stones between the Dunlop Arms and the front door of Craig's mews house, with a stopwatch as his only companion. He would then have returned to his own home, undressed, showered and changed into a new set of clothes while once again timing the entire exercise. Arnold suspected that the combined times would amount to less than twenty minutes-certainly no more than thirty.
After he had picked up a few groceries and a local paper from the village store, he set off on the return journey. He stopped by the village green for a moment, Pearson smiled as he recalled the 57 he had scored against Brocklehurst some twenty years before-or was it thirty? All that he loved about England was embodied in the village. He looked at his watch, and sighed as he accepted that it was time to return home and prepare for the morrow.
After tea, he went to his study, sat down at his desk and ran an eye over the questions he had prepared for Beth Wilson. He would have the advantage of hearing Redmayne examine her before he had to ask his first question. Like a cat ready to pounce, he would sit silently at his end of the bench waiting patiently for her to make some tiny mistake. The guilty always make mistakes.
Arnold smiled as he turned his attention to the Bethnal Green and Bow Gazette, confident that Redmayne would not have come across the article that had appeared on the front page some fifteen years ago. Arnold Pearson may have lacked Mr. Justice Redmayne's elegance and style, but he made up for it with the hours of patient research, which had already uncovered two further pieces of evidence that would surely leave the jury in no doubt of Cartwright's guilt. But he would save both of them for the defendant, whom he was looking forward to cross-examining later in the week.
On the day Alex was bantering with his parents over lunch in Bath, Danny was running around the exercise yard at Belmarsh prison and Arnold Pearson was visiting the village store, Beth Wilson had an appointment with her local GP.
"Just a routine check," the doctor assured her with a smile. But then the smile turned to a frown. "Have you been under any unusual stress since I last saw you?" he asked.
Beth didn't burden him with an account of how she had spent the past week. It didn't help that her father remained convinced Danny was guilty, and would no longer allow his name to be mentioned in the house, even though her mother had always accepted Beth's version of what had taken place that night. But was the jury made up of people like her mother, or her father?
Every Sunday afternoon for the past six months, Beth had visited Danny in Belmarsh prison, but not this Sunday. Mr. Redmayne had told her that she would not be allowed to have any further contact with him until the trial was over. But there was so much she wanted to ask him, so much she needed to tell him.
The baby was due in six weeks' time, but long before then he would be free, and this terrible ordeal would finally be over. Once the jury had reached their verdict, surely even her father would accept that Danny was innocent.
On Monday morning, Mr. Wilson drove his daughter to the Old Bailey and dropped her outside the main entrance to the courts. He only uttered three words as she stepped out of the car: "Tell the truth."
HE FELT SICK when their eyes met. Spencer Craig glared down at him from the public gallery. Danny returned the stare as if he was standing in the middle of the ring waiting for the bell to sound for the first round.
When Beth entered the courtroom, it was the first time he'd seen her for two weeks. He was relieved that she would have her back to Craig while she was in the witness box. Beth gave Danny a warm smile before taking the oath.
"Is your name Elizabeth Wilson?" inquired Alex Redmayne.
"Yes," she replied, resting her hands on her stomach, "but I'm known as Beth."
"And you live at number twenty-seven Bacon Road in Bow, East London."
"Yes, I do."
"And Bernie Wilson, the deceased, was your brother?"
"Yes, he was," said Beth.
"And are you currently the personal assistant to the chairman of Drake's Marine Insurance Company in the City of London?"
"Yes, I am."
"When is the baby due?" asked Redmayne. Pearson frowned, but he knew he dare not intervene.
"In six weeks," Beth said, bowing her head.
Mr. Justice Sackville leaned forward and, smiling down at Beth, said, "Would you please speak up, Miss Wilson. The jury will need to hear every word you have to say." She raised her head and nodded. "And perhaps you'd prefer to be seated," the judge added helpfully. "Being in a strange place can sometimes be a little disconcerting."
"Thank you," said Beth. She sank onto the wooden chair in the witness box, and almost disappeared out of sight.
"Damn," muttered Alex Redmayne under his breath. The jury could now barely see her shoulders, and would no longer be continually reminded that she was seven months pregnant, a vision he wanted implanted in the minds of the only twelve people who mattered. He should have anticipated the gallant Mr. Justice Sackville and advised Beth to decline the offer of a seat. If she'd collapsed, the image would have lingered in the jury's minds.
"Miss Wilson," continued Redmayne, "would you tell the court what your relationship is with the accused."
"Danny and I are going to be married next week," she replied. A gasp could be heard around the courtroom.
"Next week?" repeated Redmayne, trying to sound surprised.
"Yes, the final banns were read yesterday by Father Michael, our parish priest at St. Mary's."
"But if your fiancé were to be convicted-"
"You can't be convicted for a crime you didn't commit," responded Beth sharply.
Alex Redmayne smiled. Word-perfect, and she had even turned to face the jury.
"How long have you known the defendant?"
"As long as I can remember," replied Beth. "His family have always lived across the road from us. We went to the same school."
"Clement Attlee Comprehensive?" said Redmayne, looking down at his open file.
"That's right," confirmed Beth.
"So you were childhood sweethearts?"
"If we were," said Beth, "Danny wasn't aware of it, because he hardly ever spoke to me while we were at school."
Danny smiled for the first time that day, remembering the little girl with pigtails who was always hanging around her brother.
"But did you try to speak to him?"
"No, I wouldn't have dared. But I always stood on the touchline and watched whenever he played football."
"Were your brother and Danny in the same team?"
"Right through school," replied Beth. "Danny was captain and my brother was the goalkeeper."
"Was Danny always captain?"
"Oh, yes. His mates used to call him Captain Cartwright. He captained all the school teams-football, cricket, even boxing."
Alex noticed that one or two of the jury were smiling. "And did your brother get on well with Danny?"
"Danny was his best friend," said Beth.
"Did they regularly quarrel, as my learned friend has suggested?" asked Redmayne, glancing in the direction of the Crown prosecutor.
"Only about West Ham, or Bernie's latest girlfriend." A member of the jury just managed to stifle a laugh.
"But didn't your brother knock Danny out in the first round of the Bow Street Boys' Club boxing championship last year?"
"Yes, he did. But Bernie was always the better boxer, and Danny knew it. Danny once told me that he'd be lucky to make the second round if they met in the final."
"So there was no bad feeling between them, as has been suggested by my learned friend, Mr. Pearson."
"How could he know?" asked Beth, "He never met either of them." Danny smiled again.
"Miss Wilson," said the judge, not quite so gently, "please concentrate on answering the questions."
"What was the question?" asked Beth, sounding a little flummoxed.
The judge glanced down at his notebook. "Was there any bad feeling between your brother and the defendant?"
"No," said Beth. "I've already told you, they were best mates."
"You also told the court, Miss Wilson," said Redmayne, trying to steer her back on to the script, "that Danny never spoke to you while you were at school. Yet you ended up engaged to be married."
"That's right," said Beth, looking up at Danny.
"What caused this change of heart?"
"When Danny and my brother left Clem Attlee, they both went to work in my dad's garage. I stayed on at school for another year before going on to sixth-form college and then Exeter University."
"From where you graduated with an honors degree in English?"
"Yes, I did," replied Beth.
"And what was your first job after leaving university?"
"I became a secretary at Drake's Marine Insurance Company in the City."
"Surely you could have obtained a far better position than that, remembering your qualifications?"
"Perhaps I could have," admitted Beth, "but Drake's head office is in the City and I didn't want to be too far from home."
"I understand. And how many years have you worked for the company?"
"Five," replied Beth.
"And during that time you have risen from being a secretary to the chairman's personal assistant."
"How many secretaries are employed at Drake's Insurance?" asked Redmayne.
"I'm not sure of the exact number," Beth replied, "but there must be over a hundred."
"But it was you who ended up with the top job?" Beth didn't reply. "After you returned from university to live in London again, when did you next see Danny?"
"Soon after I'd started working in the City," said Beth. "My mother asked me to drop off my dad's lunchbox at the garage one Saturday morning. Danny was there, with his head under a car bonnet. To begin with, I thought he hadn't noticed me, because he could only have seen my legs, but then he looked up and banged his head on the bonnet."
"And was that when he asked you out for the first time?"
Pearson leaped to his feet. "M'lord, is this witness to be prompted, line by line, as if she were in a dress rehearsal for an amateur dramatic society production?"
Not bad, thought Alex. The judge might have agreed with him if he hadn't heard Pearson deliver the same line several times during the past decade. However, he still leaned forward to chastise counsel. "Mr. Redmayne, in future, please stick to asking the witness questions and don't resort to giving answers that you hope, or expect, Miss Wilson will agree with."
"I apologize, m'lord," said Redmayne. "I will try not to displease your lordship again."
Mr. Justice Sackville frowned, recalling Redmayne's father delivering that line with the same lack of sincerity.
"When did you next see the defendant?" Redmayne asked Beth.
"That same evening. He invited me to go to the Hammersmith Palais," said Beth. "He and my brother used to go to the Palais every Saturday night-more birds per acre than you'll find in the fens, Bernie used to say."
"How often did you see each other following that first date?" inquired Redmayne.
"Almost every day." She paused. "Until they locked him up."
"I'm now going to take you back to the evening of September eighteenth last year," said Redmayne. Beth nodded. "I want you to tell the jury in your own words exactly what took place that night."
"It was Danny's idea," Beth began looking up at the defendant and smiling, "that we should go for dinner in the West End as it was a special occasion."
"A special occasion?" prompted Redmayne.
"Yes. Danny was going to propose."
"How could you be so sure of that?"
"I heard my brother telling Mum that Danny had spent two months' wages on the ring." She held up her left hand so that the jury could admire the single diamond on a gold band.
Alex waited for the murmurs to die down before he asked, "And did he ask you to be his wife?"
"Yes, he did," replied Beth. "He even got down on one knee."
"And you accepted?"
"Of course I did," said Beth. "I knew we were going to be married the first day I met him."
Pearson noted her first mistake.
"What happened next?"
"Before we left the restaurant Danny called Bernie to tell him the news. He agreed to join us later so we could all celebrate."
"And where did you arrange to meet up for this celebration?"
"The Dunlop Arms on Hambledon Terrace in Chelsea."
"Why did you choose that particular venue?"
"Danny had been there once before, after watching West Ham play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He told me it was very classy and he thought I'd like it."
"What time did you arrive?"
"I'm not sure," said Beth, "but it can't have been before ten."
"And your brother was already there waiting for you?"
"He's at it again, m'lord," objected Pearson.
"I do apologize, m'lord," said Redmayne. He turned back to Beth. "When did your brother arrive?"
"He was already there," said Beth.
"Did you notice anyone else in the room?"
"Yes," said Beth, "I saw the actor, Lawrence Davenport-Dr. Beresford-standing at the bar with three other men."
"Do you know Mr. Davenport?"
"Of course not," said Beth. "I'd only ever seen him on the TV."
"So you must have been quite excited to see a television star on the night you became engaged?"
"No, I wasn't that impressed. I remember thinking that he wasn't as good-looking as Danny." Several members of the jury took a closer look at the unshaven man with short spiky hair who was wearing a West Ham T-shirt that looked as if it hadn't been ironed recently. Alex feared that not many of the jurors would agree with Beth's judgment.
"What happened next?"
"We drank a bottle of champagne, and then I thought we ought to go home."
"And did you go home?"
"No, Bernie ordered a second bottle, and when the barman took the empty one away, I heard someone say, 'Wasted on them.' "
"How did Danny and Bernie react to that?"
"They didn't hear it, but I saw one of the men at the bar staring at me. He winked, then opened his mouth and started circling his tongue round his lips."
"Which of the four men did that?"
Danny looked up into the gallery to see Craig scowling down at Beth, but fortunately, she couldn't see him.
"Did you tell Danny?"
"No, the man was obviously drunk. Besides, you hear worse than that if you've been brought up in the East End. And I knew only too well how Danny would react if I told him." Pearson didn't stop writing.
"So you ignored him?"
"Yes," said Beth. "But then the same man turned to his friends and said, 'The slut's quite presentable until she opens her mouth.' Bernie did hear that. Then one of the other men said, 'I don't know, there are times when I quite like a slut's mouth to be open,' and they all began laughing." She paused. "Except for Mr. Davenport, who looked embarrassed."
"Did Bernie and Danny also laugh?"
"No. Bernie grabbed the champagne bottle and stood up to face him." Pearson wrote down her exact words, as she added: "But Danny pulled him back down and told him to ignore them."
"And did he?"
"Yes, but only because I said I wanted to go home. As we were on our way out, I noticed that one of the men was still staring at me. He said, 'Leaving, are we?' in a loud whisper, then, 'When you're finished with her, my friends and I have just enough left over for a gang bang.' "
"A gang bang?" repeated Mr. Justice Sackville, looking bemused.
"Yes, m'lord. It's when a group of men have sex with the same woman," said Redmayne. "Sometimes for money." He paused while the judge wrote down the words. Alex looked across at the jury, none of whom appeared to require any further explanation.
"Can you be sure those were his exact words?" asked Redmayne.
"It's not something I'm likely to forget," said Beth sharply.
"And was it the same man who said this?"
"Yes," said Beth, "Mr. Craig."
"How did Danny react this time?"
"He continued to ignore them-after all, the man was drunk-but my brother was the problem, and it didn't help when Mr. Craig added, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' "
"Then why don't we go outside," repeated Redmayne, "and sort it out?"
"Yes," said Beth, not quite sure why he was repeating her words.
"And did Mr. Craig join you outside?"
"No, but only because Danny pushed my brother into the alley before he could retaliate, and I quickly closed the door behind us."
Pearson picked up a red pen and underlined the words pushed him out into the alley.
"So Danny managed to get your brother out of the bar without any further trouble?"
"Yes," said Beth. "But Bernie still wanted to go back and sort him."
"And sort him?"
"Yes," said Beth.
"But you walked on down the alley?"
"Yes, I did, but just before I reached the road I found one of the men from the bar was standing in my way."
"What did you do?"
"I ran back to join Danny and my brother. I begged them to return to the bar. That was when I noticed the other two men-one of them was Mr. Davenport-were standing by the back door. I turned round to see that the first man had been joined by his mate at the far end of the alley, and they were now walking towards us."
"What happened next?" asked Redmayne.
"Bernie said, 'You take Dickhead and I'll deal with the other three,' but before Danny could reply, the one my brother called Dickhead came running towards him and threw a punch that caught Danny on the chin. After that an almighty fight broke out."
"Did all four of the men join in?"
"No," said Beth. "Mr. Davenport remained by the back door and one of the others, a tall, skinny guy, hung back, and when my brother nearly knocked out the only other man willing to fight, Bernie told me to go and get a taxi as he was confident it would be all over fairly quickly."
"And did you?"
"Yes, but not until I was sure that Danny was getting the better of Craig."
"And was he?"
"No contest," said Beth.
"How long did it take you to find a taxi?"
"Only a few minutes," said Beth, "but when the cabbie drew up, to my surprise he said, 'I don't think it's a taxi you'll be needing, luv. If they were my friends, I'd be phoning for an ambulance,' and without another word he shot off."
"Has any attempt been made to locate the taxi driver concerned?" asked the judge.
"Yes, m'lord," replied Redmayne, "but so far no one has come forward."
"So how did you react when you heard the taxi driver's words?" Redmayne asked, turning back to Beth.
"I swung round to see my brother lying on the ground. He appeared to be unconscious. Danny was holding Bernie's head in his arms. I ran back down the alley to join them."
Pearson made another note.
"And did Danny give an explanation as to what had happened?"
"Yes. He said that they had been taken by surprise when Craig produced a knife. He had tried to wrestle it from him when he was stabbing Bernie."
"And did Bernie confirm this?"
"Yes, he did."
"So what did you do next?"
"I phoned the emergency services."
"Please take your time, Miss Wilson, before you answer my next question. Who turned up first? The police or an ambulance?"
"Two paramedics," said Beth without hesitation.
"And how long was it before they arrived?"
"Seven, perhaps eight minutes."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I never stopped looking at my watch."
"And how many more minutes passed before the police arrived?"
"I can't be certain," said Beth, "but it must have been at least another five."
"And how long did Detective Sergeant Fuller remain with you in the alley before he went into the bar to interview Mr. Craig?"
"At least ten minutes," said Beth. "But it might have been longer."
"But quite long enough for Mr. Spencer Craig to leave, return home, a mere hundred yards away, change his clothes and be back in time to give his version of what had taken place before the detective sergeant went into the bar?"
"M'lord," said Pearson leaping up from his place, "this is an outrageous slur on a man who was doing no more than carrying out his public duty."
"I agree with you," said the judge. "Members of the jury, you will ignore Mr. Redmayne's last comments. Never forget that it is not Mr. Craig who is on trial." He glared down at Redmayne, but the lawyer didn't flinch, well aware that the jury would not forget the exchange, and that it might even sow some doubt in their minds. "I do apologize, m'lord," he said in a contrite voice. "It won't happen again."
"Be sure that it doesn't," said the judge sharply.
"Miss Wilson, while you were waiting for the police to arrive, did the paramedics put your brother on a stretcher and take him to the nearest hospital?"
"Yes, they did everything they could to help," said Beth, "but I knew it was too late. He'd already lost so much blood."
"Did you and Danny accompany your brother to the hospital?"
"No, I went on my own because Detective Sergeant Fuller wanted to ask Danny some more questions."
"Did that worry you?"
"Yes, because Danny had also been wounded. He'd been-"
"That's not what I meant," said Redmayne, not wanting her to finish the sentence. "Were you anxious that the police might consider Danny to be a suspect?"
"No," said Beth. "It never crossed my mind. I had already told the police what happened. In any case, he always had me to back up his story."
If Alex had looked across at Pearson, he would have seen the rare flicker of a smile appear on the prosecutor's face.
"Sadly your brother died on the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital?"
Beth began to sob. "Yes, I rang my parents, who came immediately, but it was too late." Alex made no attempt to ask his next question until she had composed herself.
"Did Danny join you at the hospital later?"
"No, he didn't."
"Because the police were still questioning him."
"When did you next see him?"
"The following morning, at Chelsea police station."
" Chelsea police station?" repeated Redmayne, feigning surprise.
"Yes. The police came round to my house first thing in the morning. They told me they'd arrested Danny and charged him with Bernie's murder."
"That must have come as a terrible shock." Mr. Pearson leaped up. "How did you react to this piece of news?" asked Redmayne quickly.
"In total disbelief. I repeated exactly what had happened, but I could see they didn't believe me."
"Thank you, Miss Wilson. No more questions, m'lord."
Danny breathed a sigh of relief as Beth stepped down from the witness box. What a diamond. She smiled anxiously up at him as she passed the dock.
"Miss Wilson," said the judge before she had reached the door. She turned back to face him. "Would you be kind enough to return to the witness box? I have a feeling Mr. Pearson may have one or two questions for you."
BETH WALKED SLOWLY back to the witness box. She looked up at her parents in the public gallery-and then she saw him, glaring down at her. She wanted to protest, but realized that it would serve no purpose, and nothing would please Spencer Craig more than to know the effect his presence had on her.
She stepped back into the witness box, more determined than ever to defeat him. She remained standing, and stared defiantly at Mr. Pearson, who was still seated in his place. Perhaps he wasn't going to ask her any questions after all.
The old prosecutor rose slowly from his seat. Without glancing at Beth, he began to rearrange some papers. He then took a sip of water before finally looking across at her.
"Miss Wilson, what did you have for breakfast this morning?"
Beth hesitated for a moment, while everyone in the court stared at her. Alex Redmayne cursed. He should have realized that Pearson would try to throw her off guard with his first question. Only Mr. Justice Sackville didn't look surprised.
"I had a cup of tea and a boiled egg," Beth eventually managed.
"Nothing else, Miss Wilson?"
"Oh, yes, some toast."
"How many cups of tea?"
"One. No, two," said Beth.
"Or was it three?"
"No, no, it was two."
"And how many slices of toast?"
She hesitated again. "I can't remember."
"You can't remember what you had for breakfast this morning, and yet you can recall in great detail every sentence you heard six months ago." Beth bowed her head again. "Not only can you recall every word Mr. Spencer Craig uttered that night, but you can even remember such details as him winking at you and rolling his tongue round his lips."
"Yes, I can," insisted Beth. "Because he did."
"Then let's go back and test your memory even further, Miss Wilson. When the barman picked up the empty bottle of champagne, Mr. Craig said, 'Wasted on them.' "
"Yes, that's right."
"But who was it who said"-Pearson leaned forward to check his notes-" 'There are times when I quite like a slut's mouth to be open'?"
"I'm not sure if that was Mr. Craig or one of the other men."
"You're 'not sure.' 'One of the other men.' Do you mean the defendant, Cartwright?"
"No, one of the men at the bar."
"You told my learned friend that you didn't react, because you'd heard worse in the East End."
"Yes, I have."
"In fact, that's where you heard the phrase in the first place, isn't it, Miss Wilson," said Pearson, tugging the lapels of his black gown.
"What are you getting at?"
"Simply that you never heard Mr. Craig deliver those words in a bar in Chelsea, Miss Wilson, but you have heard Cartwright say them back in the East End many times, because that's the sort of language he would use."
"No, it was Mr. Craig who said those words."
"You also told the court that you left the Dunlop Arms by the back door."
"Why didn't you leave by the front door, Miss Wilson?"
"I wanted to slip out quietly and not cause any more trouble."
"So you had already caused some trouble?"
"No, we hadn't caused any trouble."
"Then why didn't you leave by the front door, Miss Wilson? If you had, you would have found yourself on a crowded street, and could have slipped away, to use your words, without causing any more trouble."
Beth remained silent.
"Then perhaps you can also explain what your brother meant," said Pearson checking his notes, "when he said to Cartwright, 'If you think I'm gonna call you guv, you can forget it.' "
"He was joking," said Beth.
Pearson stared at his file for some time before saying, "Forgive me, Miss Wilson, but I can't see anything humorous in that remark."
"That's because you don't come from the East End," said Beth.
"Neither does Mr. Craig,' responded Pearson, before quickly adding, "and then Cartwright pushes Mr. Wilson towards the back door. Was that when Mr. Craig heard your brother say, 'Then why don't I join you and we can sort it'?"
"It was Mr. Craig who said, 'Then why don't I join you and we can sort it out,' because that's the kind of language they use in the West End."
Bright woman, thought Alex, delighted that she'd picked up his point and rammed it home.
"And when you were outside," said Pearson quickly, "you found Mr. Craig waiting for you at the other end of the alley?"
"Yes, I did."
"How long was it before you saw him standing there?"
"I don't remember," replied Beth.
"This time you don't remember."
"It wasn't that long," said Beth.
"It wasn't that long," repeated Pearson. "Less than a minute?"
"I can't be sure. But he was standing there."
"Miss Wilson, if you were to leave the Dunlop Arms by the front door, make your way through a crowded street, then down a long lane, before finally reaching the end of the alley, you'd find it's a distance of two hundred and eleven yards. Are you suggesting that Mr. Craig covered that distance in under a minute?"
"He must have done."
"And his friend joined him a few moments later," said Pearson.
"Yes, he did," said Beth.
"And when you turned round, the other two men, Mr. Davenport and Mr. Mortimer, were already positioned by the back door."
"Yes, they were."
"And this all took place in under a minute, Miss Wilson?" He paused. "When do you imagine the four of them found time to plan such a detailed operation?"
"I don't understand what you mean," said Beth, gripping the rail of the witness box.
"I think you understand only too well, Miss Wilson, but for the benefit of the jury, two men leave the bar by the front door, go around to the rear of the building while the other two station themselves by the back door, all in under a minute."
"It could have been more than a minute."
"But you were keen to get away," Pearson reminded her. "So if it had been more than a minute you would have had time to reach the main road and disappear long before they could have got there."
"Now I remember," said Beth. "Danny was trying to calm Bernie down, but my brother wanted to go back to the bar and sort Craig, so it must have been more than a minute."
"Or was it Mr. Cartwright he wanted to sort out," asked Pearson, "and leave him in no doubt who was going to be the boss once his father retired?"
"If Bernie had wanted to do that," said Beth, "he could have flattened him with one punch."
"Not if Mr. Cartwright had a knife," responded Pearson.
"It was Craig who had the knife, and it was Craig who stabbed Bernie."
"How can you be so sure, Miss Wilson, when you didn't witness the stabbing?"
"Because Bernie told me that's what happened."
"Are you sure it was Bernie who told you, and not Danny?"
"Yes, I am."
"You'll forgive the cliché, Miss Wilson, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it."
"I am, because it's the truth," said Beth.
"Is it also true that you feared your brother was dying, Miss Wilson?"
"Yes, he was losing so much blood I didn't think he could survive," replied Beth as she began sobbing.
"Then why don't you call for an ambulance, Miss Wilson?" This had always puzzled Alex, and he wondered how she would respond. She didn't, which allowed Pearson to add, "After all, your brother had been stabbed again and again, to quote you."
"I didn't have a phone!" she blurted.
"But your fiancé did," Pearson reminded her, "because he had called your brother earlier, inviting him to join you both at the pub."
"But an ambulance arrived a few minutes later," replied Beth.
"And we all know who phoned the emergency services, don't we, Miss Wilson," said Pearson, staring at the jury.
Beth bowed her head.
"Miss Wilson, allow me to remind you of some of the other half-truths you told my learned friend." Beth pursed her lips. "You said, 'I knew we were going to be married the first day I met him.' "
"Yes, that's what I said and that's what I meant," said Beth defiantly.
Pearson looked down at his notes. "You also said that in your opinion Mr. Davenport 'wasn't as good-looking as' Mr. Cartwright."
"And he isn't," said Beth.
"And that if anything went wrong, 'he always had me to back up his story.' "
"Yes, he did."
"Whatever that story was."
"I didn't say that," protested Beth.
"No, I did," said Pearson. "Because I suggest you'd say anything to protect your husband."
"But he isn't my husband."
"But he will be, if he is acquitted."
"Yes, he will."
"How long has it been since the night your brother was murdered?"
"Just over six months."
"And how often have you seen Mr. Cartwright during that period?"
"I've visited him every Sunday afternoon," said Beth proudly.
"How long do those visits last?"
"About two hours."
Pearson looked up at the ceiling. "So you've spent roughly," he calculated, "fifty hours together during the past six months."
"I've never thought of it that way," said Beth.
"But now you have, wouldn't you agree that would it be quite long enough for the two of you to go over your story again and again, making sure that it was word-perfect by the time you appeared in court."
"No, that's not true."
"Miss Wilson, when you visited Mr. Cartwright in prison"-he paused-"for fifty hours, did you ever discuss this case?"
Beth hesitated. "I suppose we must have."
"Of course you did," said Pearson. "Because if you didn't, perhaps you can explain how you recall every detail of what happened that night, and every sentence delivered by anyone involved, while you can't remember what you had for breakfast this morning."
"Of course I remember what happened on the night my brother was murdered, Mr. Pearson. How could I ever forget? In any case, Craig and his friends would have had even more time to prepare their stories because they had no visiting hours or any restrictions on when or where they could meet."
"Bravo," said Alex, loud enough for Pearson to hear.
"Let us return to the alley and test your memory one more time, Miss Wilson," said Pearson, quickly changing the subject. "Mr. Craig and Mr. Payne, having arrived in the alley in under a minute, began walking towards your brother, and without any provocation started a fight."
"Yes, they did," said Beth.
"With two men they'd never seen before that night."
"And when things began to go badly, Mr. Craig pulls a knife out of thin air and stabs your brother in the chest."
"It wasn't out of thin air. He must have picked it up from the bar."
"So it wasn't Danny who picked up the knife from the bar?"
"No, I would have seen it, if it had been Danny."
"But you didn't see Mr. Craig pick up the knife from the bar?"
"No, I didn't."
"But you did see him, one minute later, standing at the other end of the alley."
"Yes, I did."
"Did he have a knife in his hand at that time?" Pearson leaned back and waited for Beth to reply.
"I don't remember."
"Then perhaps you can remember who had the knife in his hand when you ran back to join your brother."
"Yes, it was Danny, but he explained that he had to get hold of it when Craig was stabbing my brother."
"But you didn't witness that either."
"No, I didn't."
"And your fiancé was covered in blood?"
"Of course he was," said Beth. "Danny was holding my brother in his arms."
"So if it was Mr. Craig who stabbed your brother, he must also have been covered in blood."
"How could I know? He'd disappeared by then."
"Into thin air?" said Pearson. "So how do you explain that when the police arrived a few minutes later, Mr. Craig was sitting at the bar, waiting for the detective, and there was not a sign of blood anywhere." This time Beth didn't have a reply. "And may I remind you," continued Pearson, "who it was that called for the police in the first place? Not you, Miss Wilson, but Mr. Craig. A strange thing to do moments after you've stabbed someone, and your clothes are covered in blood." He paused to allow the image to settle in the jury's mind, and waited for some time before he asked his next question.
"Miss Wilson, was this the first time your fiancé had been involved in a knife fight and you had come to his rescue?"
"What are you getting at?" said Beth.
Redmayne stared at Beth, wondering if there was something she hadn't told him.
"Perhaps the time has come to test your remarkable memory once again," said Pearson.
The judge, the jury and Redmayne were now all staring at Pearson, who didn't seem to be in any hurry to reveal his trump card.
"Miss Wilson, do you by any chance recall what took place in the playground of the Clement Attlee Comprehensive School on February twelfth 1986?"
"But that's nearly fifteen years ago," protested Beth.
"Indeed it is, but I think it's unlikely that you would forget a day when the man you always knew you were going to marry ended up on the front page of your local paper." Pearson leaned back and his junior passed him a photocopy of the Bethnal Green and Bow Gazette, dated February 13, 1986. He asked the usher to hand a copy to the witness.
"Do you also have copies for the jury?" asked Mr. Justice Sackville, as he peered over his half-moon spectacles at Pearson.
"I do indeed, m'lord," Pearson replied as his junior passed across a large bundle to the court usher, who in turn handed one up to the judge before distributing a dozen copies to the jury and giving the final one to Danny, who shook his head. Pearson looked surprised, and even wondered if Cartwright couldn't read. Something he'd follow up once he had him in the witness box.
"As you see, Miss Wilson, this is a copy of the Bethnal Green and Bow Gazette, in which there is a report of a knife fight that took place in the playground of Clement Attlee Comprehensive on February twelfth 1986, after which Daniel Cartwright was questioned by the police."
"He was only trying to help," said Beth.
"Getting to be a bit of a habit, isn't it?" suggested Pearson.
"What do you mean?" demanded Beth.
"Mr. Cartwright being involved in a knife fight, and then you saying he was 'only trying to help.' "
"But the other boy ended up in Borstal."
"And no doubt you hope that in this case it will be the other man who ends up in prison, rather than the person you are hoping to marry?"
"Yes, I do."
"I'm glad we have at least established that," said Pearson. "Perhaps you would be kind enough to read out to the court the third paragraph on the front page of the newspaper, the one that begins, 'Beth Wilson later told the police… '"
Beth looked down at the paper. "Beth Wilson later told the police that Danny Cartwright had not been involved in the fight, but came to the aid of a classmate and probably saved his life."
"Would you agree that that also sounds a little familiar, Miss Wilson?"
"But Danny wasn't involved in the fight."
"Then why was he expelled from the school?"
"He wasn't. He was sent home while an inquiry was carried out."
"In the course of which you gave a statement which cleared his name, and resulted in another boy being sent to Borstal." Beth once again lowered her head. "Let's return to the latest knife fight, when once again you were so conveniently on hand to come to your would-be boyfriend's rescue. Is it true," said Pearson, before Beth could respond, "that Cartwright was hoping to become the manager of Wilson 's garage when your father retired?"
"Yes, my dad had already told Danny that he was being lined up for the job."
"But didn't you later discover that your father had changed his mind and told Cartwright that he intended to put your brother in charge of the garage?"
"Yes, I did," said Beth, "but Bernie never wanted the job in the first place. He always accepted that Danny was the natural leader."
"Possibly, but as it was the family business, wouldn't it have been understandable for your brother to feel resentful at being passed over?"
"No, Bernie never wanted to be in charge of anything."
"Then why did your brother say that night: 'And if you think I'm going to call you guv if you take over from my old man, you can forget it'?"
"He didn't say if, Mr. Pearson, he said when. There's a world of difference."
Alex Redmayne smiled.
"Sadly, we only have your word for that, Miss Wilson, while there are three other witnesses who tell a completely different story."
"They're all lying," said Beth, her voice rising.
"And you're the only one who's telling the truth," responded Pearson.
"Yes, I am."
"Who does your father believe is telling the truth?" asked Pearson, suddenly changing tack.
"M'lord," said Alex Redmayne, jumping to his feet, "such evidence would not only be hearsay but also can have no bearing on the case."
"I agree with my learned friend," replied Pearson before the judge could respond. "But as Miss Wilson and her father live in the same house, I felt that perhaps the witness might at some time have been made aware of her father's feelings on the subject."
"That may well be the case," said Mr. Justice Sackville, "but it is still hearsay and I therefore rule it to be inadmissible." He turned to Beth and said, "Miss Wilson, you don't have to answer that question."
Beth looked up at the judge. "My father doesn't believe me," she said in between sobs. "He's still convinced Danny killed my brother."
Suddenly everyone in the court seemed to be chattering. The judge had to call for order several times before Pearson could resume.
"Do you want to add anything else that might assist the jury, Miss Wilson?" asked Pearson hopefully.
"Yes," replied Beth. "My father wasn't there. I was."
"And so was your fiancé," interjected Pearson. "I suggest that what started out as just another in a long line of quarrels ended in tragedy when Cartwright fatally stabbed your brother."
"It was Craig who stabbed my brother."
"While you were at the other end of the alley, trying to hail a taxi."
"Yes, that's right," said Beth.
"And when the police arrived, they found Cartwright's clothes were covered in blood, and the only fingerprints they could identify on the knife were your fiancé's?"
"I have already explained how that happened," said Beth.
"Then perhaps you can also explain why, when the police interviewed Mr. Craig a few minutes later, there was not a single drop of blood on his spotless suit, shirt or tie."
"He would've had at least twenty minutes to run home and get changed," said Beth.
"Even thirty," added Redmayne.
"So you endorse the Superman theory, do you?" said Pearson.
"And he admitted he was in the alley," added Beth, ignoring the comment.
"Yes, he did, Miss Wilson, but only after he'd heard you scream, when he left his friends in the bar to find out if you were in any danger."
"No, he was already in the alley when Bernie was stabbed."
"But stabbed by whom?" asked Pearson.
"Craig, Craig, Craig!" shouted Beth. "How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Who managed to reach the alley in less than a minute? And then somehow found time to phone the police, return to the bar, ask his companions to leave, go home, change out of his blood-covered clothes, shower, return to the bar and still be sitting around waiting for the police to arrive? He was then able to give a coherent account of exactly what took place, one which every witness who was in the bar that night was later able to verify?"
"But they weren't telling the truth," said Beth.
"I see," said Pearson. "So all the other witnesses were willing to lie under oath."
"Yes, they were all protecting him."
"And you're not protecting your fiancé?"
"No, I'm telling the truth."
"The truth as you see it," said Pearson, "because you didn't actually witness what took place."
"I didn't need to," said Beth, "because Bernie told me exactly what happened."
"Are you sure it was Bernie, and not Danny?"
"No, it was Bernie," she repeated.
"Just before he died?"
"Yes!" shouted Beth.
"How convenient," said Pearson.
"And once Danny is in the witness box, he'll confirm my story."
"After seeing each other every Sunday for the past six months, Miss Wilson, I have no doubt he will," said Pearson. "No more questions, m'lord."
"WHAT DID YOU have for breakfast this morning?" said Alex.
"Not that hoary old chestnut," said his father, his voice booming down the phone.
"What's so funny?"
"I should have warned you. Pearson has only two openings when it comes to cross-examining a defense witness; as a young barrister he worked out that only the judge will have heard them before, but to any unsuspecting witness, not to mention a jury, they will always come as a complete surprise."
"And what's the other one?" asked Alex.
"What's the name of the street when you come out second on the left of your front door to go to work in the morning? Few witnesses manage to answer that one correctly, as I know to my cost. And I suspect that Pearson walks the streets around the defendant's home on the evening before he opens a cross-examination. I bet you'd find him prowling around the East End right now."
Alex sank back in his chair. "Well, you did warn me not to underestimate the man."
"Sir Matthew didn't reply immediately, when he did eventually speak, he raised a subject Alex hadn't even considered. "Are you going to put Cartwright in the witness box?"
"Of course," said Alex. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Because it's the one element of surprise you have left. Pearson will be expecting Cartwright to be in the witness box for the rest of the week, but if you were to close your case tomorrow morning without any warning, he'd be on the back foot. He's assuming that he'll be cross-examining Cartwright some time towards the end of the week, perhaps even next week, not to be asked to sum up for the prosecution first thing tomorrow."
"But if Cartwright doesn't give evidence, surely the jury will assume the worst."
"The law is quite clear on that point," replied Alex's father. "The judge will spell out that it is the prerogative of the defendant to decide if he wishes to enter the witness box, and that the jury should not jump to conclusions based on that decision."
"But they invariably do, as you've warned me so many times in the past."
"Perhaps, but one or two of the jury will have noticed that he wasn't able to read that article in the Bethnal Green and Bow Gazette and assume you've advised him not to face Pearson, especially after the grilling he gave his fiancée."
"Cartwright is every bit as bright as Pearson," said Alex. "He just isn't as well educated."
"But you mentioned that he has a short fuse."
"Only when someone attacks Beth."
"Then you can be sure that once Cartwright's in the witness box, Pearson will go on attacking Beth until he lights that fuse."
"But Cartwright doesn't have a criminal record, he's been in work since the day he left school, and he was about to get married to his long-term girlfriend who just happens to be pregnant."
"So now we know four subjects Pearson won't mention in cross-examination. But you can be sure he'll question Cartwright about the playground incident in his youth, continually reminding the jury that a knife was involved, and that his girlfriend conveniently came to his rescue."
"Well, if that's my only problem-" began Alex.
"It won't be, I can promise you," replied his father, "because now that Pearson has raised the knife fight in the playground with Beth Wilson, you can be pretty confident that he has one or two other surprises in store for Danny Cartwright."
"I've no idea," said Sir Matthew, "but if you put him in the witness box, no doubt you'll find out." Alex frowned as he considered his father's words. "Something's worrying you," said the judge when Alex did not reply.
"Pearson knows that Beth's father told Cartwright he had changed his mind about appointing him as manager of the garage."
"And intended to offer the job to his son instead?"
"Yes," said Alex.
"Not helpful when it comes to motive."
"True, but perhaps I've also got one or two surprises for Pearson to worry about," said Alex.
"Craig stabbed Danny in the leg, and he's got the scar to prove it."
"Pearson will say it's an old wound."
"But we have a doctor's report to show it isn't."
"Pearson will blame it on Bernie Wilson."
"So you are advising me not to put Cartwright in the box?"
"Not an easy question to answer, my boy, because I wasn't in court, so I don't know how the jury responded to Beth Wilson's testimony."
Alex was silent for a few moments. "One or two of them appeared sympathetic, and she certainly came across as an honest person. But then, they might well conclude that, even if she is telling the truth, she didn't see what happened and is taking Cartwright's word for it."
"Well, you only need three jurors to be convinced that she was telling the truth, and you could end up with a hung jury and at worst a retrial. And if that turned out to be the result, the CPS might even feel that another trial was not in the public interest."
"I should have spent more time pressing Craig on the time discrepancy, shouldn't I?" said Alex, hoping his father would disagree.
"Too late to worry about that," responded his father. "Your most important decision now is whether you should put Cartwright in the witness box."
"I agree, but if I make the wrong decision, Danny could end up in prison for the next twenty years."
ALEX ARRIVED AT the Old Bailey only moments after the night porter had unlocked the front door. Following a long consultation with Danny in the cells below, he went to the robing room and changed into his legal garb, before making his way across to court number four. He entered the empty courtroom, took his seat on the end of the bench and placed three files marked Cartwright on the table in front of him. He opened the first file and began to go over the seven questions he'd written out so neatly the night before. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was 9:35 A.M.
At ten minutes to the hour, Arnold Pearson and his junior strolled in and took their places at the other end of the bench. They didn't interrupt Alex as he appeared to be preoccupied.
Danny Cartwright was the next to appear, accompanied by two policemen. He sat on a wooden chair in the center of the dock and waited for the judge to make his entrance.
On the stroke of ten, the door at the back of the court opened and Mr. Justice Sackville entered his domain. Everyone in the well of the court rose and bowed. The judge returned the compliment, before taking his place in the center chair. "Bring in the jury," he said. While he waited for them to appear, he put on his half-moon spectacles, opened the cover of a fresh notebook and removed the top from his fountain pen. He wrote down the words: Daniel Cartwright examination by Mr. Redmayne.
Once the jury members were settled in their places, the judge turned his attention to defense counsel. "Are you ready to call your next witness, Mr. Redmayne?" he asked.
Alex rose from his place, poured himself a glass of water and took a sip. He glanced toward Danny and smiled. He then looked down at the questions in front of him before turning the page to reveal a blank sheet of paper. He smiled back up at the judge and said, "I have no further witnesses, m'lord."
An anxious look crossed Pearson's face. He swung quickly around to consult his junior, who appeared equally bemused. Alex savored the moment, while he waited for the whispering to die down. The judge smiled down at Redmayne, who thought for a moment he might even wink.
Once Alex had milked every moment he felt he could get away with, he said, "My lord, that concludes the case for the defense."
Mr. Justice Sackville looked across at Pearson, who now resembled a startled rabbit caught in the headlamps of an advancing lorry.
"Mr. Pearson," he said as if nothing untoward had taken place, "you may begin your closing speech for the Crown."
Pearson rose slowly from his place. "I wonder, m'lord," he spluttered, "given these unusual circumstances, if your lordship would allow me a little more time to prepare my closing remarks. May I suggest that we adjourn proceedings until this afternoon in order that-"
"No, Mr. Pearson," interrupted the judge, "I will not adjourn proceedings. No one knows better than you that it is a defendant's right to choose not to give evidence. The jury and the court officials are all in place, and I need not remind you how crowded the court calendar is. Please proceed with your closing remarks."
Pearson's junior extracted a file from the bottom of the pile and passed it across to his leader. Pearson opened it, aware that he had barely glanced at its contents during the past few days.
He stared down at the first page. "Members of the jury…" he began slowly. It soon became evident that Pearson was a man who relied on being well prepared, and that thinking on his feet was not his strong suit. He stumbled from paragraph to paragraph as he read from his script, until even his junior began to look exasperated.
Alex sat silently at the other end of the bench, concentrating his attention on the jury. Even the ones who were usually fully alert looked bored; one or two occasionally stifling a yawn as their glazed eyes blinked open and closed. By the time Pearson came to the last page, two hours later, even Alex was dozing off.
When Pearson finally slumped back onto the bench, Mr. Justice Sackville suggested that perhaps this might be a convenient time to take the lunch break. Once the judge had left the court, Alex glanced across at Pearson, who could barely disguise his anger. He was only too aware that he had given an out-of-town matinee performance to an opening-night audience in the West End.
Alex grabbed one of his thick files and hurried out of the courtroom. He ran down the corridor and up the stone steps to a small room on the second floor that he had booked earlier that morning. Inside were just a table and chair, not even a print on the wall. Alex opened his file and began to go over his summing-up. Key sentences were rehearsed again and again, until he was confident that the salient points would remain lodged in the jury's mind.
As Alex had spent most of the night, as well as the early hours of the morning, crafting and honing each and every phrase, he felt well prepared by the time he returned to court number four an hour and a half later. He was back in his place only moments before the judge reappeared. Once the court had settled, Mr. Justice Sackville asked if he was ready to make his closing submission.
"I am indeed, m'lord," Alex replied, and poured himself another glass of water. He opened his file, looked up and took a sip.
"Members of the jury," he began, "you have now heard… "
Alex did not take as long as Mr. Pearson to present his closing argument, but then, for him it was not a dress rehearsal. He had no way of knowing how his most important points were playing with the jury, but at least none of them was nodding off, and several were making notes. When Alex sat down an hour and a half later, he felt he could reply yes should his father ask if he had served his client to the best of his ability.
"Thank you, Mr. Redmayne," said the judge, who then turned to the jury. "I think that will be enough for today," he said. Pearson checked his watch. It was only three-thirty. He had assumed the judge would spend at least an hour addressing the jury before they rose for the day, but it was clear that he, too, had been taken by surprise with Alex Redmayne's morning ambush.
The judge rose from his place, bowed and left the courtroom without another word. Alex turned to chat with his opposite number as an usher handed Pearson a slip of paper. After Pearson had read it, he jumped up and hurried out of the courtroom, followed closely by his junior. Alex turned to smile at the defendant in the dock, but Danny Cartwright had already been escorted back down the stairwell to be locked in the cells below. Alex couldn't help wondering which door his client would leave by tomorrow. But then he had no idea why Pearson had left the courtroom in such a hurry.
MR. PEARSON'S CLERK phoned Mr. Justice Sackville's clerk at one minute past nine the following morning. Mr. Justice Sackville's clerk said he would pass on Mr. Pearson's request and come straight back to him. A few minutes later, Mr. Justice Sackville's clerk phoned back to inform Mr. Pearson's clerk that the judge would be happy to see Mr. Pearson in chambers at 9:30, and he assumed, given the circumstances, that Mr. Redmayne would also need to be present.
"He'll be my next call, Bill," replied Mr. Pearson's clerk, before putting the phone down.
Mr. Pearson's clerk then called Mr. Redmayne's clerk and asked if Mr. Redmayne would be free at 9:30 to see the judge in chambers to discuss a matter of the utmost urgency.
"So what's this all about, Jim?" Mr. Redmayne's clerk asked.
"No idea, Ted. Pearson never confides in me."
Mr. Redmayne's clerk called Mr. Redmayne on his mobile and caught him just as he was about to disappear below ground into Pimlico tube station.
"Did Pearson give any reason why he wants a meeting with the judge?" asked Alex.
"He never does, Mr. Redmayne," replied Ted.
Alex knocked quietly on the door before entering Mr. Justice Sackville's chambers. He found Pearson lounging in a comfortable chair chatting to the judge about his roses. Mr. Justice Sackville would never have considered broaching the relevant subject until both counsel were present.
"Good morning, Alex," said the judge, waving him to an old leather armchair next to Pearson.
"Good morning, judge," replied Alex.
"As we are due to sit in less than thirty minutes," said the judge, "perhaps, Arnold, you could brief us on why you requested this meeting."
"Certainly, Judge," said Pearson. "At the request of the CPS, I attended a meeting at their offices yesterday evening." Alex held his breath. "After a lengthy discussion with my masters, I can report that they are willing to consider a change of plea in this case."
Alex tried not to show any reaction, although he wanted to leap up and punch the air, but this was judge's chambers, and not the terraces at Upton Park.
"What do they have in mind?" asked the judge, turning his attention to Redmayne.
"They felt that if Cartwright was able to plead guilty to manslaughter…"
"How do you feel your client might respond to such an offer?" asked the judge.
"I have no idea," admitted Alex. "He's an intelligent man, but he's also as stubborn as a mule. He's stuck rigidly to the same story for the past six months and has never once stopped protesting his innocence."
"Despite that, are you of a mind to advise him to accept the CPS's offer?" asked Pearson.
Alex was silent for some time before he said, "Yes, but how does the CPS suggest I dress it up?"
Pearson frowned at Redmayne's choice of phrase. "If your client were to admit that he and Wilson did go into the alley for the purpose of sorting out their differences…"
"And a knife ended up in Wilson 's chest?" asked the judge, trying not to sound too cynical.
"Self-defense, mitigating circumstances-I'll leave Redmayne to fill in the details. That's hardly my responsibility."
The judge nodded. "I will instruct my clerk to inform the court officials and the jury that I do not intend to sit"-he glanced at his watch-"until eleven A.M. Alex, will that give you enough time to instruct your client and then return to my chambers with his decision?"
"Yes, I feel sure that will be quite enough time," replied Alex.
"If the man's guilty," said Pearson, "you'll be back in two minutes."
AS ALEX REDMAYNE left the judge a few moments later and made his way slowly across to the other side of the building, he tried to marshal his thoughts. Within two hundred paces, he exchanged the peaceful serenity of a judge's chambers for cold bleak cells only occupied by prisoners.
He came to a halt at the heavy black door that blocked his way to the cells below. He knocked twice before it was opened by a silent policeman who accompanied him down a narrow flight of stone steps to a yellow corridor known by the old lags as the yellow brick road. By the time they reached cell number 17, Alex felt he was well prepared, although he still had no idea how Danny would react to the offer. The officer selected a key from a large ring and unlocked the cell door.
"Do you require an officer to be present during the interview?" he asked politely.
"That won't be necessary," Alex replied.
The officer pulled open the two-inch-thick steel door. "Do you want the door left open or closed, sir?"
"Closed," replied Alex as he walked into a tiny cell that boasted two plastic chairs and a small formica table in the middle of the room, graffiti the only decoration on the walls.
Danny rose as Alex entered the room. "Good morning, Mr. Redmayne," he said.
"Good morning, Danny," replied Alex, taking the seat opposite him.
He knew it would be pointless to ask his client once again to call him by his first name. Alex opened a file that contained a single sheet of paper. "I have some good news," he declared. "Or at least, I hope you'll feel it's good news." Danny showed no emotion. He rarely spoke unless he had something worthwhile to say. "If you felt able to change your plea to one of guilty of manslaughter," continued Alex, "I think the judge would only sentence you to five years, and as you've already served six months, with good behavior you could be out in a couple of years."
Danny stared across the table at Alex, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Tell 'im to fuck off."
Alex was almost as shocked by Danny's language as he was by his instant decision. He'd never heard his client swear once during the past six months.
"But, Danny, please give the offer a little more consideration," pleaded Alex. "If the jury finds you guilty of murder you could end up serving a life sentence, with a tariff of twenty years, perhaps more. That would mean you wouldn't be released from prison until you're nearly fifty. But if you accept their offer, you could begin your life with Beth in two years' time."
"What kind of life?" asked Danny coldly. "One where everyone thinks I murdered my best mate and got away with it? No, Mr. Redmayne. I didn't kill Bernie, and if it takes me twenty years to prove it… "
"But, Danny, why risk the whims of a jury when you can so easily accept this compromise?"
"I don't know what the word compromise means, Mr. Redmayne, but I do know that I'm innocent and once the jury 'ears about this offer-"
"They'll never hear about it, Danny. If you turn the offer down, they won't be told why proceedings are being held up this morning, and the judge will make no reference to it in his summing up. The trial will just continue as if nothing has happened."
"So be it," said Danny.
"Perhaps you'd like a little more time to think about it," said Alex, refusing to give up. "You could talk to Beth. Or your parents. I'm sure I could get the judge to hold things up until tomorrow morning, which would at least give you time to reconsider your position."
" 'Ave you thought about what you're asking me to do?" said Danny.
"I'm not sure I understand," said Alex.
"If I admit to manslaughter that would mean that everything Beth said while she was in the witness box was a lie. She didn't lie, Mr. Redmayne. She told the jury exactly what 'appened that night."
"Danny, you could spend the next twenty years regretting this decision."
"I could spend the next twenty years living a lie, and if it takes me that long to prove I'm innocent, that 'as to be better than the world believing I killed my best mate."
"But the world would quickly forget."
"I wouldn't," said Danny, "and neither would my mates in the East End."
Alex would like to have given it one last go, but he knew it was pointless to try to change the mind of this proud man. He rose wearily from his place. "I'll let them know your decision," he said before banging his fist on the cell door.
A key turned in the lock and moments later the heavy steel door was pulled open.
"Mr. Redmayne," said Danny quietly. Alex turned to face his client. "You're a diamond, and I'm proud to 'ave been represented by you and not that Mr. Pearson."
The door was slammed shut.
NEVER BECOME EMOTIONALLY involved in a case, his father had often warned him. Although Alex hadn't slept the previous night, he still paid rapt attention to every word the judge had to say in his four-hour summing-up.
Mr. Justice Sackville's summary was masterful. He first went over any points of law as they applied to the case. He then proceeded to help the jury sift through the evidence, point by point, trying to make the case coherent, logical and easy for them to follow. He never once exaggerated or showed any bias, only offering a balanced view for the seven men and five women to consider.
He suggested they should take seriously the testimony of three witnesses who had stated unequivocally that only Mr. Craig had left the bar to go out into the alley, and only then after he'd heard a woman scream. Craig had stated on oath that he had seen the defendant stab Wilson several times, and had then immediately returned to the bar and called the police.
Miss Wilson, on the other hand, told a different story, claiming that it was Mr. Craig who had drawn her companions into a fight, and it was he who must have stabbed Wilson. However, she did not witness the murder, but explained it was her brother who told her what had happened before he died. If you accept this version of events, the judge said, you might ask yourselves why Mr. Craig contacted the police, and perhaps more important, when DS Fuller interviewed him in the bar some twenty minutes later, why there was no sign of blood on any of the clothes he was wearing.
Alex cursed under his breath.
"Members of the jury," Mr. Justice Sackville continued, "there is nothing in Miss Wilson's past to suggest that she is other than an honest and decent citizen. However, you may feel that her evidence is somewhat colored by her devotion and long-held loyalty to Cartwright, whom she intends to marry should he be found not guilty. But that must not influence you in your decision. You must put aside any natural sympathy you might feel because Miss Wilson is pregnant. Your responsibility is to weigh up the evidence in this case and ignore any irrelevant side issues."
The judge went on to emphasize that Cartwright had no previous criminal record, and that for the past eleven years he had been employed by the same company. He warned the jury not to read too much into the fact that Cartwright had not given evidence. That was his prerogative, he explained, although the jury might be puzzled by the decision, if he had nothing to hide.
Again, Alex cursed his inexperience. What had been an advantage when he took Pearson by surprise, and had even caused the CPS to come up with their offer to accept a guilty plea to a lesser charge, might now be working against him.
The judge ended his summing-up by advising the jury to take their time. After all, he emphasized, a man's future was in the balance. However, they should not forget that another man had lost his life, and if Danny Cartwright did not kill Bernie Wilson, they might well ask, who else could possibly have committed the crime?
At twelve minutes past two, the jury filed out of the court to begin their deliberations. For the next two hours, Alex tried not to remonstrate with himself for having failed to put Danny in the witness box. Did Pearson, as his father had suggested, really have other damning material that would have taken them both by surprise? Would Danny have been able to convince the jury that he didn't murder his closest friend? Pointless questions that Alex nevertheless continued to mull over as he waited for the jury to return.
It was just after five o'clock when the seven men and five women returned to the court and took their places in the jury box. Alex couldn't interpret the blank looks on their faces. Mr. Justice Sackville looked down from the bench and asked, "Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?"
The foreman rose from his new place at the end of the front row. "No, m'lord," he responded, reading from a prepared script. "We are still sifting through the evidence, and will need more time before we can come to a decision."
The judge nodded, and thanked the jury for their diligence. "I'm going to send you home now, so that you can rest before you continue your deliberations tomorrow morning. But be aware," he added, "that once you leave this courtroom, you should not discuss the case with anyone, including your families."
Alex returned home to his little flat in Pimlico and spent a second sleepless night.
ALEX WAS BACK in court and seated in his place by five minutes to ten the following morning. Pearson greeted him with a warm smile. Had the old codger forgiven him for his ambush, or was he simply confident of the outcome? As the two of them waited for the jury to return, they chatted about roses, cricket, even who was most likely to be the first Mayor of London, but never once referred to the proceedings that had occupied every waking minute for the past two weeks.
The minutes turned into hours. As there was no sign of the jury returning by one o'clock, the judge released everyone for an hour's lunch break. While Pearson went off for a meal in the Bar Mess on the top floor, Alex spent his time pacing up and down the corridor outside court number four. Juries in a murder trial rarely take less than four hours to reach a verdict, his father had told him over the phone that morning, for fear that it might be suggested that they had not taken their responsibilities seriously.
At eight minutes past four, the jury filed back into their places and this time Alex noted that their expressions had changed from blank to bemused. Mr. Justice Sackville had no choice but to send them home for a second night.
The following morning, Alex had only been pacing up and down the marble corridors for just over an hour before an usher emerged from the courtroom and shouted, "The jury are returning to court number four."
Once again, the foreman read from a prepared statement. "My lord," he began, his eyes never rising from the sheet of paper he was holding, his hand trembling slightly. "Despite many hours of deliberation, we are unable to come to a unanimous decision and wish to seek your guidance on how we should proceed."
"I sympathize with your problem," responded the judge, "but I must ask you to try one more time to reach a unanimous decision. I am loath to call a retrial only for the court to be put through the whole procedure a second time."
Alex bowed his head. He would have settled for a retrial. If they gave him a second chance, he wasn't in any doubt that… The jury filed back out without another word and didn't reappear again that morning.
Alex sat alone in a corner of the restaurant on the third floor. He allowed his soup to go cold, and shifted his salad around the plate, before he returned to the corridor and continued his ritual pacing.
At twelve minutes past three, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. "All those involved in the Cartwright case, please make their way back in to court number four, as the jury is returning."
Alex joined a stream of interested parties as they walked quickly down the corridor and filed back into the courtroom. Once they were settled, the judge reappeared and instructed the usher to summon the jury. As they entered the court, Alex couldn't help noticing that one or two of them looked distressed.
The judge leaned forward and asked the foreman, "Have you been able to reach a unanimous verdict?"
"No, m'lord," came back the immediate reply.
"Do you think that you might reach a unanimous verdict if I were to allow you a little more time?"
"Would it help if I were to consider a majority verdict, and by that I mean one where at least ten of you are in agreement?"
"That might solve the problem, m'lord," the foreman replied.
"Then I'll ask you to reconvene and see if you can finally come to a verdict." The judge nodded to the usher, who led the jury back out of court.
Alex was about to rise and continue his perambulations, when Pearson leaned across and said, "Stay still, dear boy. I have a feeling they'll be back shortly." Alex settled down on his corner of the bench.
Just as Pearson had predicted, the jury were back in their places a few minutes later. Alex turned to Pearson, but before he could speak, the elderly QC said, "Don't even ask, dear boy. I've never been able to fathom the machinations of a jury despite almost thirty years at the Bar." Alex was shaking as the usher stood and said, "Would the foreman please rise."
"Have you reached a verdict?" the judge asked.
"We have, m'lord," replied the foreman.
"And is it a majority of you?"
"Yes, m'lord, a majority of ten to two."
The judge nodded in the direction of the usher, who bowed. "Members of the jury," he said, "do you find the prisoner at the bar, Daniel Arthur Cartwright, guilty or not guilty of murder?" What seemed like an eternity to Alex before the foreman responded was in fact no more than a few seconds.
"Guilty," the foreman pronounced.
A gasp went up around the court. Alex's first reaction was to turn and look at Danny. He showed no sign of emotion. Above him in the public gallery came cries of "No!" and the sound of sobbing.
Once the courtroom had come to order, the judge delivered a long preamble before passing sentence. The only words that would remain indelibly fixed in Alex's mind were twenty-two years.
His father had told him never to allow a verdict to affect him. After all, only one defendant in a hundred was wrongly convicted.
Alex was in no doubt that Danny Cartwright was one in a hundred.
BOOK TWO. Prison
"WELCOME BACK, CARTWRIGHT." Danny glanced at the officer seated behind the desk in reception, but didn't respond. The man looked down at the charge sheet. "Twenty-two years," Mr. Jenkins said with a sigh. He paused. "I know how you must feel, because that's just about the length of time I've been in the service." Danny had always thought of Mr. Jenkins as old. Is that how I'll look in twenty-two years, he wondered. "I'm sorry, lad," the officer said-not a sentiment he often expressed.
"Thanks, Mr. Jenkins," Danny said quietly.
"Now you're no longer on remand," said Jenkins, "you're not entitled to a single cell." He opened a file, which he studied for some time. Nothing moves quickly in prison. He ran his finger down a long column of names, stopping at an empty box. "I'm going to put you in block three, cell number one-two-nine." He checked the names of the present occupants. "They should make interesting company," he added without explanation, before nodding to the young officer standing behind him.
"Look sharp, Cartwright, and follow me," said the officer Danny had never seen before.
Danny followed the officer down a long brick corridor that was painted in a shade of mauve no other establishment would have considered purchasing in bulk. They came to a halt at a double-barred gate. The officer selected a large key from the chain that hung around his waist, unlocked the first gate and ushered Danny through. He joined him before locking them both in, then unlocking the second gate. They now stepped into a corridor whose walls were painted green-a sign that they had reached a secure area. Everything in prison is color-coded.
The officer accompanied Danny until they reached a second doublebarred gate. This process was repeated four more times before Danny arrived at block three. It wasn't hard to see why no one had ever escaped from Belmarsh. The color of the walls had turned from mauve to green to blue by the time Danny's keeper handed him over to a unit officer who wore the same blue uniform, the same white shirt, the same black tie, and had the inevitable shaven head to prove that he was just as hard as any of the inmates.
"Right, Cartwright," said his new minder casually, "this is going to be your home for at least the next eight years, so you'd better settle down and get used to it. If you don't give us any trouble, we won't give you any. Understood?"
"Understood, guv," repeated Danny, using the title every con gives a screw whose name he doesn't know.
As Danny climbed the iron staircase to the first floor he didn't come across another inmate. They were all locked up-as they nearly always were, sometimes for twenty-two hours a day. The new officer checked Danny's name on the call sheet and chuckled when he saw which cell he had been allocated. "Mr. Jenkins obviously has a sense of humor," he said as they came to a halt outside cell number 129.
Yet another key was selected from yet another ring, this time one heavy enough to open the lock of a two-inch-thick iron door. Danny stepped inside, and the heavy door slammed shut behind him. He looked suspiciously at the two inmates who already occupied the cell.
A heavily built man was lying half-asleep on a single bed, facing the wall. He didn't even glance up at the new arrival. The other man was seated at the small table, writing. He put down his pen, rose from his place and thrust out a hand, which took Danny by surprise.
"Nick Moncrieff," he said, sounding more like an officer than an inmate. "Welcome to your new abode," he added with a smile.
"Danny Cartwright," Danny replied, shaking his hand. He looked across at the unoccupied bunk.
"As you're last in, you get the top bunk," said Moncrieff. "You'll have the bottom one in two years' time. By the way," he said, pointing to the giant who lay on the other bed, "that's Big Al." Danny's other cellmate looked a few years older than Nick. Big Al grunted, but still didn't bother to turn around to find out who'd joined them. "Big Al doesn't say a lot, but once you get to know him, he's just fine," said Moncrieff. "It took me about six months, but perhaps you'll be more successful."
Danny heard the key turning in the lock, and the heavy door was pulled open once again.
"Follow me, Cartwright," said a voice. Danny stepped back out of the cell and followed another officer he'd never seen before. Had the authorities already decided to put him in a different cell, he wondered, as the screw led him back down the iron staircase, along another corridor, and through a further set of double-barred gates before coming to a halt outside a door marked STORES. The officer gave a firm rap on the little double doors, and a moment later they were pulled open from the inside.
"CK4802 Cartwright," said the officer, checking his charge sheet.
"Strip off," said the stores manager. "You won't be wearing any of those clothes again"-he looked down at the charge sheet-"until 2022." He laughed at a joke he cracked about five times a day. Only the year changed.
Once Danny had stripped, he was handed two pairs of boxer shorts (red and white stripes), two shirts (blue and white stripes), one pair of jeans (blue), two T-shirts (white), one pullover (gray), one donkey jacket (black), two pairs of socks (gray), one pair of shorts (blue gym), two singlets (white gym), two sheets (nylon, green), one blanket (gray), one pillow case (green) and one pillow (circular, solid); the one item he was allowed to keep were his trainers-a prisoner's only opportunity to make a fashion statement.
The stores manager gathered up all of Danny's clothes and dropped them in a large plastic bag, filled in the name Cartwright CK4802 on a little tag, and sealed up the bag. He then handed Danny a smaller plastic bag which contained a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a plastic disposable razor, one flannel (green), one hand towel (green), one plastic plate (gray), one plastic knife, one plastic fork and one plastic spoon. He ticked several boxes on a green form before swiveling it around, pointing to a line with his forefinger and handing Danny a well-bitten biro that was attached to the desk by a chain. Danny scrawled an illegible squiggle.
"You report back to the stores every Thursday afternoon between three and five," said the stores manager, "when you'll be given a change of clothes. Any damage and you'll have the requisite sum deducted from your weekly wage. And I decide how much that will be," he added before slamming the doors closed.
Danny picked up the two plastic bags and followed the officer back down the corridor to his cell. He was locked up moments later, without a single word having passed between them. Big Al didn't seem to have stirred in his absence, and Nick was still seated at the tiny table, writing.
Danny climbed up onto the top bunk and lay flat on the lumpy mattress. While he'd been on remand for the past six months, he'd been allowed to wear his own clothes, roam around the ground floor chatting to his fellow inmates, watch television, play table tennis, even buy a Coke and sandwich from a vending machine-but no longer. Now he was a lifer, and for the first time, he was finding out what losing your freedom really meant.
Danny decided to make up his bed. He took his time, as he was beginning to discover just how many hours there are in each day, how many minutes in each hour and how many seconds in each minute when you're locked up in a cell twelve foot by eight, with two strangers to share your space-one of them large.
Once he'd made the bed, Danny climbed back onto it, settled down and stared up at the white ceiling. One of the few advantages of being on the top bunk is that your head is opposite the tiny barred window: the only proof that there is an outside world. Danny looked through the iron bars at the other three blocks that made up the spur, the exercise yard and several high walls topped with razor wire that stretched as far as the eye could see. Danny stared back up at the ceiling. His thoughts turned to Beth. He hadn't even been allowed to say goodbye to her.
Next week, and for the next thousand weeks, he'd be locked up in this hellhole. His only chance of escape was an appeal. Mr. Redmayne had warned him that that might not be heard for at least a year. The court lists were overcrowded, and the longer your sentence, the longer you had to wait before they got around to your appeal. Surely a year would be more than enough time for Mr. Redmayne to gather all the evidence he needed to prove that Danny was innocent?
Moments after Mr. Justice Sackville had passed sentence, Alex Redmayne left the courtroom and walked down a carpeted, wallpapered corridor that was littered with pictures of former judges. He knocked on the door of another judge's chambers, walked in, slumped on a comfortable chair in front of his father's desk and said simply, "Guilty."
Mr. Justice Redmayne walked across to the drinks cabinet. "You may as well get used to it," he said as he drew out the cork from the bottle he'd selected that morning, win or lose, "because I can tell you that since the abolition of capital punishment, far more prisoners charged with murder have been convicted, and almost without exception, the jury gets it right." He poured two glasses of wine and handed one to his son. "Will you continue to represent Cartwright when his case comes up for appeal?" he asked before taking a sip from his own glass.
"Yes, of course I will," said Alex, surprised by his father's question.
The old man frowned. "Then all I can say is good luck, because if Cartwright didn't do it, who did?"
"Spencer Craig," said Alex without hesitation.
AT FIVE O'CLOCK the heavy iron door was pulled open once again, accompanied by a raucous bellow of "Association!" from a man whose previous occupation could only have been as a Guards sergeant major.
For the next forty-five minutes all the prisoners were released from their cells. They were given two choices as to how they might spend their time. They could, as Big Al always did, go down to the spacious area on the ground floor. There he slumped in front of the television in a large leather chair that no other inmate would have considered occupying, while others played dominoes, with tobacco as the only stake. If, on the other hand, you were willing to brave the elements, you could venture out into the exercise yard.
Danny was thoroughly searched before he stepped out of the block into the yard. Belmarsh, like every other prison, was awash with drugs and dealers who would hurriedly ply their trade during the only time in the day that prisoners from all four blocks came into contact with each other. The system of payment was simple and accepted by all the addicts. If you wanted a fix-hash, cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin-you let the wing dealer know your requirements, and the name of the person on the outside who would settle up with his contact; once the money had changed hands, the goods would appear a day or two later. With a hundred remand prisoners being driven in and out of the jail to attend court every morning, there were a hundred different opportunities to bring the gear back in. Some were caught red-handed, which resulted in time being added to their sentence, but the financial rewards were so high that there were always enough donkeys who considered it a risk worth taking.
Danny had never shown any interest in drugs; he didn't even smoke. His boxing coach had warned him that he would never be allowed in the ring again if he were caught taking drugs.
He began to stride around the perimeter of the yard, a patch of grass about the size of a football pitch. He kept up a fast pace, as he knew that this would be his only chance of getting any exercise, other than a twice-weekly visit to an overcrowded gym during the day. He glanced up at the thirty-foot wall that circled the exercise yard. Although it was topped with razor wire, that didn't stop him thinking about escape. How else would he be able to seek revenge on the four bastards who were responsible for stealing his freedom?
He passed several other prisoners who were walking at a more leisurely pace. No one overtook him. He noticed a lone figure striding out in front of him who was keeping roughly the same speed. It was some time before he realized that it was Nick Moncrieff, his new cellmate, who was clearly as fit as he was. What could a guy like him have done to end up behind bars, Danny wondered. He recalled the old prison rule that you never ask another con what he's in for; always wait for him to volunteer the information himself.
Danny glanced to his right to see a small group of black prisoners lying bare-chested on the grass, sunbathing as if they were on a package holiday in Spain. He and Beth had spent a fortnight last summer in Weston-super-Mare, where they made love for the first time. Bernie had come along, too, and every evening he seemed to end up with a different girl, who had vanished by the light of day. Danny hadn't looked at another woman since the day he had seen Beth at the garage.
When Beth had told him she was pregnant, Danny had been surprised and delighted at the news. He'd even thought about suggesting going straight to the nearest register office and taking out a marriage license. But he knew Beth wouldn't hear of it, and neither would her mother. After all, they were both Roman Catholics, and therefore they must be married in St. Mary's, just as both of their parents had been. Father Michael would have expected nothing less.
For the first time, Danny wondered if he should offer to break off the engagement. After all, no girl could be expected to wait for twenty-two years. He decided not to make a decision until after his appeal had been heard.
Beth hadn't stopped crying since the foreman had delivered the jury's verdict. They didn't even allow her to kiss Danny goodbye before he was taken down to the cells by two officers. Her mother tried to comfort her on the way home, but her father said nothing.
"This nightmare will finally be over once the appeal is heard," her mother said.
"Don't count on it," said Mr. Wilson, as he swung the car into Bacon Road.
A klaxon proclaimed that the forty-five minutes set aside for Association was over. The prisoners were quickly herded back into their cells block by block.
Big Al was already slumbering on his bunk by the time Danny walked back into the cell. Nick followed a moment later, the door slamming behind him. It wouldn't be opened again until tea-another four hours.
Danny climbed back onto the top bunk, while Nick returned to the plastic chair behind the formica table. He was just about to start writing again, when Danny asked, "What are you scribblin'?"
"I keep a diary," replied Nick, "of everything that goes on while I'm in prison."
"Why would you want to be reminded of this dump?"
"It whiles away the time. And as I want to be a teacher when I'm released, it's important to keep my mind alert."
"Will they let you teach after you've done a stretch in 'ere?" asked Danny.
"You must have read about the teacher shortage?" said Nick with a grin.
"I don't read a lot," admitted Danny.
"Perhaps this is a good chance to start," said Nick, putting his pen down.
"Can't see the point," said Danny, " 'specially if I'm going to be banged up in 'ere for the next twenty-two years."
"But at least you'd be able to read your solicitor's letters, which would give you a better chance of preparing your defense when the case comes up for appeal."
" Ur yous ever gonnae stop talkin'?" asked Big Al in a thick Glaswegian accent that Danny could barely translate.
"Not much else to do," replied Nick with a laugh.
Big Al sat up and removed a pouch of tobacco from a pocket in his jeans. "So whit you in fur, Cartwright?" he asked, breaking one of prison's golden rules.
"Murder," said Danny. He paused. "But I was stitched up."
"Aye, that's whit they aw say." Big Al took out a packet of cigarette papers from his other pocket, extracted one and laid a pinch of tobacco on top of it.
"Maybe," said Danny, "but I still didn't do it." He didn't notice that Nick was writing down his every word. "What about you?" he asked.
"Me, I'm a fuckin' bank robber," said Big Al, licking the edge of the paper. "Sometimes I pull it aff and get rich, other times I get dinnae. The judge gied me fourteen years this fuckin' time."
"So how long have you been banged up in Belmarsh?" asked Danny.
"Two years. They transferred me tae an open prison for a while, but I decided tae abscond, so they'll no be takin' that risk again. Huv yous no got a light?"
"I don't smoke," said Danny.
"And neither do I, as you well know," added Nick, continuing to write his journal.
"What a pair of numpties," said Big Al. "Noo I'll no be able to huv a drag till efter tea."
"So you'll never be moved out of Belmarsh?" asked Danny in disbelief.
"Not until mah release date," said Big Al. "Wance ye've absconded fae a cat D, they send you back tae a high-security nick. Cannae say I blame the fuckers. If they transferred me I'd only try it again." He placed the cigarette in his mouth. "Still, I've only got three years tae go," he said as he lay back down and turned to face the wall.
"What about you?" Danny asked Nick. "How much longer have you got?"
"Two years, four months and eleven days. And you?"
"Twenty-two years," said Danny. "Unless I win my appeal."
"Naeb'dy wins their appeal," said Big Al. "Wance they've got ye banged to rights, they're no going tae let you oot, so ye'd better get used tae it." He removed the cigarette from his lips before adding, "Or top yersel."
Beth was also lying on her bed staring up at the ceiling. She would wait for Danny however long it took. She had no doubt that he would win his appeal, and that her father would finally come around to realizing that both of them had been telling the truth.
Mr. Redmayne assured her that he would continue to represent Danny at the appeal and that she shouldn't worry about the cost. Danny was right. Mr. Redmayne was a real diamond. Beth had already spent all her savings and forgone her annual holiday so that she could attend every day of the trial. What was the point of a holiday if she couldn't spend it with Danny? Her boss could not have been more understanding and told her not to report back until the trial was over. If Danny was found not guilty, Mr. Thomas had told her she could take another fortnight off for the honeymoon.
But Beth would be back at her desk on Monday morning, and the honeymoon would have to be postponed for at least a year. Although she had spent her life savings on Danny's defense, she still intended to send him some cash every month, as his prison wages would be only twelve pounds a week.
"Do you want a cup of tea, luv?" her mother shouted up from the kitchen.
"Tea!" hollered a voice as the door was unlocked for the second time that day. Danny picked up his plastic plate and mug and followed a stream of prisoners as they made their way downstairs to join the queue at the hotplate.
An officer was standing at the front of the queue, allowing six prisoners up to the hotplate at any one time.
"More fights break out over food than anything else," explained Nick as they waited in line.
"Other than in the gym," said Big Al.
Eventually Danny and Nick were told to join four others at the hotplate. Standing behind the counter were five prisoners dressed in white overalls and white hats, wearing thin latex gloves. "What's the choice tonight?" asked Nick, handing over his plate.
"You can 'ave sausages with beans, beef with beans or spam fritters with beans. Take your choice, squire," said one of the inmates who was serving behind the counter.
"I'll have spam fritters without beans, thank you," said Nick.
"I'll 'ave the same, but with beans," said Danny.
"And who are you?" asked the server. "His fuckin' brother?"
Danny and Nick both laughed. Although they were the same height, around the same age, and in prison uniform they didn't look unalike, neither of them had noticed the similarity. After all, Nick was always clean-shaven with every hair neatly in place, while Danny only shaved once a week and his hair, in Big Al's words, "looked like a bog brush."
" 'Ow do you get a job workin' in the kitchen?" asked Danny as they made their way slowly back up the spiral staircase to the first floor. Danny was quickly discovering that whenever you're out of your cell, you walk slowly.
"You have to be enhanced."
"And how do you get enhanced?"
"Just make sure you're never put on report," said Nick.
" 'Ow do you manage that?"
"Don't swear at an officer, always turn up to work on time and never get involved in a fight. If you can manage all three, in about a year's time you'll be enhanced, but you still won't get a job in the kitchen."
"Because there ur a thousand other fuckin' cons in this prison," said Big Al, following behind, "and nine hundred of thum want tae work in the kitchen. Yur oot of yer cell for most of the day, and ye get the best choice of grub. So ye can forget it, Danny boy."
In the cell, Danny ate his meal in silence, and thought about how he could become enhanced more quickly. As soon as Big Al had forked the last piece of sausage into his mouth, he stood up, walked across the cell, pulled down his jeans and sat on the lavatory. Danny stopped eating and Nick looked away until Big Al had pulled the flush. Big Al then stood up, zipped his jeans, slumped back down on the end of his bunk and began rolling another cigarette.
Danny checked his watch: ten to six. He usually went around to Beth's place around six. He looked down at the unfinished scraps on his plate. Beth's mum made the best sausage and mash in Bow.
"What other jobs are goin'?" asked Danny.
"Are yous still talking?" demanded Big Al.
Nick laughed again as Big Al lit up his cigarette.
"You could get a job in the stores," said Nick, "or become a wing cleaner or a gardener, but most likely you'll end up on the chain gang."
"The chain gang?" asked Danny. "What's that?"
"You'll find out soon enough," replied Nick.
"What about the gym?" asked Danny.
"Ye have tae be enhanced for that," said Big Al, inhaling.
"So what job 'ave you got?" asked Danny.
"You ask too many questions," replied Big Al, as he exhaled, filling the cell with smoke.
"Big Al is the hospital orderly," said Nick.
"That sounds like a cushy number," said Danny.
"I huv tae polish the floors, empty the midgies, prepare the morning rota and make tea fur every screw that visits matron. I niver stop moving," said Big Al. "I'm enhanced, aren't I?"
"Very responsible job, that," said Nick smiling. "You have to have an unblemished record when it comes to drugs, and Big Al doesn't approve of junkies."
"Too fuckin' right I don't," said Big Al. "And I'll thump anyone who tries tae steal any drugs fae the hospital."
"Is there any other job worth considerin'?" asked Danny desperately.
"Education," said Nick. "If you decided to join me, you could improve your reading and writing. And at the same time you get paid for it."
"True, but only eight quid a week," chipped in Big Al. "Ye get twelve fur every other job. Noo many of us like the squire here cin turn oor noses up at an extra four quid a week baccy money."
Danny placed his head back on the rock-hard pillow and stared out of the tiny curtainless window. He could hear rap blaring from a nearby cell, and wondered if he'd be able to get to sleep on the first night of his twenty-two-year sentence.
A KEY TURNED in the lock and the heavy iron door was pulled open.
"Cartwright, you're on the chain gang. Report to the duty officer immediately."
"But-" began Danny.
"No point arguing," said Nick as the officer disappeared. "Stick with me, and I'll show you the drill."
Nick and Danny joined a stream of silent prisoners who were all heading in the same direction. When they reached the end of the corridor, Nick said, "This is where you report at eight o'clock every morning and sign up for your work detail."
"What the 'ell is that?" asked Danny, staring up at a large hexagonal glass cubicle that dominated the area.
"That's the bubble," said Nick. "The screws can always keep an eye on us, but we can't see them."
"There's screws in there?" said Danny.
"Sure are," replied Nick. "About forty, I'm told. They have a clear view of everything going on in all four blocks, so if a riot or any disturbance breaks out, they can move in and deal with the problem within minutes."
"Ever been involved in a riot?" asked Danny.
"Only once," replied Nick, "and it wasn't a pretty sight. This is where we part company. I'm off to education, and the chain gang is in the opposite direction. If you carry on down the green corridor, you'll end up in the right place."
Danny nodded and followed a group of prisoners who clearly knew where they were going, although their sullen looks and the speed at which they were moving suggested that they could think of better ways of spending a Saturday morning.
When Danny reached the end of the corridor, an officer carrying the inevitable clipboard ushered all the prisoners into a large rectangular room, about the size of a basketball court. Inside were six long formica tables, with about twenty plastic chairs lined up on each side of them. The chairs quickly filled up with inmates, until almost every one was taken.
"Where do I sit?" asked Danny.
"Wherever you like," said an officer. "It won't make any difference."
Danny found a vacant seat and remained silent as he watched what was going on around him.
"You're new," said the man seated on his left.
" 'Ow do you know that?"
"Because I've been on the chain gang for the past eight years."
Danny took a closer look at the short, wiry man, whose skin was as white as a sheet. He had watery blue eyes and cropped fair hair. "Liam," he announced.
"You Irish?" asked Liam.
"No, I'm a Cockney, born a few miles away from 'ere, but my grandfather was Irish."
"That's good enough for me," said Liam with a grin.
"So what 'appens next?" asked Danny.
"You see those cons standing at the end of each table?" said Liam. "They're the suppliers. They'll put a bucket in front of us. You see that stack of plastic bags at the other end of the table? They'll be passed down the middle. We drop whatever's in our bucket into each one and pass it on."
As Liam was speaking, a klaxon sounded. Brown plastic buckets were placed in front of each prisoner by inmates with yellow armbands. Danny's bucket was full of teabags. He glanced across at Liam's, which contained sachets of butter. The plastic bags made their slow progress along the table from prisoner to prisoner, and a packet of Rice Krispies, a sachet of butter, a teabag and tiny containers of salt, pepper and jam were dropped into each one. When they reached the end of the table, another prisoner stacked them onto a tray and carried them into an adjoining room.
"They'll be sent off to another prison," Liam explained, "and end up as some con's breakfast about this time next week."
Danny was bored within a few minutes, and would have been suicidal by the end of the morning if Liam hadn't provided an endless commentary on everything from how to get yourself enhanced to how to end up in solitary, which kept all those within earshot in fits of laughter.
"Have I told you about the time the screws found a bottle of Guinness in my cell?" he asked.
"No," replied Danny dutifully.
"Of course I was put on report, but in the end they couldn't charge me."
"Why not?" asked Danny, and although everyone else at the table had heard the tale many times, they still paid rapt attention.
"I told the guv'nor a screw planted the bottle in my cell because he had it in for me."
"Because you're Irish?" suggested Danny.
"No, I'd tried that line once too often, so I had to come up with something a little more original."
"Like what?" said Danny.
"I said the screw had it in for me because I knew that he was gay and he fancied me, but I'd always turned him down."
"And was 'e gay?" asked Danny. Several prisoners burst out laughing.
"Of course not, you muppet," said Liam. "But the last thing a guv'nor needs is a full investigation into the sexual orientation of one of his screws. It only means mountains of paperwork, while the screw's suspended on full pay. It's all spelt out in prison regulations."
"So what 'appened?" asked Danny, dropping another teabag into another plastic bag.
"The number-one guv'nor dismissed the charge and that screw hasn't been seen on my block since."
Danny laughed for the first time since he had been in prison.
"Don't look up," whispered Liam as a fresh bucket of teabags was placed in front of Danny. Liam waited until the prisoner wearing a yellow armband had removed their empty buckets before he added, "If you ever come across that bastard, make yourself scarce."
"Why?" asked Danny, glancing across to see a thin-faced man with a shaven head and arms covered in tattoos leave the room carrying a stack of empty buckets.
"His name's Kevin Leach. Avoid him at all costs," said Liam. "He's trouble-big trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" asked Danny as Leach returned to the far end of the table and started stacking again.
"He came home early from work one afternoon and caught his wife in bed with his best mate. After he'd knocked 'em both out, he tied 'em to the bedposts and waited for 'em to come round, then he stabbed 'em with a kitchen knife-once every ten minutes. He started at their ankles, and moved slowly up the body till he reached the 'eart. They reckon it must have been six or seven hours before they died. He told the judge he was only tryin' to make the bitch realize how much he loved 'er." Danny felt sick. "The judge gave him life, with the recommendation that he should never be released. He won't see the outside of this place until they carry 'im out feet first." Liam paused. "I'm ashamed to say he's Irish. So be careful. They can't add another day to 'is sentence, so he doesn't care who he cuts up."
Spencer Craig was not a man who suffered from self-doubt or who panicked under pressure, but the same could not be said of Lawrence Davenport or Toby Mortimer.
Craig was aware of the rumors circulating around the corridors of the Old Bailey concerning the evidence he had given during the Cartwright trial; they were only whispers at the moment, but he could not afford for those whispers to become legend.
He was confident that Davenport wouldn't cause any trouble as long as he was playing Dr. Beresford in The Prescription. After all, he adored being adored by millions of fans who watched him every Saturday evening at nine o'clock, not to mention an income that allowed him a lifestyle that neither of his parents, a car-park attendant and a lollipop lady from Grimsby, had ever experienced. The fact that the alternative could well be a spell in jail for perjury concentrated the mind somewhat. If it didn't, Craig wouldn't hesitate to remind him what he could look forward to once his fellow cons discovered he was gay.
Toby Mortimer presented a different sort of problem. He'd reached the point where he would do almost anything to get his next fix. Craig was in no doubt that when Toby's inheritance finally dried up, he would be the first person his fellow Musketeer would turn to.
Only Gerald Payne remained resolute. After all, he still hoped to become a Member of Parliament. But the truth was it would be a long time before the Musketeers had the same relationship they had enjoyed before Gerald's thirtieth birthday.
Beth waited on the pavement until she was certain there was no one left on the premises. She looked up and down the street before she slipped into the shop. Beth was surprised at how dark the little room was, and it took her a few moments before she recognized a familiar figure seated behind the grille.
"What a pleasant surprise," said Mr. Isaacs as Beth walked up to the counter. "What can I do for you?"
"I need to pawn something, but I want to be sure that I can buy it back."
"I'm not allowed to sell any item for at least six months," said Mr. Isaacs, "and if you needed a little more time, that wouldn't be a problem."
Beth hesitated for a moment, before she slipped the ring off her finger and pushed it under the grille.
"Are you sure about this?" asked the pawnbroker.
"I don't have much choice," said Beth. "Danny's appeal is coming up and I need-"
"I could always advance you-"
"No," said Beth, "that wouldn't be right."
Mr. Isaacs sighed. He picked up an eyeglass and studied the ring for some time before he offered an opinion. "It's a fine piece," he said, "but how much were you expecting to borrow against it?"
"Five thousand pounds," said Beth hopefully.
Mr. Isaacs continued to make a pretense of studying the stone carefully, although he had sold the ring to Danny for four thousand pounds less than a year ago.
"Yes," said Mr. Isaacs after further consideration, "that seems to me to be a fair price." He placed the ring under the counter and took out his checkbook.
"Can I ask a favor, Mr. Isaacs, before you sign the check?"
"Yes, of course," said the pawnbroker.
"Will you allow me to borrow the ring on the first Sunday of every month?"
"That bad?" said Nick.
"Worse. If it 'adn't been for Liam the tealeaf, I would 'ave fallen asleep and ended up on report."
"Interesting case, Liam," said Big Al, stirring slightly but not bothering to turn around. "His whole family are tealeaves. He's got six brothers and three sisters, an'wance five o' the brothers and two o' the sisters wur aw inside at the same time. His fucking family must already have cost the taxpayer over a million quid."
Danny laughed, then asked Big Al, "What do you know about Kevin Leach?"
Big Al sat bolt upright. "Don't ever mention that name ootside o' this cell. He's a nutter. He'd cut yur throat fur a Mars Bar, and if ye ever cross him…" He hesitated. "They hud tae shift him oot of Garside nick just because another con gave him a V sign."
"Sounds a bit extreme," said Nick, writing down Big Al's every word.
"No efter Leach cut aff the two fingers."
"That's what the French did to the English longbowmen at the battle of Agincourt," said Nick, looking up.
"How interesting," said Big Al.
The klaxon sounded, and the cell doors were opened to allow them to go down and fetch their supper. As Nick closed his diary and pushed his chair back, Danny noticed for the first time that he was wearing a silver chain around his neck.
"There's a rumor circulating the corridors of the Old Bailey," said Mr. Justice Redmayne, "that Spencer Craig might not have been entirely forthcoming when he gave evidence in the Cartwright case. I hope it's not you who's fanning that particular flame."
"I don't have to," Alex replied. "That man has more than enough enemies willing to pump the bellows."
"Nevertheless, as you are still involved in the case, it would be unwise for you to let your views be known among our colleagues at the Bar."
"Even if he's guilty?"
"Even if he's the devil incarnate."
Beth wrote her first letter to Danny at the end of his first week, hoping he'd be able to find someone to read it to him. She slipped in a ten-pound note before sealing the envelope. She planned to write once a week, as well as visiting him on the first Sunday of every month. Mr. Redmayne had explained that lifers can only have one visit a month during their first ten years.
The following morning she dropped the envelope in the post box at the end of Bacon Road before catching the number 25 into the City. Danny's name was never mentioned in the Wilson household, because it only caused her dad to fly off the handle. Beth touched her stomach, and wondered what future a child could possibly hope for who only came into contact with its father once a month while he was in prison. She prayed that it would be a girl.
"You need a haircut," said Big Al.
"What do you expect me to do about it?" said Danny. "Ask Mr. Pascoe if I can take next Saturday morning off so I can drop into Sammy's on Mile End Road and have my usual?"
"No necessary," said Big Al. "Jist book yersel in wi' Louis."
"And who's Louis?" asked Danny.
"Prison barber," said Big Al. "He usually gets through about five cons in forty minutes during Association, but he's so popular ye might huv tae wait for a month before he cin dae ye. As yer no going anywhere fur the next twenty-two years, that shouldnae be a problem. But if ye want tae jump the queue, he charges three fags for a bullet hied, five for a short back and sides. And the squire here," he said, pointing to Nick, who was propped up against a pillow on his bunk reading a book, "has tae hand over ten fags on account of the fact that he still wishes tae look like an officer and a gentleman."
"A short back and sides will suit me just fine," said Danny. "But what does he use? I don't fancy having my hair cut with a plastic knife and fork."
Nick put down his book. "Louis has all the usual equipment-scissors, clippers, even a razor."
"How does he get away with that?" asked Danny.
"He disnae," said Big Al. "A screw hands over the stuff at the beginning of Association then collects it before we go back tae oor cells. An before ye ask, if anything went missing, Louis would lose his job and every cell wid be searched tiu the screws found it."
"Is 'e any good?" asked Danny.
"Before he ended up in here," said Big Al, "he used tae work in May-fair, charging the likes of the squire here fifty quid a hied."
"So how does someone like that end up in the nick?" asked Danny.
"Burglary," said Nick.
"Burglary, my arse," said Big Al. "Buggery mer like it. Caught wi' his troosers doon on Hampstead Heath, and he wasnae pishin' when the polis turned up."
"But if the cons know he's gay," said Danny, "how does he survive in a place like this?"
"Good question," said Big Al. "In maist nicks, when a queer takes a shower the cons take turns to bugger um, then tear um apart limb fae fucking limb."
"So what stops them?" asked Danny.
"Good barbers aren't that easy to come by," said Nick.
"The squire's right," said Big Al. "Oor last barber was in fur grievous, and the cons couldnae afford tae relax while he hud a razor in his hand. In fact, one or two of um ended up wi' very long hair."
"TWO LETTERS FOR you, Cartwright," Mr. Pascoe, the wing officer, said as he passed a couple of envelopes across to Danny. "By the way," he continued, "we found a ten-pound note attached to one of the letters. The money's been paid into your canteen account, but tell your girlfriend that in future she should send a postal order to the governor's office and they'll put the money straight into your account."
The heavy door slammed shut.
"They've opened my letters," said Danny, looking at the torn envelopes.
"They always do," said Big Al. "They also listen in on your phone conversations."
"Why?" asked Danny.
"Hoping to catch anyone involved in a drugs drop. And last week they caught some stupid bastard planning a robbery for the day after he was due to be released."
Danny extracted the letter from the smaller of the two envelopes. As it was handwritten, he assumed it had to be from Beth. The second letter was typed, but this time he couldn't be sure who had sent it. He lay silently on his bunk considering the problem for some time before he finally gave in.
"Nick, can you read my letters to me?" he asked quietly.
"I can and I will," replied Nick.
Danny passed across the two letters. Nick put down his pen, unfolded the handwritten letter first, and checked the signature on the bottom of the page. "This one's from Beth," he said. Danny nodded.
"Dear Danny," Nick read, "it's only been a week, but I already miss you so much. How could the jury have made such a terrible mistake? Why didn't they believe me? I've filled in the necessary forms and will come and visit you next Sunday afternoon, which will be the last chance I have to see you before our baby is born. I spoke to a woman officer on the phone yesterday and she couldn't have been more helpful. Your mum and dad are both well and send their love, and so does my mother. I'm sure Dad will come round given time, especially after you win the appeal. I miss you so much. I love you, I love you, I love you. See you on Sunday, Beth xxx."
Nick glanced up to see Danny staring at the ceiling. "Would you like me to read it again?"
Nick unfolded the second letter. "It's from Alex Redmayne," he said. "Most unusual."
"What do you mean?" asked Danny, sitting up.
"Barristers don't usually write direct to their clients. They leave it to the instructing solicitors. It's marked private and confidential. Are you sure you want me to know the contents of this letter?"
"Read it," said Danny.
"Dear Danny, just a line to bring you up to date on your appeal. I have completed all the necessary applications and today received a letter from the Lord Chancellor's office confirming that your name has been entered on the list. However, there is no way of knowing how long the process will take, and I must warn you that it could be anything up to two years. I am still following up all leads in the hope that they might produce some fresh evidence, and will write again when I have something more tangible to report. Yours sincerely, Alex Redmayne."
Nick put the two letters back in their envelopes and returned them to Danny. He picked up his pen and said, "Would you like me to reply to either of them?"
"No," said Danny firmly. "I'd like you to teach me to read and write."
Spencer Craig was beginning to think it had been unwise to choose the Dunlop Arms for the Musketeers' monthly get-together. He had persuaded his fellow members that it would show they had nothing to hide. He was already regretting his decision.
Lawrence Davenport had made some lame excuse for not attending, claiming he had to be at an awards ceremony because he'd been nominated for best actor in a soap.
Craig wasn't surprised that Toby Mortimer hadn't shown up-he was probably lying in a gutter somewhere with a needle sticking out of his arm.
At least Gerald Payne made an appearance, even if he had turned up late. If there had been an agenda for this meeting, disbanding the Musketeers would probably have been item number one.
Craig emptied the remainder of the first bottle of Chablis into Payne's glass and ordered another one. "Cheers," he said, raising his glass. Payne nodded, less than enthusiastically. Neither spoke for some time.
"Do you have any idea when Cartwright's appeal is coming up?" said Payne eventually.
"No," replied Craig. "I keep an eye on the lists, but I can't risk calling the Criminal Appeal Office, for obvious reasons. The moment I hear anything, you'll be the first to know."
"Are you worried about Toby?" asked Payne.
"No, he's the least of our problems. Whenever the appeal does come up, you can be sure he'll be in no state to give evidence. Our only problem is Larry. He gets flakier by the day. But the prospect of a spell in jail should keep him in line."
"But what about his sister?" said Payne.
"Sarah?" said Craig. "What's she got to do with it?"
"Nothing, but if she ever found out what actually happened that night, she might try to persuade Larry that it was his duty to give evidence at the appeal telling them what really took place. She is a solicitor, after all." Payne took a sip of his wine. "Didn't you two have a fling at Cambridge?"
"I wouldn't call it a fling," said Craig. "She's not really my type-too uptight."
"That's not what I heard," said Payne, trying to make light of it.
"What did you hear?" asked Craig defensively.
"That she gave you up because you had some rather strange habits in the bedroom."
Craig didn't comment as he emptied what remained of the second bottle. "Another bottle, barman," he said.
"The 'ninety-five, Mr. Craig?"
"Of course," said Craig. "Nothing but the best for my friend."
"No need to waste your money on me, old fellow," said Payne.
Craig didn't bother to tell him that it hardly mattered what was on the label, because the barman had already decided how much he was going to charge for "keeping shtum," as he put it.
Big Al was snoring, which Nick had once described in his diary as sounding like a cross between an elephant drinking and a ship's foghorn. Nick somehow managed to sleep through any amount of rap music emanating from the nearby cells, but he still hadn't come to terms with Big Al's snoring.
He lay awake and thought about Danny's decision to give up the chain gang and join him at education. It hadn't taken him long to realize that while Danny might not have had much of a formal education, he was brighter than anyone he'd taught during the past two years.
Danny was rapacious about his new challenge, without having any idea what the word meant. He didn't waste a moment, always asking questions, rarely satisfied with the answers. Nick had read about teachers who discovered that their pupils were cleverer than they were, but he hadn't expected to come across that problem while he was in prison. And it wasn't as if Danny allowed him to relax at the end of the day. No sooner had the cell door been slammed for the night than he was perched on the end of Nick's bunk, demanding that even more questions were answered. And on two subjects, maths and sport, Nick quickly found out that Danny already knew far more than he did. He had an encyclopedic memory that made it quite unnecessary for Nick to look up anything in Wisden or the FA Handbook, and if you mentioned West Ham or Essex, Danny was the handbook. Although he might not have been literate, he was clearly numerate, and had a grasp for figures that Nick knew he could never equal.
"Are you awake?" asked Danny, breaking into Nick's thoughts.
"Big Al's probably preventing anyone in the next three cells from sleeping," said Nick.
"I was just thinkin' that since I signed up for education, I've told you a lot about me, but I still know almost nothin' about you."
"I was just thinking, and while I know almost nothing about you. You're still dropping the g."
"Thinking. Nothing," said Danny.
"What do you want to know?" asked Nick.
"For a start, how did someone like you end up in prison?" Nick didn't immediately respond. "Don't tell me if you don't want to," Danny added.
"I was court-martialed while my regiment was serving with the NATO forces in Kosovo."
"Did you kill someone?"
"No, but an Albanian died and another was injured because of an error of judgment on my part." It was Danny's turn to remain silent. "My platoon was ordered to protect a group of Serbs who had been charged with ethnic cleansing. During my watch, a band of Albanian guerrillas drove past the compound firing their Kalashnikovs in the air, to celebrate the Serbs' capture. When a car full of them came dangerously close to the compound, I warned their leader to stop firing. He ignored me, so my staff sergeant fired a few warning shots, which resulted in two of them ending up with gunshot wounds. Later one of them died in hospital."
"So you didn't kill anyone?" said Danny.
"No. But I was the officer in charge."
"And you got eight years for that?" Nick didn't comment. "I once thought about going into the army," said Danny.
"You'd have made a damn good soldier."
"But Beth was against it." Nick smiled. "Said she didn't like the idea of my being overseas half the time when she'd be worrying herself sick about my safety. Ironic really."
"Good use of the word ironic," said Nick.
"How come you don't get no letters?"
"Any letters. I don't receive any letters."
"Why don't you receive any letters?" repeated Danny.
"How do you spell receive?"
"No," said Nick. "Try to remember, i before e except after c-R-E-C-E-I-V-E. There are some exceptions to that rule, but I won't bother you with them tonight." There was another long silence, before Nick eventually replied to Danny's question. "I've made no attempt to stay in contact with my family since the court martial, and they've made no effort to get in touch with me."
"Even your mum and dad?" said Danny.
"My mother died giving birth to me."
"I'm sorry. Is your father still alive?"
"As far as I know, yes, but he was colonel of the same regiment I served in. He hasn't spoken to me since the court martial."
"That's a bit rough."
"Not really. The regiment is his whole life. I was meant to follow in his footsteps and end up as the commanding officer, not being court-martialed."
"Any brothers or sisters?"
"Aunts and uncles?"
"One uncle, two aunts. My father's younger brother and his wife, who live in Scotland, and another aunt in Canada, but I've never met her."
"No other relations?"
"Relatives is a better word. Relations has a double meaning."
"No. The only person I've ever really cared for was my grandfather, but he died a few years ago."
"And was your grandfather an army officer, too?"
"No," said Nick, laughing. "He was a pirate."
Danny didn't laugh. "What sort of pirate?"
"He sold armaments to the Americans during the Second World War; made a fortune-enough to retire on, buy a large estate in Scotland and set himself up as a laird."
"Clan leader, master of all he surveys."
"Does that mean you're rich?"
"Unfortunately not," Nick replied. "My father somehow managed to squander most of his inheritance while he was colonel of the regiment-'Must keep up appearances, old boy,' he used to say. Whatever was left over went on the upkeep of the estate."
"So you're penniless? You're like me?"
"No," said Nick, "I'm not like you. You're more like my grandfather. And you wouldn't have made the same mistake as I did."
"But I ended up in 'ere with a twenty-two-year sentence."
"In here. Don't drop the h."
"In here," repeated Danny.
"But unlike me, you shouldn't be in here," said Nick quietly.
"Do you believe that?" said Danny, unable to hide his surprise.
"I didn't until I read Beth's letter, and clearly Mr. Redmayne also thinks the jury made the wrong decision."
"What's hanging from the chain round your neck?" asked Danny.
Big Al woke with a start, grunted, climbed out of bed, pulled down his boxer shorts and plonked himself on the lavatory. Once he'd pulled the flush, Danny and Nick tried to get to sleep before he started snoring again.
Beth was on a bus when she first felt the pains. The baby wasn't due for another three weeks, but she knew at once that she would have to get to the nearest hospital somehow if she didn't want her first child to be born on the number 25.
"Help," she moaned when the next wave of pain hit her. She tried to stand when the bus came to a halt at a traffic light. Two older women seated in front of her turned around. "Is that what I think it is?" said the first one.
"No doubt about it," said the second. "You ring the bell, and I'll get her off the bus."
Nick handed Louis ten cigarettes after he'd finished brushing off the hair from his shoulders.
"Thank you, Louis," said Nick, as if he were addressing his regular barber at Trumper's in Curzon Street.
"Always a pleasure, squire," said Louis as he threw a sheet around his next customer. "So what's your pleasure, young man?" he asked, running his fingers through Danny's thick, short hair.
"You can cut that out for a start," said Danny, pushing Louis's hand away. "All I want is a short back and sides."
"Suit yourself," said Louis, picking up his clippers and studying Danny's hair more closely.
Eight minutes later Louis put down his scissors and held up a mirror so Danny could see the back of his head.
"Not bad," Danny admitted as a voice shouted out: "Back to your cells. Association's over!"
Danny slipped Louis five cigarettes as an officer hurried across and joined them.
"So what's it to be then, guv? Short back and sides?" Danny asked looking at Mr. Hagen's bald head.
"Don't get lippy with me, Cartwright. Back to your cell, and be smart about it or you might just find yourself on report." Mr. Hagen placed the scissors, razor, clippers, brush and an assortment of combs into a box, which he then locked and took away.
"See you in a month's time," said Louis as Danny hurried back to his cell.
"ROMANS AND C of E!" bellowed a voice that could be heard from one side of the block to the other.
Danny and Nick stood waiting by the door, while Big Al happily snored away, abiding by his long-held belief that while you're asleep you're not in prison. The heavy key turned in the lock and the door swung open. Danny and Nick joined a stream of prisoners making their way toward the prison chapel.
"Do you believe in God?" asked Danny as they walked down the spiral staircase to the ground floor.
"No," said Nick. "I'm an agnostic."
"Someone who believes we can't know if there's a God, as opposed to an atheist, who is certain there isn't one. But it's still a good excuse to be out of the cell for an hour every Sunday morning, and in any case, I enjoy singing. Not to mention the fact that the padre gives a damn good sermon-even if he does seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on remorse."
"Army term for a priest," explained Nick.
"Excessive, longer than necessary. What about you? Do you believe in God?"
"Used to, before all this 'appened."
"Happened," said Nick.
"Happened," repeated Danny. "Beth and me are Roman Catholics."
"Beth and I are Roman Catholics; you can't say me is a Roman Catholic."
"Beth and I are Roman Catholics, so we know the Bible almost off by heart, even though I wasn't able to read it."
"Is Beth still coming this afternoon?"
"Of course," said Danny, a smile appearing on his face. "I can't wait to see 'er."
"Her," said Nick.
"Her," said Danny dutifully.
"Don't you ever get fed up with me continually correcting you?"
"Yes," admitted Danny, "but I know it will please Beth, because she always wanted me to better myself. Still, I'm lookin' forward to the day when I can correct you."
"Looking forward," repeated Danny as they reached the entrance to the chapel, where they waited in line as each prisoner was given a body search before being allowed to enter.
"Why bother to search us before we go in?" asked Danny.
"Because it's one of the few occasions when prisoners from all four blocks can congregate in one place, and have a chance to exchange drugs or information."
"Get together. A church has a congregation."
"Spell it," demanded Danny.
They reached the front of the line, where two officers were carrying out searches-a short woman who was over forty and must have survived on a diet of prison food, and a young man who looked as if he spent a lot of time bench-pressing. Most of the prisoners seemed to want to be searched by the woman officer.
Danny and Nick strolled into the chapel, another large rectangular room but this time filled with long wooden benches that faced an altar displaying a silver cross. On the brick wall behind the altar was a huge mural depicting the Last Supper. Nick told Danny it had been painted by a murderer, and that the models for the disciples had all been inmates at the time.
"It's not bad," said Danny.
"Just because you're a murderer doesn't mean you can't have other talents," said Nick. "Don't forget Caravaggio."
"I don't think I've met him," admitted Danny.
"Turn to page 127 in your hymn books," announced the chaplain, "and we'll all sing, 'He Who Would Valiant Be.' "
"I'll introduce you to Caravaggio as soon as we're back in the cell," promised Nick as the little organ struck up the opening chord.
As they sang, Nick couldn't be sure if Danny was reading the words or knew them off by heart after years of attending his local church.
Nick looked around the chapel. He wasn't surprised that the benches were as packed as a football stand on a Saturday afternoon. A group of prisoners huddled together in the back row were deep in conversation, not even bothering to open their hymn books as they exchanged details of which new arrivals needed drugs; they'd already dismissed Danny as "no-man's-land." Even when they fell on their knees they made no pretense of mouthing the Lord's Prayer; redemption wasn't on their minds.
The only time they fell silent was when the chaplain delivered his sermon. Dave, whose name was printed in bold letters on a lapel badge pinned to his cassock, turned out to be a good old-fashioned fire and brimstone priest, who had chosen murder as his text for the day. This drew loud cries of "Hallelujah!" from the first three rows, mainly populated by boisterous Afro-Caribbeans who seemed to know a thing or two about the subject.
Dave invited his captive audience to pick up their Bibles and turn to the book of Genesis, then informed them that Cain was the first murderer. "Cain was envious of his brother's success," he explained, "so decided to do away with him." Dave then turned to Moses, who he claimed killed an Egyptian and thought he'd got away with it, but he hadn't, because God had seen him, so he was punished for the rest of his life.
"I don't remember that bit," said Danny.
"Nor do I," admitted Nick. "I thought Moses died peacefully in his bed at the age of one hundred and thirty."
"Now I want you all to turn to the second book of Samuel," continued Dave, "where you'll find a king who was a murderer."
"Hallelujah," cried the first three rows, if not in unison.
"Yes, King David was a murderer," said Dave. "He bumped off Uriah the Hittite, because he fancied his wife, Bathsheba. But King David was very cunning, because he didn't want to be seen to be responsible for another man's death, so he placed Uriah in the front line of the next battle to make sure that he was killed. But God saw what he was up to and punished him, because God sees every murder and will always punish anyone who breaks His commandments."
"Hallelujah," chorused the first three rows.
Dave ended the service with closing prayers in which the words understanding and forgiveness were repeated again and again. He finally blessed his congregation, probably one of the largest in London that morning.
As they filed out of the chapel, Danny commented, "There's a big difference between this service and the one I go to at St. Mary's." Nick raised an eyebrow. "This lot don't take a collection."
They were all searched again on the way out, and this time three prisoners were pulled over to one side before being marched off down the purple corridor.
"What's that all about?" asked Danny.
"They're off to segregation," explained Nick. "Possession of drugs. They'll get at least seven days in solitary."
"It can't be worth it," said Danny.
"They must think so," said Nick, "because you can be sure they'll be dealing again the moment they're released."
Danny was becoming more excited by the minute at the thought of seeing Beth for the first time in weeks.
At two o'clock, an hour before visits were due to take place, Danny was pacing up and down the cell. He had washed and ironed his shirt, pressed his jeans, and spent a long time in the shower washing his hair. He wondered what Beth would be wearing. It was as if he were taking her out on a first date.
"How do I look?" he asked. Nick frowned. "That bad?"
"It's just that…"
"Just what?" demanded Danny.
"I think Beth might have expected you to shave."
Danny looked at himself in the little steel mirror above the washbasin. He quickly checked his watch.
ANOTHER ROUTE MARCH down another corridor, but this time the line of prisoners was moving a little quicker. No inmate wants to miss one second of a visit. At the end of this corridor was a large waiting room with a wooden bench fixed to the wall. There followed another long wait before prisoners' names began to be called out. Danny spent the time trying to read the notices pinned to the wall; there were several about drugs and the consequences-applying to both prisoners and visitors-of trying to pass anything over during visits. Another concerned prison policy on bullying, and a third was about discrimination-a word Danny wrestled with, and certainly didn't know the meaning of. He would have to ask Nick when he got back to the cell after the visit.
It was nearly an hour before the name "Cartwright" was announced over the loudspeaker. Danny leaped to his feet and followed a screw into a tiny box room, where he was told to stand on a small wooden platform, legs apart. Another screw-officer-he had never seen before gave him a body search that was far more rigorous than any he'd experienced since being banged up-imprisoned. Big Al had warned him that the search would be even more thorough than usual because visitors often tried to transfer drugs, money, blades, knives and even guns to prisoners during visits.
Once the search was over, the officer placed a yellow sash around Danny's shoulder to identify him as a prisoner, not unlike the fluorescent one his mother made him wear when he first learned to ride a bicycle. He was then led into the largest room he'd been in since arriving at Belmarsh. He reported to a desk that was raised on a platform about three feet above the floor. Another officer checked another list, and said, "Your visitor is waiting at E9."
Seven lines of tables and chairs were set out in long rows, marked A to G. The prisoners had to sit on red chairs that were bolted to the floor. Their visitors sat on the other side of a table on green chairs, also bolted to the floor, making it easier for the security staff to carry out surveillance, assisted by several CCTV cameras whirring above them. As Danny walked down the rows, he noticed officers were keeping a close eye on both prisoners and visitors from a balcony above. He came to a halt when he reached row E and searched for Beth. At last he saw her, sitting on one of the green chairs. Despite having her photo sellotaped to the cell wall, he had forgotten quite how beautiful she was. She was carrying a parcel in her arms, which surprised him, as visitors are not allowed to bring in gifts for prisoners.
She leaped up the moment she saw him. Danny quickened his pace, although he had been warned several times not to run. He threw his arms around her, and the parcel let out a cry. Danny stepped back to see his daughter for the first time.
"She's beautiful," he said as he took Christy in his arms. He looked up at Beth. "I'm going to get out of here before she ever finds out her father was in jail."
"When did-" They both began to speak at once.
"Sorry," said Danny, "you go first."
Beth looked surprised. "Why are you speaking so slowly?"
Danny sat down on the red chair and began to tell Beth about his cellmates as he tucked into a Mars Bar and drained a can of Diet Coke that Beth had purchased from the canteen-luxuries he hadn't experienced since he'd been locked up in Belmarsh.
"Nick is teaching me to read and write," he told her. "And Big Al is showing me how to survive in prison." He waited to see how Beth would react.
"How lucky you were to end up in that cell."
Danny hadn't thought about that before, and suddenly realized he ought to thank Mr. Jenkins. "So what's happening back in Bacon Road?" he asked, touching Beth's thigh.
"Some of the locals are collecting signatures for a petition to have you released, and Danny Cartwright is innocent has been sprayed on the wall outside Bow Road tube station. No one's tried to remove it, not even the council."
Danny listened to all of Beth's news while he munched his way through three Mars Bars and drank two more Diet Cokes, aware that he wouldn't be allowed to take anything back to his cell once the visit was over.
He wanted to hold Christy, but she'd fallen asleep in Beth's arms. The sight of his child only made him more determined to learn to read and write. He wanted to be able to answer all of Mr. Redmayne's questions so that he would be ready for his appeal and to surprise Beth by replying to her letters.
"All visitors must now leave," announced a voice over the loudspeaker.
Danny wondered where the shortest hour in his life had gone as he looked up to check the clock on the wall. He rose slowly from his seat and took Beth in his arms, kissing her gently. He couldn't help remembering that this was the most common way for visitors to pass drugs to their partners, and that the security staff would be watching them closely. Some prisoners even swallowed the drugs so they wouldn't be discovered when they were searched before returning to their cells.
"Goodbye, my darling," said Beth when he eventually released her.
"Goodbye," said Danny, sounding desperate. "Oh, I nearly forgot," he added, pulling a piece of paper out of a pocket in his jeans. No sooner had he passed the message to her than an officer appeared by his side and grabbed it.
"You can't exchange anything while you're on a visit, Cartwright."
"But it's only-" began Danny.
"No buts. It's time for you to leave, Miss."
Danny stood watching as Beth walked away, carrying his daughter. His eyes never left them until they had disappeared out of sight.
"I must get out of here," he said out loud.
The officer unfolded the note and read the first words Danny Cartwright had ever written to Beth. "It won't be long before we're together again." The officer looked worried.
"Short back and sides?" asked Louis as the next customer took his place in the barber's chair.
"No," whispered Danny. "I want you to make my hair look more like your last customer's."
"It'll cost you," said Louis.
"Same as Nick, ten fags a month."
Danny removed a packet of unopened Marlboros from his jeans. "Today, and a month in advance," said Danny, "if you do the job properly."
The barber smiled as Danny placed the cigarettes back in his pocket.
Louis walked slowly around the chair, occasionally stopping to take a closer look before he offered an opinion.
"First thing you'll have to do is let your hair grow and wash it two or three times a week," he said. "Nick never has a hair out of place, and his cut is slightly at the nape of the neck," he added, as he came to a halt behind him. "You'll also need to shave every day. And cut your sideboards a lot higher if you want to look like a gent." After another perambulation, he added, "Nick parts his hair on the left, not the right, so that's the first change I'll have to make. And his hair's a shade lighter than yours, but nothing a little lemon juice won't take care of."
"How long will all this take?" asked Danny.
"Six months, no longer. But I'll need to see you at least once a month," he added.
"I'm not going anywhere," said Danny. "So book me in for the first Monday of every month, because the job has to be finished by the time my appeal comes up. My lawyer seems to think that it matters what you look like when you're in the dock, and I want to look like an officer, not a criminal."
"Shrewd fellow, your lawyer," said Louis, throwing a green sheet around Danny before picking up his clippers. Twenty minutes later an almost imperceptible change had begun to take place. "Don't forget," said Louis as he held up the mirror for his valued customer before brushing a few hairs from his shoulders. "You'll need to shave every morning. And shampoo your hair at least twice a week if you hope to pass muster, to use one of Nick's expressions."
"Back to your cells," shouted Mr. Hagen. The officer looked surprised when he saw an unopened packet of twenty cigarettes pass between the two prisoners. "Found another customer for the alternative service you offer, have you, Louis?" he asked with a grin.
Danny and Louis remained silent.
"Funny that, Cartwright," said Hagen. "I'd never have put you down for a queer."
MINUTES TURNED INTO hours, hours became days, days ended up being weeks in the longest year of Danny's life. Though, as Beth regularly reminded him, it hadn't been entirely wasted. In a couple of months' time Danny would take-sit, Nick's word-six GCSEs, and his mentor seemed confident that he would pass them all with flying colors. Beth had asked him which A levels he had signed up for.
"I'll have been released long before then," he promised her.
"But I still want you to take them," she insisted.
Beth and Christy had visited Danny on the first Sunday of every month, and lately she could talk of little else but his upcoming appeal, even though a date hadn't yet been posted in the court calendar. Mr. Redmayne was still searching for fresh evidence, because without it, he admitted, they didn't stand much of a chance. Danny had recently read a Home Office report, which said that 97 percent of lifers' appeals were rejected, and the remaining 3 percent ended up with no more than a minor reduction in their sentence. He tried not to think about the consequences of failing to win his appeal. What would happen to Beth and Christy if he had to serve another twenty-one years? Beth never raised the subject, but Danny had already accepted that he couldn't expect all three of them to serve a life sentence.
In Danny's experience, lifers fell into two categories: those who completely cut themselves off from the outside world-no letters, no calls, no visits-and those who, like a bedridden invalid, remain a burden to their families for the rest of their lives. He had already decided which course he would take if his appeal was turned down.
Dr. Beresford killed in car accident read the headline on the front page of the Mail on Sunday. The article went on to tell its readers that Lawrence Davenport's star was on the wane, and the producers of The Prescription had decided to write him out of the script. Davenport was to be killed off in a tragic car accident involving a drunk-driver. He would be rushed to his own hospital where Nurse Petal, whom he had recently ditched when he discovered she was pregnant, would try to save his life, but would be unable… The phone rang in Spencer Craig's study. He wasn't surprised to find it was Gerald Payne on the other end of the line.
"Have you seen the papers?" Payne asked.
"Yes," said Craig. "Frankly I'm not surprised. The show's ratings have been going west for the past year, so they're obviously looking for some gimmick to give them a boost."
"But if they ditch Larry," said Payne, "he's not going to find it that easy to get another part. We certainly don't want him going back on the bottle."
"I don't think we should be discussing this over the phone, Gerald. Let's meet up soon."
Craig opened his diary, to find several days were blank. He didn't seem to be getting quite as many briefs as he had in the past.
The arresting officer placed the prisoner's few possessions on the counter, while the desk sergeant made a note of them in his log book: one needle, one small packet containing a white substance, one match box, one spoon, one tie and one five-pound note.
"Do we have a name, or any ID?" asked the desk sergeant.
"No," replied the young constable, glancing at the helpless figure slumped on the bench in front of him. "Poor bastard," he said, "what's the point of sending him to prison?"
"The law's the law, my lad. Our job is to carry it out, not to question our masters."
"Poor bastard," the constable repeated.
During the long, sleepless nights running up to the appeal, Mr. Redmayne's advice during the original trial was never far from Danny's thoughts: if you plead guilty to manslaughter, you'll only have to serve two years. If Danny had taken his advice, he would be free in twelve months' time.
He tried to concentrate on the essay he was writing on The Count of Monte Cristo-his GCSE set text. Perhaps, like Edmond Dantès, he would escape. But you can't build a tunnel when your cell is on the second floor, and he couldn't throw himself into the sea, because Belmarsh wasn't on an island. So, unlike Dantès, unless he won his appeal, he had little hope of gaining revenge on his four enemies. After Nick had read his last essay, he had given Danny a mark of 73 percent, with the comment, "Unlike Edmond Dantès, you won't need to escape, because they'll have to release you."
How well the two of them had come to know each other during the past year. In truth they had spent more hours together than he and Bernie had ever done. Some of the new prisoners even assumed they were brothers, until Danny opened his mouth. That was going to take a little longer.
"You're every bit as bright as I am," Nick kept telling him, "and when it comes to maths, you've become the teacher."
Danny looked up from his essay when he heard the key turning in the lock. Mr. Pascoe pulled the door open to allow Big Al to stroll in, regular as clockwork-you must stop using clichés, even in your thoughts, Nick had told him-and slumped down on the bed without a word. Danny continued writing.
"Got some news fur ye, Danny boy," said Big Al once the door had been slammed shut.
Danny put down his pen; it was a rare event for Big Al to initiate a conversation, unless it was to ask for a match.
"Ever come across a fucker called Mortimer?"
Danny's heart began to race. "Yes," he eventually managed. "He was in the bar the night Bernie was murdered, but he never showed up in court."
"Well, he's shown up here," said Big Al.
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly whit I said, Danny boy. He reported tae the hospital this efternoon. Needed some medication." Danny had learned not to interrupt Big Al when he was in full flow, otherwise he might not speak again for a week. "Checked his file. Possession of a class-A drug. Two years. So I've got a feeling he's gonnae be a regular visitor tae the hospital." Danny still didn't interrupt. His heartbeat was, if anything, even faster. "Now I'm no as clever as you or Nick, but it's jist possible he might be able tae supply that new evidence you and yur lawyer have been looking fur."
"You're a diamond," Danny said.
"A rougher stone, perhaps," said Big Al, "but wake me up when yer mate gets back, 'cause I have a feeling it may be me has got something tae teach you two fur a change."
Spencer Craig sat alone nursing a glass of whiskey as he watched Lawrence Davenport's final episode of The Prescription. Nine million viewers joined him as Dr. Beresford, with Nurse Petal clutching on to his hand, gasped out his final line, "You deserve better." The episode won the show's largest audience share for over a decade. It ended with Dr. Beresford's coffin being lowered into the ground as Nurse Petal sobbed at the graveside. The producers had left no chance of a miraculous recovery, whatever the demands of Davenport 's adoring fans.
It had been a bad week for Craig: Toby being sent to the same prison as Cartwright, Larry out of work, and that morning the date for Cartwright's appeal had been posted on the court calendar. It was still several months away, but what would Larry's state of mind be by then? Especially if Toby cracked and in return for a fix was willing to tell anyone who would listen what had really happened that night.
Craig rose from his desk, walked across to a filing cabinet he rarely opened and thumbed through an archive of his past cases. He extracted the files of seven former clients who had ended up at Belmarsh. He studied their case histories for over an hour, but for the job he had in mind there was only one obvious candidate.
"He's beginning tae blab," said Big Al.
"Has he mentioned that night in the Dunlop Arms?" asked Danny.
"No yet, but it's early days. He wull, given time."
"What makes you so confident?" asked Nick.
"Because I have something he needs, and fair exchange is nae robbery."
"What have you got that he needs that badly?" asked Danny.
"Never ask a question that you don't need to know the answer to," said Nick, jumping in.
"Canny man, yer friend Nick," said Big Al.
"So what can I do for you, Mr. Craig?"
"I believe you'll find it's what I can do for you."
"I don't think so, Mr. Craig. I've been banged up in this shit-hole for the past eight years and during that time I haven't heard a dicky bird out of you, so don't fuck me about. You know I couldn't afford even an hour of your time. Why don't you just come to the point and tell me what you're doin' here?"
Craig had carefully checked the interview room for any bugs before Kevin Leach had been allowed to join him for a legal visit. Client confidentiality is sacred in English law, and if it were ever breached, any evidence would automatically be ruled inadmissible in court. Despite that fact, Craig still knew he was taking a risk-but the prospect of a long spell in prison locked up with the likes of Leach was an even less attractive proposition.
"Got everything you need, have you?" asked Craig, who had rehearsed each line he intended to deliver as if he was in court cross-examining a key witness.
"I get by," said Leach. "Don't need a lot."
"On twelve pounds a week as a stacker on the chain gang?"
"As I said. I get by."
"But no one is sending you in any little extras," said Craig. "And you haven't had a visit for over four years."
"I see you are as well informed as ever, Mr. Craig."
"In fact, you haven't even made a phone call during the past two years-not since your Aunt Maisie died."
"I see you are as where's all this leading, Mr. Craig?"
"There's just a possibility that Aunt Maisie might have left you something in her will."
"Now why would she bother to do that?"
"Because she's got a friend who you're in a position to help."
"What kind of help?"
"Her friend has a problem-a craving, not to put too fine a point on it, and not for chocolate."
"Let me guess. Heroin, crack or cocaine?"
"Right first time," said Craig. "And he's in need of a regular supply."
"And how much has Aunt Maisie left me to cover this considerable outlay, not to mention the risk of being caught?"
"Five thousand pounds," said Craig. "But just before she died, she added a codicil to her will."
"Let me guess. That it wasn't to be paid all at once."
"Just in case you decided to spend it all at once."
"I'm still listenin'."
"She hoped that fifty pounds a week would be enough to make sure her friend wouldn't need to look elsewhere."
"Tell her if she makes it a hundred, I might just think about it."
"I think I can say on her behalf that she accepts your terms."
"So what's the name of Aunt Maisie's friend?"
"Always from the outside in," said Nick. "It's a simple rule to follow."
Danny picked up the plastic spoon and began to scoop up the water that Nick had poured into his breakfast bowl.
"No," said Nick. "You always tilt a soup bowl away from you, and push the spoon in the same direction." He demonstrated the movement. "And never slurp. I don't want to hear a sound while you're drinking your soup."
"Beth always complained about that," said Danny.
"Me, tae," said Big Al, not stirring from his bunk.
"And Beth is right," said Nick. "In some countries it's considered a compliment to slurp, but not in England." He removed the bowl and replaced it with a plastic plate on which he had put a thick slice of bread and a helping of baked beans. "Now, I want you to think of the bread as a lamb chop, and the baked beans as peas."
"Whit are ye using fur gravy?" asked Big Al, not stirring from his bunk.
"Cold Bovril," said Nick. Danny picked up his plastic knife and fork, holding them firmly, with the blade and the prongs pointing toward the ceiling. "Try to remember," said Nick, "that your knife and fork are not rockets on a launch pad waiting to blast off. And unlike rockets, they are going to need to refuel whenever they return to earth." Nick picked up the knife and fork on his side of the table and demonstrated how Danny should hold them.
"It's not natural," was Danny's immediate response.
"You'll soon get used to it," said Nick. "And don't forget that your forefinger should rest along the top. Don't let the handle stick out between your thumb and forefinger-you're holding a knife, not a pen." Danny adjusted the grip on his knife and fork in imitation of Nick, but still found the whole experience awkward. "Now I want you to eat the piece of bread as if it were a lamb chop."
"How wid ye like it, sir?" grunted Big Al. "Medium or rare?"
"You will only be asked that question," said Nick, "if you order a steak, never for a lamb chop."
Danny dug into his slice of bread. "No," said Nick. "Cut your meat, don't tear it apart, and only a small piece at a time." Danny once again carried out his instructions, but then started to cut a second piece of bread while still chewing the first. "No," said Nick firmly. "While you're eating, place your knife and fork on the plate, and don't pick them up again until you've finished the mouthful." Once Danny had swallowed the piece of bread, he scooped up some beans on the end of his fork. "No, no, no," said Nick. "A fork isn't a shovel. Just pierce a few peas at a time."
"But it will take forever if I carry on this way," said Danny.
"And don't speak with your mouth full," replied Nick.
Big Al grunted again, but Danny ignored him and cut himself another piece of bread, put it in his mouth, then placed his knife and fork back on the plate.
"Good, but chew your meat for longer before you swallow it," said Nick. "Try to remember you're a human being, not an animal"-a comment that elicited a loud burp from Big Al. Once Danny had finished another piece of bread, he tried to pierce a couple of beans but they kept escaping. He gave up. "Don't lick your knife," was all Nick had to say.
"But if ye'd like tae, Danny boy," said Big Al, "you cin lick ma arse."
It was some time before Danny was able to finish his meager meal and finally put his knife and fork down on an empty plate.
"Once you've finished your meal," said Nick, "place your knife and fork together."
"Why?" asked Danny.
"Because when you're eating in a restaurant, the waiter will need to know that you've finished your meal."
"I don't eat in restaurants that often," admitted Danny.
"Then I shall have to be the first person to invite you and Beth out for a meal as soon as you've been released."
"And what about me?" asked Big Al. "Don't I get invited?"
Nick ignored him. "Now it's time to move on to dessert."
"Pudding?" asked Danny.
"No, not pudding, dessert," repeated Nick. "If you are in a restaurant, you only ever order the starter and the main course, and not until you have finished them do you ask to see the dessert menu."
"Two menus in one restaurant?" said Danny.
Nick smiled as he placed a thinner slice of bread on Danny's plate. "That is an apricot tart," he said.
"An' I'm in bed wi' Cameron Diaz," said Big Al.
This time Danny and Nick did laugh.
"For dessert," said Nick, "you use the small fork. However, if you order a crème brûlée or ice cream, you pick up the small spoon."
Big Al suddenly sat bolt upright on his bunk. "Whit's the fucking point of aw this?" he demanded. "This isnae a restaurant, it's a prison. The only thing Danny boy's gonnae be eating for the next twenty years is cold turkey."
"And tomorrow," said Nick, ignoring him, "I'll show you how to taste wine after the waiter has poured a small amount into your glass…"
"An the day efter that," said Big Al, accompanied by a long fart, "I shall allow you to sip a sample of ma piss, a rare vintage that wull remind ye yur in prison and no in the fuckin' Ritz."
THE HEAVY DOOR of his single cell swung open. "You've got a parcel, Leach. Follow me and look sharp about it."
Leach climbed slowly off his bed, strolled out onto the landing and joined the waiting officer. "Thanks for fixin' the single cell," he grunted as they walked down the corridor.
"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," said Hagen. He didn't speak again until they reached the stores, when he banged loudly on the double doors. The stores manager pulled them open and said, "Name?"
"Don't try it on with me, Leach, or I might have to put you on report."
"You've got a parcel." The stores manager turned around, took a box from the shelf behind him and placed it on the counter.
"I see you've already opened it, Mr. Webster."
"You know the regulations, Leach."
"Yes, I do," said Leach. "You are required to open any parcel in my presence, so that I can be sure nothing has been removed or planted inside."
"Get on with it," said Webster.
Leach removed the lid from the box to reveal the latest Adidas tracksuit. "Smart piece of gear, that," said Webster. "Must have set someone back a few quid." Leach didn't comment as Webster began to unzip the pockets one by one to check for any drugs contraband or cash. He found nothing, not even the usual five-pound note. "You can take it away, Leach," he said reluctantly.
Leach picked up the tracksuit and began to walk off. He'd only managed a couple of paces before the word "Leach!" was bellowed after him. He turned around.
"And the box, muppet," Webster added.
Leach returned to the counter, placed the tracksuit back in the box and tucked it under his arm.
"That will be quite an improvement on your present gear," remarked Hagen as he accompanied Leach back to his cell. "Perhaps I ought to take a closer look, since you've never been seen in the gym. But on the other hand, perhaps I could turn a blind eye."
Leach smiled. "I'll leave your cut in the usual place, Mr. Hagen," he said as the cell door closed behind him.
"I can't go on living a lie," said Davenport theatrically. "Don't you understand that we've been responsible for sending an innocent man to jail for the rest of his life?"
Once Davenport had been written out of his soap opera, Craig had assumed that it wouldn't be too long before he felt the need for some dramatic gesture. After all, he had little else to think about while he was "resting."
"So what do you intend to do about it?" asked Payne as he lit a cigarette, trying to appear unconcerned.
"Tell the truth," said Davenport, sounding a little overrehearsed. "I intend to give evidence at Cartwright's appeal and tell them what really happened that night. They may not believe me, but at least my conscience will be clear."
"If you do that," said Craig, "all three of us could end up in prison." He paused. "For the rest of our lives. Are you sure that's what you want?"
"No, but it's the lesser of two evils."
"And it doesn't concern you that you might end up in a shower being buggered by a couple of eighteen-stone lorry drivers?" said Craig. Davenport didn't respond.
"Not to mention the disgrace it will bring on your family," added Payne. "You may be out of work now, but let me assure you, Larry, if you decide to make an appearance in court, it will be your final performance."
"I've had a lot of time to consider the consequences," Davenport replied haughtily, "and I've made up my mind."
"Have you thought about Sarah, and the effect this would have on her career?" asked Craig.
"Yes, I have, and when I next see her I intend to tell her exactly what happened that night, and I feel confident she will approve of my decision."
"Could you do me one small favor, Larry?" asked Craig. "For old times' sake?"
"What's that?" asked Davenport suspiciously.
"Just give it a week before you tell your sister."
Davenport hesitated. "All right, a week. But not a day longer."
Leach waited until lights out at ten o'clock before he climbed off his bunk. He picked up a plastic fork from the table and walked across to the lavatory in the corner of the cell-the one place the screws can't see you through the spyhole when they make their hourly rounds to check if you are safely tucked up in bed.
He pulled off his new tracksuit bottoms and sat on the lavatory lid. He gripped the plastic fork firmly in his right hand and began to pick away at the stitching on the middle one of the three white stripes that ran down the length of the leg, a laborious process that took forty minutes. Finally, he was able to extract a long, wafer-thin cellophane packet. Inside was enough fine white powder to satisfy an addict for about a month. He smiled-a rare occurrence-at the thought that there were still another five stripes to unpick: they would guarantee his profit, as well as Hagen 's cut.
"Mortimer has to be getting the gear from somewhere," said Big Al.
"What makes you say that?" asked Danny.
"He used tae turn up at the hospital every morning without fail. Doc even got him started on a detox program. Then one day he's nowhere to be seen."
"Which can only mean he's found another source," concurred Nick.
"Not one of the regular suppliers, I can tell that," said Big Al. "I've asked around, and come up with nothing." Danny slumped back down on his bunk, succumbing to lifers' syndrome. "Dinnae give up on me, Danny boy. He'll be back. They always come back."
"Visits!" hollered the familiar voice, and a moment later the door swung open to allow Danny to join those prisoners who had been looking forward to a visit all morning.
He had hoped to tell Beth that he'd come up with the fresh evidence Mr. Redmayne so desperately needed to win the appeal. Now all he had to hope for was Big Al's belief that Mortimer would be back in the prison hospital before too long.
In prison, a lifer clings on to hope as a drowning sailor clings on to a drifting log. Danny clenched his fist as he made his way toward the visits area, determined that Beth would not suspect even for a moment that anything might be wrong. Whenever he was with her, he never let his guard down; despite all he was going through, he always needed Beth to believe that there was still hope.
He was surprised when he heard the key turning in the lock, because he never had a visitor. Three officers charged into the cell. Two of them grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him off the bed. As he fell, he grabbed at one of the officers' ties. It came off in his hand; he'd forgotten that screws wear clip-on ties so they can't be strangled. One of them thrust his arms behind his back while another kicked him sharply behind the knee, which allowed the third to cuff him. As he collapsed on to the stone floor, the first screw grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head back. In less than thirty seconds he was bound and trussed before being dragged out of his cell and on to the landing.
"What are you fuckin' bastards up to?" he demanded once he'd caught his breath.
"You're on your way to segregation, Leach," said the first officer. "You won't be seeing daylight for another thirty days," he added as they dragged him down the spiral staircase, his knees banging on every step.
"What's the charge?"
"Supplying," said the second officer as they marched him, almost at a jog, along a purple corridor no prisoner ever wants to see.
"I've never touched drugs, guv, and you know it," protested Leach.
"That's not what supplying means," said the third officer once they reached the basement, "and you know it."
The four of them came to a halt outside a cell that had no number. One of the officers selected a rarely used key while the other two held firmly on to Leach's arms. Once the door was open, he was hurled head first into a cell that made his upstairs accommodation seem like a motel. A thin horse-hair mattress lay in the middle of the stone floor; there was a steel washbasin bolted to the wall, a steel lavatory without a flush, one sheet, one blanket, no pillow and no mirror.
"By the time you get out, Leach, you'll find your monthly income has dried up. No one on the top floor believes you've got an aunt Maisie."
The door slammed shut.
"Congratulations," was Beth's first word when Danny took her in his arms. He looked puzzled. "Your six GCSEs, silly," she added. "You passed them all with flying colors, just as Nick predicted." Danny smiled. That all seemed such a long time ago, although it couldn't have been more than a month-an eternity in prison-and in any case, he'd already kept his promise to Beth and signed up for three A levels. "Which subjects did you settle on?" she asked, as if she could read his mind.
"English, maths and business studies," Danny replied. "But I've come up against a problem." Beth looked anxious. "I'm already better at maths than Nick, so they've had to bring in an outside teacher, but she can only see me once a week."
"She?" said Beth suspiciously.
Danny laughed. "Miss Lovett is over sixty and retired, but she knows her stuff. She says if I stick at it, she'll recommend me for a place with the Open University. Mind you, if I win my appeal, I just won't have time…"
"When you win your appeal," said Beth, "you must continue with your A levels, otherwise Miss Lovett and Nick will have wasted their time."
"But I'll be running the garage all day, and I've already come up with some ideas for making it more profitable." Beth went silent. "What's the matter?"
Beth hesitated. Her father had told her not to raise the subject. "The garage isn't doing that well at the moment," she finally admitted. "In fact, it's barely breaking even."
"Why?" asked Danny.
"Without you and Bernie, we've started losing business to Monty Hughes across the road."
"Don't worry, love," said Danny. "All that will change once I'm out of here. In fact, I even have plans to take over Monty Hughes's place-he must be over sixty-five if he's a day."
Beth smiled at Danny's optimism. "Does that mean you've come up with the fresh evidence Mr. Redmayne is looking for?"
"Possibly, although I can't say too much at the moment," said Danny, glancing up at the CCTV cameras above their heads. "But one of Craig's friends who was in the bar that night has turned up in here." He looked up at the officers on the balcony, who Big Al had warned him could lipread. "I won't mention his name."
"What's he in for?" asked Beth.
"I can't say. You'll just have to trust me."
"Have you told Mr. Redmayne?"
"I wrote to him last week. I was guarded because the screws open your letters and read every word. Officers," he said correcting himself.
"Officers?" said Beth.
"Nick says I mustn't get into the habit of using prison slang if I'm going to start a new life once I'm out of here."
"So Nick obviously believes you're innocent?" said Beth.
"Yes, he does. So does Big Al, and even some of the officers. We're not alone anymore, Beth," he said, taking her hand.
"When's Nick due to be released?" asked Beth.
"In five or six months' time."
"Will you keep in touch with him?"
"I'll try to, but he's off to Scotland to teach."
"I'd like to meet him," said Beth, placing her other hand on Danny's cheek. "He's turned out to be a real mate."
"Friend," Danny said. "And he's already invited us out to dinner."
Christy tumbled to the ground after trying to take a step toward her father. She began crying, and Danny swept her up in his arms. "We've been ignoring you, haven't we, little one?" he said, but she didn't stop crying.
"Pass her over," Beth said. "We seem to have found something Nick hasn't been able to teach you."
"No whit I'd call a coincidence," said Big Al, who was glad to have a private word with the captain while Danny was taking a shower.
Nick stopped writing. "Not a coincidence?"
"Leach ends up in segregation and the next morning Mortimer's back, desperate tae see the doctor."
"You think Leach was his supplier?"
"Like I said, no whit I'd call a coincidence." Nick put down his pen. "He has the shakes," continued Big Al, "but that always happens when ye start a detox. Doc seems tae think this time he really wants tae come aff the stuff. Anyway, we'll soon find oot if Leach is involved."
"How?" asked Nick.
"He gets oot of solitary in a couple of weeks. If Mortimer stops turning up tae the hospital fur treatment the moment Leach is back on the block, we'll know who the supplier is."
"So we've only got another fortnight to gather the evidence we need," said Nick.
"Unless it is a coincidence."
"That's not a risk we can take," said Nick. "Borrow Danny's tape recorder and set up an interview as soon as possible."
"Yes, sir," said Big Al, standing to attention by the side of his bed. "Dae I tell Danny aboot this, or keep ma mooth shut?"
"You tell him everything, so he can pass on the information to his barrister. In any case, three brains are better than two."
"Jist how clever is he?" asked Big Al as he sat back down on his bunk.
"He's brighter than me," admitted Nick. "But don't tell him I said so, because with a bit of luck I'll be out of this place before he works it out for himself."
"Perhaps it's time we told him the truth about us?"
"Not yet," said Nick firmly.
"Letters," said the officer. "Two for Cartwright, and one for you, Moncrieff." He passed the single letter to Danny, who checked the name on the envelope.
"No, I'm Cartwright," said Danny. "He's Moncrieff."
The officer frowned, and handed the single letter to Nick and the other two to Danny.
"An I'm Big Al," said Big Al.
"Fuck off," said the officer, slamming the door behind him.
Danny began to laugh, but then he looked at Nick and saw that he had turned ashen. He was holding the envelope in his hand, and was shaking. Danny couldn't remember when Nick had last received a letter. "Do you want me to read it first?" he asked.
Nick shook his head, unfolded the letter and began to read. Big Al sat up, but didn't speak. The unusual doesn't happen that often in prison. As Nick read, his eyes began to water. He brushed a shirtsleeve across his face, then passed the letter across to Danny.
Dear Sir Nicholas,
I am sorry to have to inform you that your father has passed away. He died from heart failure yesterday morning, but the doctor assures me that he suffered little or no pain. I will, with your permission, make an application for compassionate leave in order that you can attend the funeral.
Fraser Munro, Solicitor
Danny looked up to see Big Al holding Nick in his arms. "His dad's died, hasn't he?" was all Big Al said.
"CAN YOU TAKE care of this while I'm away?" asked Nick, unfastening the silver chain from around his neck and handing it to Danny.
"Sure," said Danny, as he studied what looked like a key attached to the chain. "But why not take it with you?"
"Let's just say I trust you more than most of the people I'm going to meet up with later today."
"I'm flattered," said Danny, putting the chain around his neck.
"No need to be," said Nick with a smile.
He looked at his reflection in the small steel mirror that was screwed into the wall above the washbasin. His personal possessions had been returned to him at five o'clock that morning, in a large plastic bag that hadn't been unsealed for four years. He would have to leave by six if he was to be in Scotland in time for the funeral.
"I can't wait," said Danny, staring at him.
"For what?" asked Nick as he straightened his tie.
"Just to be allowed to wear my own clothes again."
"You'll be allowed to do that at your appeal, and once they overturn the verdict you'll never have to put on prison clothes again. In fact, you'll be able to walk straight out of the courtroom a free man."
"Especially after they hear ma tape," chipped in Big Al with a grin. "I think today's the day." He was about to explain what he meant when they heard a key turning in the lock. It was the first time they had ever seen Pascoe and Jenkins dressed in civilian clothes.
"Follow me, Moncrieff," said Pascoe. "The governor wants a word with you before we set off for Edinburgh."
"Do give him my best wishes," said Danny, "and ask him if he'd like to pop in for afternoon tea some time."
Nick laughed at Danny's imitation of his accent. "If you think you can pass yourself off as me, why don't you try taking my class this morning?"
"Are ye talking to me?" asked Big Al.
Davenport 's phone was ringing, but it was some time before he emerged from under the sheets to answer it. "Who the hell is this?" he mumbled.
"Gibson," announced the familiar voice of his agent.
Davenport was suddenly awake. Gibson Graham only rang when it meant work. Davenport prayed it would be a film, another television role, or perhaps an advertisement-they paid so well, even for a voiceover. Surely his fans would still recognize the dulcet tones of Dr. Beresford.
"I've had an availability inquiry," said Gibson, trying to make it sound as if it was a regular occurrence. Davenport sat up and held his breath. "It's a revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, and they want you to play Jack. Eve Best's signed up to play Gwendolen. Four weeks on the road before it opens in the West End. The pay's not great, but it will remind all those producers out there that you're still alive." Delicately put, thought Davenport, although he didn't warm to the idea. He remembered only too well what it was like to spend weeks on the road followed by night after night in the West End, not forgetting the half-empty matinees. Although he had to admit that it was his first serious offer for nearly four months.
"I'll think about it," he said.
"Don't take too long," said Gibson. "I know they've already put a call in to Nigel Havers's agent to check his availability."
"I'll think about it," Davenport repeated, and put the phone down. He checked his bedside clock. It was ten past ten. He groaned, and slid back under the sheets.
Pascoe rapped gently on the door, before he and Jenkins escorted Nick into the office.
"Good morning, Moncrieff," said the governor, looking up from behind his desk.
"Good morning, Mr. Barton," Nick replied.
"You realize," said Barton, "that although you have been granted compassionate leave in order to attend your father's funeral, you remain a category-A prisoner, which means that two officers must accompany you until you return tonight. The regulations also state that you should be handcuffed at all times. However, given the circumstances, and in view of the fact that for the past two years you have been an enhanced prisoner, and that it's only a few months before you are due to be released, I'm going to exercise my prerogative and allow you to be uncuffed once you cross the border. That is, unless either Mr. Pascoe or Mr. Jenkins has reason to believe you might attempt to escape or commit an offense. I'm sure I don't have to remind you, Moncrieff, that if you were foolish enough to try to take advantage of my decision, I would have no choice but to recommend to the Parole Board that you should not be considered for early release on"-he checked Nick's file-"July seventeenth, but that you should serve your full sentence, another four years. Is that fully understood, Moncrieff?"
"Yes, thank you, governor," said Nick.
"Then there is nothing more for me to say other than to offer my condolences for the loss of your father, and to wish you a peaceful day." Michael Barton rose from behind his desk and added, "May I say that I am only sorry this sad event did not take place after you had been released."
"Thank you, governor."
Barton nodded, and Pascoe and Jenkins led their charge out.
The governor frowned when he saw the name of the next prisoner who was due to come in front of him. He wasn't looking forward to the encounter.
During the morning break, Danny took over Nick's duties as the prison librarian, reshelving recently returned books and date-stamping those that prisoners wished to take out. After completing these tasks, he picked up a copy of The Times from the newspaper shelf and sat down to read it. Papers were delivered to the prison every morning but could only be read in the library: six copies of The Sun, four of the Mirror, two of the Daily Mail and a single copy of The Times-which Danny felt was a fair reflection of the prisoners' preferences.
Danny had read The Times every day for the past year, and was now familiar with its layout. Unlike Nick, he still couldn't complete the crossword, although he spent as much time reading the business section as he did the sports pages. But today would be different. He leafed through the paper until he came to a section that he had not troubled himself with in the past.
The obituary of Sir Angus Moncrieff Bt. MC OBE warranted half a page, even if it was the bottom half. Danny read the details of Sir Angus's life from his days at Loretto School, followed by Sandhurst, from where he graduated and took up a commission as a second lieutenant with the Cameron Highlanders. After winning the MC in Korea, Sir Angus had gone on to become Colonel of the Regiment in 1994, when he was awarded the OBE. The final paragraph reported that his wife had died in 1970, and that the title now passed to their only son, Nicholas Alexander Moncrieff. Danny picked up the Concise Oxford Dictionary that was never far from his side and turned to the back to look up the meaning of the letters Bt., MC and OBE. He smiled at the thought of telling Big Al that they were now sharing a cell with an hereditary knight, Sir Nicholas Moncrieff Bt. Big Al already knew.
"See you later, Nick," said a voice, but the prisoner had already left the library before Danny could correct his mistake.
Danny played with the key on the end of the silver chain, wishing, like Malvolio, that he could be someone he wasn't. It reminded him that his essay on Twelfth Night had to be handed in by the end of the week. He thought about the mistake his fellow prisoner had made, and wondered if he could get away with it when he came face to face with Nick's class. He folded The Times and placed it back on the shelf, then crossed the corridor to the education department.
Nick's group were already sitting behind their desks waiting for him, and clearly none of them had been told that their usual teacher was on his way to Scotland to attend his father's funeral. Danny marched boldly into the room and smiled at the dozen expectant faces. He unbuttoned his blue and white striped shirt, to ensure that the silver chain was even more prominent.
"Open your books to page nine," Danny said, hoping he sounded like Nick. "You'll see a set of animal pictures on one side of the page, and a list of names on the other. All I want you to do is to match up the pictures with the names. You have two minutes."
"I can't find page nine," said one of the prisoners. Danny walked across to help him just as an officer strolled into the room. A puzzled expression appeared on his face.
Danny looked up.
"I thought you were on compassionate leave?" he said, checking his clipboard.
"You're quite right, Mr. Roberts," said Danny. "Nick's at his father's funeral in Scotland, and he asked me to take over his reading class this morning."
Roberts looked even more puzzled. "Are you taking the piss, Cartwright?"
"No, Mr. Roberts."
"Then get yourself back to the library before I put you on report."
Danny quickly left the room and returned to his desk in the library. He tried not to laugh, but it was some time before he could concentrate enough to continue his essay on his favorite Shakespeare comedy.
Nick's train pulled into Waverley station a few minutes after twelve. A police car was waiting to drive them the fifty miles from Edinburgh to Dunbroath. As they pulled away from the curb, Pascoe checked his watch. "We should have plenty of time. The service doesn't start until two."
Nick looked out of the car window as the city gave way to open country. He felt a freedom he hadn't experienced in years. He had forgotten how beautiful Scotland was, with its harsh greens and browns and almost purple sky. Nearly four years in Belmarsh with only a view of high brick walls topped with razor wire tends to dim the memory.
He tried to compose his thoughts before they reached the parish church in which he'd been christened and his father would be buried. Pascoe had agreed that after the service was over he could spend an hour with Fraser Munro, the family solicitor, who had made the application for his compassionate leave, and who Nick suspected had also put in a plea for minimum security, and certainly no handcuffs, once they had crossed the border.
The police car drew up outside the church fifteen minutes before the service was due to begin. An elderly gentleman, whom Nick remembered from his youth, stepped forward as the policeman opened the back door. He wore a black tailcoat, wing collar and a black silk tie. He looked more like an undertaker than a solicitor. He raised his hat and gave a slight bow. Nick shook hands with him and smiled. "Good afternoon, Mr. Munro," he said. "It's nice to see you again."
"Good afternoon, Sir Nicholas," he replied. "Welcome home."
"Leach, although you have been provisionally released from segregation, let me remind you that it is only provisional," said the governor. "Should you cause even the slightest disruption now that you're back on the wing, I don't want you to be in any doubt that you will be returned to closed conditions without recourse to me."
"Recourse to you?" sneered Leach, as he stood in front of the governor's desk with an officer on either side of him.
"Are you questioning my authority?" asked the governor, "because if you are…"
"No, I am not, sir," said Leach sarcastically. "Just your knowledge of the 1999 Prison Act. I was thrown into segregation before being placed on report."
"A governor is allowed to carry out such an action without resorting to report if he has reason to believe that there is a prima facie case of-"
"I want to put in an immediate request to see my lawyer," said Leach coolly.
"I'll note your request," responded Barton, trying to remain composed. "And who is your lawyer?"
"Mr. Spencer Craig," Leach replied. Barton wrote the name down on the pad in front of him. "I will be requesting that he makes a formal complaint against you and three members of your staff."
"Are you threatening me, Leach?"
"No, sir. Just making sure it's on the record that I have made a formal complaint."
Barton could no longer hide his exasperation, and nodded curtly, his sign that the officers should remove the prisoner from his sight immediately.
Danny wanted to tell Nick the good news, but he knew that he wouldn't return from Scotland until after midnight.
Alex Redmayne had written to confirm that the date of his appeal had been set for May 31st, only two weeks away. Mr. Redmayne also wanted to know if Danny wished to attend the hearing, remembering that he had not given evidence in his original trial. He'd written back immediately confirming that he wanted to be present.
He had also written to Beth. He would have liked her to be the first to learn that Mortimer had made a full confession, and Big Al had recorded every word of it on Danny's tape recorder. The tape was now secreted inside his mattress, and he would hand it over to Mr. Redmayne during his next legal visit. Danny wanted to let Beth know they now had the evidence they needed, but he couldn't risk putting anything in writing.
Big Al didn't try to hide the fact that he was pleased with himself, and even offered to appear as a witness. It looked as if Nick had been right. Danny was going to be released before he was.
THE CHURCH WARDEN was waiting for Sir Nicholas in the vestry. He gave a slight bow before accompanying the new head of the family down the aisle to the front pew on the right-hand side. Pascoe and Jenkins took their places in the row behind.
Nick turned to his left, where the rest of the family were seated in the first three rows on the other side of the aisle. Not one of them even glanced in his direction; they were all clearly under his uncle Hugo's instructions to ignore him. That didn't stop Mr. Munro joining Nick in the front row. The organ struck up, and the local parish priest, accompanied by the regimental chaplain, led the choir down the aisle to the words of "The Lord is My Shepherd."
The trebles filed into the front row of the choir stalls, followed by the tenors and basses. A few moments later a coffin was borne in on the shoulders of six squaddies from the Cameron Highlanders, then placed gently on a bier in front of the altar. All the colonel's favorite hymns were sung lustily during the service, ending with "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended." Nick bowed his head in prayer for a man who did believe in God, Queen and country.
When the vicar delivered his eulogy, Nick recalled one of his father's expressions, which he invariably repeated whenever they had attended a regimental funeral in the past-"The padre did him proud."
Once the chaplain had offered closing prayers and the priest had administered the final blessing, the congregation of family, friends, representatives of the regiment and locals gathered in the churchyard to witness the burial.
For the first time, Nick noticed the massive figure of a man who must have weighed more than twenty-five stone, and who didn't look at home in Scotland. He smiled. Nick returned his smile and tried to recall when they had last met. Then he remembered: Washington, D.C.; the opening of an exhibition at the Smithsonian to celebrate his grandfather's eightieth birthday, when his fabled stamp collection had been put on display to the public. But Nick still couldn't recall the man's name.
After the coffin had been lowered into the grave and the final rites administered, the Moncrieff clan departed, without a single member offering their condolences to the deceased's son and heir. One or two of the locals whose livelihoods did not depend on his uncle Hugo walked across and shook hands with Nick, while the senior officer representing the regiment stood to attention and saluted. Nick raised his hat in acknowledgment.
As he turned to leave the graveside, Nick saw Fraser Munro talking to Jenkins and Pascoe. Munro came across to him. "They've agreed that you can spend an hour with me to discuss family matters, but they'll not allow you to accompany me back to the office in my car."
"I understand." Nick thanked the chaplain and then climbed into the back of the police car. A moment later Pascoe and Jenkins took their places on either side of him.
As the car moved off, Nick looked out of the window to see the large man lighting a cigar.
"Hunsacker," said Nick out loud. "Gene Hunsacker."
"Why did you want to see me?" demanded Craig.
"I've run out of gear," said Leach.
"But I supplied you with enough to last six months."
"Not after a bent screw's taken his cut."
"Then you'd better visit the library."
"Why would I go to the library, Mr. Craig?"
"Take out the latest copy of the Law Review, the leather-bound edition, and you'll find everything you need taped to the inside of the spine." Craig closed his briefcase, stood up and headed toward the door.
"It won't be a moment too soon," said Leach, not moving from his seat.
"What do you mean?" asked Craig as he touched the door handle.
"Aunt Maisie's friend has signed up for a detox program."
"Then you'll have to wean him off it, won't you."
"That may not solve your problem," said Leach calmly.
Craig walked slowly back to the table, but didn't sit down. "What are you getting at?"
"A little bird tells me that Aunt Maisie's friend has started singing like a canary."
"Then shut him up," spat out Craig.
"It may be too late for that."
"Stop playing games, Leach, and tell me what you're getting at."
"I'm told there's a tape."
Craig collapsed into the chair and stared across the table. "And what's on this tape?" he asked quietly.
"A full confession… with names, dates and places." Leach paused, aware that he now had Craig's undivided attention. "It was when I was told the names that I felt I ought to consult my lawyer."
Craig didn't speak for some time. "Do you think you can get your hands on the tape?" he eventually asked.
"At a cost."
"That's a bit steep."
"Bent screws don't come cheap," said Leach. "In any case, I bet Aunt Maisie doesn't have a plan B, so she hasn't got much choice."
Craig nodded. "All right. But there's a time limit. If it's not in my possession before May thirty-first, you won't get paid."
"No prizes for guessing whose appeal will be coming up that day," said Leach with a smirk.
"Your father made a will, which this firm executed," said Munro, tapping his fingers on the desk. "It was witnessed by a justice of the peace, and I have to advise you that however you feel about its contents, you would be unwise to dispute it."
"It would not have crossed my mind to oppose my father's wishes," said Nick.
"I think that is a sensible decision, Sir Nicholas, if I may say so. However, you are entitled to know the details of the will. As time is against us, allow me to paraphrase." He coughed. "The bulk of your father's estate has been left to his brother, Mr. Hugo Moncrieff, with smaller gifts and annuities to be distributed among other members of the family, the regiment and some local charities. He has left nothing to you except the title, which of course was not his to dispose of."
"Be assured, Mr. Munro, this does not come as a surprise."
"I'm relieved to hear that, Sir Nicholas. However, your grandfather, a shrewd and practical man, who incidentally my father had the privilege of representing, made certain provisions in his will of which you are now the sole beneficiary. Your father made an application to have that will rescinded, but the courts rejected his claim."
Munro smiled as he rummaged around among the papers on his desk until he found what he wanted. He held it up in triumph and declared, "Your grandfather's will. I will only acquaint you with the relevant clause." He turned over several pages. "Ah, here's what I'm looking for." He placed a pair of half-moon spectacles on the end of his nose and read slowly. "I leave my estate in Scotland, known as Dunbroathy Hall, as well as my London residence in The Boltons, to my grandson Nicholas Alexander Moncrieff, presently serving with his regiment in Kosovo. However, my son Angus will be allowed full and free use of both of these properties until his demise, when they will come into the possession of the aforementioned grandson." Munro placed the will back on his desk. "In normal circumstances," he said, "this would have guaranteed you a vast inheritance, but unfortunately I have to inform you that your father took advantage of the words full and free use, and borrowed heavily against both properties up until a few months before his death.
"In the case of the Dunbroathy estate, he secured a sum of "-once again Munro put on his half-moon spectacles in order that he could check the figure-"one million pounds, and for The Boltons, a little over a million. In accordance with your father's will, once probate has been agreed, that money will pass directly to your uncle Hugo."
"So despite my grandfather's best intentions," said Nick, "I've still ended up with nothing."
"Not necessarily," said Munro, "because I believe you have a legitimate case against your uncle to retrieve the money he procured by this little subterfuge."
"Nevertheless, if those were my father's wishes, I will not go against them," said Nick.
"I think you should reconsider your position, Sir Nicholas," said Munro, once again tapping his fingers on the desk. "After all, a large sum of money is at stake and I'm confident-"
"You may well be right, Mr. Munro, but I will not call my father's judgment into question."
Munro removed his glasses and reluctantly said, "So be it. I also have to report," he continued, "that I have been in correspondence with your uncle, Hugo Moncrieff, who is well aware of your present circumstances, and has offered to take both properties off your hands, and with them the responsibility for both mortgages. He has also agreed to cover any expenses, including legal costs, associated with the transactions."
"Do you represent my uncle Hugo?" Nick asked.
"No, I do not," said Munro firmly. "I advised your father against taking out a mortgage on either of the two properties. In fact, I told him that I considered it to be against the spirit of the law, if not the letter, to conduct such transactions without your prior knowledge or approval." Munro coughed. "He did not heed my advice, and indeed decided to take his custom elsewhere."
"In that case, Mr. Munro, may I inquire if you would be willing to represent me?"
"I am flattered that you should ask, Sir Nicholas, and let me assure you that this firm would be proud to continue its long association with the Moncrieff family."
"Remembering all my circumstances, Mr. Munro, how would you advise me to proceed?"
Munro gave a slight bow. "Anticipating the possibility that you might seek my counsel, I have on your behalf set in motion a train of inquiries." Nick smiled as the glasses returned to the nose of the aging advocate. "I am advised that the price of a house in The Boltons is currently around three million pounds, and my brother, who is a local councillor, tells me that your uncle Hugo has recently made inquiries at the town hall as to whether planning permission might be granted for a development on the Dunbroathy estate, despite the fact that I believe your grandfather hoped you would eventually hand over the estate to the National Trust for Scotland."
"Yes, he said as much to me," said Nick. "I made a note of the conversation in my diary at the time."
"That will not prevent your uncle from going ahead with his plans, and with that in mind, I inquired of a cousin who is a partner in a local estate agent what the council's attitude might be to such a planning application. He informs me that under the latest planning provisions in the 1997 Local Government Act, any part of the estate that currently has buildings on it, including the house, any barns, outbuildings or stables, would be likely to receive provisional planning permission. He tells me that this could amount to as much as twelve acres. He also informed me that the council are looking for land on which to build affordable flats or a retirement home, and they might even consider an application for an hotel." Munro removed his glasses. "You could have discovered all this information by reading the minutes of the council's planning committee, which are lodged in the local library on the last day of every month."
"Was your cousin able to put a value on the estate?" asked Nick.
"Not officially, but he said that similar pockets of land are currently trading at around two hundred and fifty thousand pounds per acre."
"Making the estate worth around three million," suggested Nick.
"I suspect nearer four and a half if you include the twelve thousand acres of rural land. But, and there is always a but when your uncle Hugo is involved, you must not forget that the estate and the London property are now encumbered with large mortgages, which have to be serviced every quarter day." Nick anticipated the opening of another file and he wasn't disappointed. "The house in The Boltons has outgoings, including rates, service charge and mortgage, of around three thousand four hundred pounds a month, and there are another two thousand nine hundred pounds a month on the Dunbroathy estate, making in all an outlay of approximately seventy-five thousand pounds a year. It is my duty to warn you, Sir Nicholas, that should either of these payments fall in arrears by more than three months, the mortgage companies concerned are entitled to place the properties on the market for immediate disposal. Were that to happen, I am sure they would find a willing buyer in your uncle."
"And I must tell you, Munro, that my current income as a prison librarian is twelve pounds a week."
"Is that so?" said Munro, making a note. "Such a sum would not make a very large dent in seventy-five thousand pounds," he suggested, revealing a rare flash of humor.
"Perhaps in the circumstances we might resort to another of your cousins," suggested Nick, unable to mask a smile.
"Sadly not," replied Munro. "However, my sister is married to the manager of the local branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and he has assured me that he can see no problem in servicing the payments if you were willing to lodge a second charge on both properties with the bank."
"You have been most solicitous on my behalf," said Nick, "and I am indeed grateful."
"I must confess," said Munro, "and you will understand that what I am about to say is off the record, that although I had great admiration, indeed affection, for your grandfather, and was happy to represent your father, I have never felt quite the same confidence when it came to your uncle Hugo, who is-" There was a knock on the door. "Come in," said Munro.
Pascoe put his head around the door. "I apologize for interrupting you, Mr. Munro, but we have to leave in a few minutes if we're to catch the train back to London."
"Thank you," said Munro. "I shall be as expeditious as possible." He did not speak again until Pascoe had closed the door behind him. "I fear that despite our brief acquaintance, Sir Nicholas, you are going to have to trust me," said Munro, placing several documents on the table in front of him. "I will have to ask you to sign these agreements, although you do not have the time to consider them in detail. However, if I am to proceed while you complete…" He coughed.
"My sentence," said Nick.
"Quite so, Sir Nicholas," said the solicitor as he removed a fountain pen from his pocket and passed it to his client.
"I also have a document of my own that I wish you to witness," said Nick. He took out several pieces of lined prison paper from an inside pocket and passed them across to his solicitor.
LAWR ENCE DAVENPORT TOOK three curtain calls on the night The Importance of Being Earnest opened at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. He didn't seem to notice that the rest of the cast were on stage with him.
During rehearsals, he had phoned his sister and invited her to join him for dinner after the show.
"How's it going?" Sarah had asked.
"Just fine," he replied, "but that's not the real reason I want you to come down. I need to discuss an important decision I've come to that will affect you, indeed the whole family."
By the time he put the phone down he was even more determined. He was going to stand up to Spencer Craig for the first time in his life, whatever the consequences. He knew he wouldn't be able to go through with it without Sarah's support, especially remembering her past relationship with Craig.
Rehearsals had been tiresome. In a play there's no second or third take should you forget a line or walk on stage at the wrong time. Davenport even began to wonder how he could hope to shine playing alongside actors who regularly appeared in the West End. But the moment the curtain rose on the first night it was clear that the theater was full of Dr. Beresford's fans, who hung on Lawrence's every word, laughed at his least amusing lines, and applauded every bit of business in which he was involved.
When Sarah dropped into his dressing room to wish him luck before the curtain went up, he reminded her that he had something of great importance to discuss over dinner. She thought he looked pale and a little tired, but put it down to first-night nerves.
"See you after the show," she said. "Break a leg."
When the curtain finally fell, Davenport knew he couldn't go through with it. He felt that he was back where he belonged. He tried to convince himself that he had a duty to take other people into consideration, not least his sister. After all, why should her career be harmed because of Spencer Craig?
Davenport returned to his dressing room to find it full of friends and admirers toasting his good health-always the first sign of a hit. He basked in the praise heaped upon him and tried to forget all about Danny Cartwright, who was, after all, nothing more than an East End thug who was probably best locked up in any case.
Sarah sat in the corner of the room, delighted by her brother's success, but wondering what he needed to discuss with her that was of such great importance.
Nick was surprised to find Danny still awake when the cell door was opened by Pascoe just after midnight. Although he was exhausted after the day's events and his long journey back to London, he was pleased to have someone to share his news with.
Danny listened attentively to all that had taken place in Scotland. Big Al lay facing the wall, and didn't speak.
"You would have been so much better at handling Munro than I was," said Nick. "To begin with, I doubt if you would have allowed my uncle to get away with stealing all that money." He was about to go into more detail about the meeting with his solicitor when he suddenly stopped and asked, "What are you looking so pleased about?"
Danny climbed off the bunk, slipped a hand under his pillow and extracted a small cassette tape. He put it in his cassette player and pressed play.
"Whit's yer name?" inquired a man with a thick Glaswegian accent.
"Toby, Toby Mortimer," responded a voice that had clearly been raised in a different environment.
"So how did ye end up in here?"
"The worst. Heroin. I used to need the stuff twice a day."
"Then ye must be pleased we got ye on a detox program."
"It's not proving that easy," said Toby.
"And whit aboot that load of shite ye told me yisterday? Wis I expected tae believe aw that?"
"It's all true, every word. I just needed you to understand why I dropped out of the program. I saw my friend stab a man, and I should have told the police."
"Why didn't ye?"
"Because Spencer told me to keep my mouth shut."
"My friend, Spencer Craig. He's a barrister."
"An you expect me tae believe that a barrister knifed someone he'd never met before?"
"It wasn't as simple as that."
"I bet the polis thought it wis as simple as that."
"Yes, they did. All they had to do was choose between a lad from the East End and a barrister who had three witnesses to say he wasn't even there." The tape was silent for several seconds before the same voice said, "But I was there."
"So whit really happened?"
"It was Gerald's thirtieth birthday and we'd all had a bit too much to drink. That's when the three of them walked in."
"Three of them?"
"Two men and a girl. It was the girl who was the problem."
" Wis it the girl who started the fight?"
"No, no. Craig fancied the girl the moment he set eyes on her, but she wasn't interested, which really pissed him off."
"So hur boyfriend started the fight?"
"No, the girl made it obvious that she wanted to leave, so they slipped out the back door."
"Intae an alley?"
"How did you know that?" asked a surprised-sounding voice.
"Ye told me yisterday," said Big Al, recovering from his mistake.
"Oh, yes." Another long silence. "Spencer and Gerald ran round to the back of the pub the moment they left, so Larry and I went along for the ride. But then it got out of control."
"Who wis tae blame fur that?"
"Spencer and Gerald. They wanted to pick a fight with the two yobs and assumed we'd back them up, but I was too spaced out to be of any use, and Larry doesn't go in for that sort of thing."
"The soap star?" said Big Al, trying to sound surprised.
"Yes. But he and I just stood around and watched when the fight broke out."
"So it wis yer friend Spencer who wis looking fur a fight?"
"Yes. He's always fancied himself as a boxer, got a blue at Cambridge, but those two lads were in a different class. That was until Spencer pulled out the knife."
"Spencer had a knife?"
"Yes, he picked it up from the bar before he went into the alley. I remember him saying, 'Just in case.' "
"An he'd nae seen the two men or the girl before?"
"No, but he still fancied his chances with the girl, until Cartwright got the better of him. That's when Spencer lost his temper and stabbed him in the leg."
"But he didnae kill him?"
"No, just stabbed him in the leg, and while Cartwright was nursing his wound, Spencer stabbed the other guy in the chest." It was some time before the voice said, "And killed him."
"Did ye call the polis?"
"No, Spencer must have done that later, after he told us all to go home. He said that if anyone asked any questions, we were to say we'd never left the bar, and didn't see anything."
"And did anyone ask any questions?"
"The police came round to my place the next morning. I hadn't slept, but I didn't let on. I think I was more frightened of Craig than the police, but it didn't matter anyway, because the detective in charge of the investigation was convinced he'd arrested the right man."
The tape ran for several more seconds before Mortimer's voice added, "That was over two years ago, and not a day goes by when I don't think about that lad. I've already warned Spencer that as soon as I'm fit enough to give evidence…" The tape went dead.
"Well done!" exclaimed Nick, but Big Al only grunted. He had stuck to the script Danny had written for him, which covered all the points Mr. Redmayne needed for the appeal.
"I still have to get the tape to Mr. Redmayne somehow," said Danny as he removed it from the cassette player and tucked it under his pillow.
"That shouldn't prove too difficult," said Nick. "Send it in a sealed envelope marked 'legal.' No officer would dare to open it unless they were convinced the lawyer was dealing in money or drugs directly with an inmate, and no barrister would be stupid enough to take that sort of risk."
"Unless that inmate hud a screw working on the inside," said Big Al, "who jist happened tae find oot aboot the tape."
"But that's not possible," said Danny, "not while we're the only three who know about it."
"Don't forget Mortimer," said Big Al, finally deciding it was time to sit up. "An he's no capable of keeping his mooth shut, especially when he needs a hit."
"So what should I do with the tape?" said Danny. "Because I have no chance of winning my appeal without it."
"Dinnae risk sending it by post," said Big Al. "Make an appointment tae see Redmayne, and then hand it over in person. 'Cause who dae ye think jist happened to huv a meeting wi' his lawyer yisterday?"
Nick and Danny didn't speak as they waited for Big Al to answer his own question.
"That bastard Leach," he eventually said.
"That could just be a coincidence," said Nick.
"No when that lawyer is Spencer Craig."
"How can you be so sure it was Spencer Craig?" asked Danny, gripping the railing on the side of his bunk.
"Screws drop in and oot of the hospital to huv a chat wi' sister, and I'm the wan who his tae brew their cuppa."
"If a bent screw were to find out about that tape," said Nick, "there would be no prizes for guessing whose desk it would end up on."
"So what am I meant to do about that?" said Danny, sounding desperate.
"Make sure it does end up on his desk," said Nick.
"Are you booked in for a consultation?"
"So are you here to seek legal advice?"
"Then what are you here for, exactly?" asked Spencer Craig.
"I require aid, but not of the legal variety."
"What kind of aid do you have in mind?" asked Craig.
"I've spotted a rare opportunity to get my hands on a large shipment of wine, but there's a problem."
"A problem?" repeated Craig.
"They require a down payment."
"Ten thousand pounds."
"I'll need a few days to think about it."
"I'm sure you will, Mr. Craig, but don't take too long, because I have another interested party, who's hoping I'll be able to answer a few questions this time around." The barman of the Dunlop Arms paused before adding, "I promised to let him know before May thirty-first."
They all heard the key turning in the lock, which took them by surprise, as it was still another hour before Association.
When the cell door was pulled open, Hagen was standing in the doorway. "Cell search," he said. "You three, in the corridor."
Nick, Danny and Big Al made their way out onto the landing and were even more surprised when Hagen marched into their cell and pulled the door closed behind him. The surprise was not that a screw was carrying out a pad search. They were common enough-officers were always on the lookout for drugs, drink, knives and even guns. But whenever a cell search had taken place in the past, there were always three officers present, and the cell door was left wide open so that prisoners couldn't claim something had been planted.
A few moments later the door swung open and Hagen reappeared, unable to hide the grin on his face. "OK, lads," he said, "you're clean."
Danny was surprised to see Leach in the library, because he'd never taken out a book before. Perhaps he wanted to read a paper. He was roaming up and down the shelves, looking lost.
"Can I help?" ventured Danny.
"I want the latest copy of the Law Review."
"You're in luck," said Danny. "We only had an out-of-date one until a few days ago when someone donated several books to the library, including the latest edition of the Law Review."
"So hand it over," Leach demanded.
Danny walked across to the legal section, removed a thick leatherbound book from the shelf and brought it back to the counter. "Name and number?"
"I don't have to tell you nothin'."
"You'll have to tell me your name if you want to take out a book, because otherwise I can't make out a library card."
"Leach, 6241," he snarled.
Danny made out a new library card. He hoped Leach hadn't noticed his hand was trembling. "Sign on the bottom line."
Leach put a cross on the place where Danny was pointing.
"You'll have to return the book within three days," Danny explained.
"Who do you think you are, a fuckin' screw? I'll bring it back when I feel like it."
Danny watched as Leach grabbed the book and walked out of the library without saying another word. He was puzzled. If Leach couldn't sign his name…
CRAIG LEFT HIS black Porsche in the visitors' car park an hour before they were due to see Toby. He had already warned Gerald that it was almost as difficult to get into Belmarsh prison as it was to get out: an endless rat-run of barred gates, double-checking of credentials and thorough body searches, and that was before you even reached the reception area.
Once they had given their names in at the desk, Craig and Payne were handed a numbered key and told to place any valuables, including watches, rings, necklaces and any notes or loose change, in a locker. If they wished to buy any items from the canteen on behalf of a prisoner, they had to hand over the correct amount of money in exchange for small plastic tokens marked £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, so that cash could not be passed to an inmate. Each visitor's name was called separately, and before being allowed to enter the secure area, they were subjected to a further search, on this occasion by an officer assisted by a sniffer dog.
"Numbers one and two," said a voice over the loudspeaker.
Craig and Payne sat in a corner of the waiting room with only copies of Prison News and Lock and Key to help while away the time as they waited for their numbers to be called.
"Numbers seventeen and eighteen," said the voice some forty minutes later. Craig and Payne rose from their places and made their way through another set of barred gates to face an even more rigorous security search before they were allowed to enter the visits area, where they were told to take their seats in row G, numbers 11 and 12.
Craig sat down on a green chair that was bolted to the floor, while Payne went off to the canteen to buy three cups of tea and a couple of Mars Bars in exchange for his prison tokens. When he rejoined Craig, he placed the tray on a table that was also bolted to the floor and sat down on another immovable seat.
"How much longer will we have to wait?" he asked.
"Some time yet, I suspect," replied Craig. "The prisoners are only let in one by one and I expect they're being searched even more thoroughly than we were."
"Don't look round," whispered Beth, "but Craig and Payne are sitting three or four rows behind you. They must be visiting someone."
Danny began to shiver, but resisted looking around. "It has to be Mortimer," he said. "But they're too late."
"Too late for what?" asked Beth.
Danny took her hand. "I can't say too much at the moment, but Alex will be able to brief you when you next see him."
"It's Alex now, is it?" said Beth, smiling. "So are you two on first-name terms?"
Danny laughed. "Only behind his back."
"You're such a coward," said Beth. "Mr. Redmayne always refers to you as Danny, and he even told me how pleased he was that you'd started shaving regularly, and grown your hair longer. He thinks it just might make a difference when it comes to the appeal."
"How's the garage coming along?" asked Danny, changing the subject.
"Dad's slowing down a bit," said Beth. "I wish I could convince him to give up smoking. He never stops coughing, but he won't listen to anything Mum or I have to say on the subject."
"So who has he made manager?"
"Trevor Sutton? He couldn't run a whelk stall."
"No one else seemed to want the job," said Beth.
"Then you'd better keep a close eye on the books," said Danny.
"Why? You don't think Trevor is on the fiddle?"
"No, but only because he can't add up."
"But what can I do about it?" said Beth. "Dad never confides in me, and frankly I'm pretty overworked myself at the moment."
"Mr. Thomas driving you hard, is he?" asked Danny with a grin.
Beth laughed. "Mr. Thomas is a terrific boss, and you know it. Don't forget how kind he was during the trial. And he's just given me another pay rise."
"I don't doubt he's a good chap," said Danny, "but-"
"A good chap?" laughed Beth.
"Blame Nick," said Danny, unconsciously running a hand through his hair.
"If you go on like this," said Beth, "you won't be able to mix with your old mates when you're released."
"But you do realize," said Danny, ignoring her comment, "that Mr. Thomas fancies you."
"You must be joking," said Beth. "He always behaves like the perfect gentleman."
"That doesn't stop him fancying you."
"How does anyone ever manage to get drugs into a place as well protected as this?" asked Payne, looking up at the CCTV cameras and the prison officers on the balcony peering down at them through binoculars.
"The carriers are getting more and more sophisticated," said Craig. "Children's nappies, wigs-some even put the gear in condoms and then stuff them up their backside, knowing not many officers enjoy searching around in there, while others even swallow the stuff, they're so desperate."
"And if the packet breaks open inside them?"
"They can die a horrible death. I once had a client who could swallow a small packet of heroin, hold it in his throat, and then cough it up when he got back to his cell. You might consider that one hell of a risk, but imagine being on twelve pounds a week, when you can sell a packet like that for five hundred pounds-they obviously think it's worth it. The only reason why we were put through such a rigorous search is because of what Toby's in for."
"If Toby takes much longer our time will be up before he even makes an appearance," said Payne, looking down at a cup of tea that had gone cold.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir." An officer was standing by Craig's side. "I'm afraid Mortimer has been taken ill, and won't be able to join you this afternoon."
"Bloody inconsiderate," said Craig as he rose from his place. "The least he could have done was to let us know. Typical."
"Bang up! Everyone back in your cells immediately, and I mean immediately!" bellowed a voice. Whistles were blowing, klaxons were blaring and officers appeared from every corridor and began herding any stray prisoners back into their cells.
"But I have to report to education," protested Danny as the cell door was slammed in his face.
"No today, Danny boy," said Big Al, lighting a cigarette.
"What was that all about?" asked Nick.
"It could be wan ay many things," said Big Al, inhaling deeply.
"Like what?" asked Danny.
"A fight couldae broken oot on another wing, which the screws think might spread. Someone could even huv attacked a screw-God help the bastard. Or a dealer might have been caught handin' over some gear, or a prisoner couldae torched his cell. Ma bet," he offered, but not before he'd exhaled a large cloud of smoke, "is that someone's gone and topped himself." He flicked the ash from the end of his cigarette onto the floor. "Ye cin take your choice, because only wan thing's fur certain-we willnae be opened up again for at least another twenty-four hours, until it's been sorted."
Big Al turned out to be right: it was twenty-seven hours before they heard a key turning in the lock.
"What was that all about?" Nick asked the officer who opened their cell door.
"No idea," came back the regulation response.
"Someone's topped himself," said a voice from the next cell.
"Poor bastard, must have discovered it was the only way out of this place."
"Anyone we know?" asked another.
"A druggie," said another voice, "only been with us for a few weeks."
Gerald Payne asked the man at the porter's lodge in Inner Temple to direct him to Mr. Spencer Craig's chambers.
"Far corner of the square, sir. Number six," came back the reply. "You'll find his office on the top floor."
Payne hurried across the square, keeping to the path, obeying the notices that firmly announced, Keep off the grass. He had left his office in Mayfair as soon as Craig had phoned to say, "If you come to my chambers around four, you won't be suffering any more sleepless nights."
When Payne reached the other side of the square, he climbed the stone steps and pushed open a door. He stepped into a cold, musty corridor with stark white walls adorned with old prints of even older judges. At the far end of the corridor was a wooden staircase, and attached to the wall was a shiny black board on which was painted boldly in white a list of names indicating the members of chambers. As the porter had told him, Mr. Spencer Craig's chambers were on the top floor. The long climb up the creaking wooden staircase reminded Payne how badly out of shape he'd become-he was breathing heavily long before he reached the third floor.
"Mr. Payne?" inquired a young woman who was waiting on the top step. "I'm Mr. Craig's secretary. He's just phoned to say that he's left the Old Bailey and should be with you in a few minutes. Perhaps you'd care to wait in his office?" She led him down the corridor, opened a door and ushered him in.
"Thank you," said Payne as he stepped into a large room, sparsely furnished with a partner's desk and two high-backed leather chairs, one on either side.
"Would you care for a cup of tea, Mr. Payne, or perhaps a coffee?"
"No, thank you," said Payne, as he looked out of a window overlooking the square.
She closed the door behind her, and Payne sat down facing Craig's desk; it was almost bare, as if no one worked there-no photos, no flowers, no mementoes, just a large blotting pad, a tape recorder and a bulky, unopened envelope addressed to Mr. S. Craig and marked "Private."
A few minutes later Craig came bursting into the room, closely followed by his secretary. Payne rose and shook hands with him, as if he was a client rather than an old friend.
"Have a seat, old boy," said Craig. "Miss Russell, can you make sure we're not disturbed?"
"Of course, Mr. Craig," she replied, and left, closing the door behind her.
"Is that what I think it is?" asked Payne, pointing at the envelope on Craig's desk.
"We're about to find out," said Craig. "It arrived in the morning post while I was in court." He ripped the envelope open and tipped its contents onto the blotting pad-a small cassette tape.
"How did you get hold of it?" asked Payne.
"Better not to ask," said Craig. "Let's just say I've got friends in low places." He smiled, picked up the tape and slotted it in the cassette player. "We are about to find out what Toby was so keen to share with the rest of the world." He pressed the play button. Craig leaned back in his chair while Payne remained on the edge of his seat, his elbows on the desk. It was several seconds before they heard someone speak.
"I can't be sure which one of you will be listening to this tape." Craig didn't recognize the voice immediately. "It could be Lawrence Davenport-but that seems unlikely. Gerald Payne is a possibility." Payne felt a chill shiver dart through his body. "But I suspect it's most likely to be Spencer Craig." Craig showed no emotion. "Whichever one of you it is, I want to leave you in no doubt that if it takes me the rest of my life, I'm going to make sure that all three of you end up in jail for the murder of Bernie Wilson, not to mention my own unlawful incarceration. If you still hope to get your hands on the tape you were really looking for, let me assure you that it's somewhere you'll never find it, until you're locked up in here."
DANNY LOOKED AT himself in a full-length mirror for the first time in months, and was surprised by his reaction. Nick's influence must have gone further than even he had realized, because he suddenly felt uncomfortably aware that a pair of designer jeans and a West Ham shirt might not be the most appropriate apparel for an appearance at the Royal Courts. He was already regretting having turned down Nick's offer of a sober suit, shirt and tie, which would have been more in keeping with the gravity of the occasion (Nick's words), as the disparity in their size was negligible (two words Danny no longer had to look up).
Danny took his place in the dock and waited for the three judges to appear. He had been driven out of Belmarsh at 7 A.M. in a large white prison van along with twelve other prisoners who were all due to appear at the appeal court that morning. How many of them would be returning that night? On arrival he'd been locked up in a cell and told to wait. It gave him time to think. Not that he would be allowed to say anything in court. Mr. Redmayne had gone through the appeal procedure with him in great detail, and had explained that it was very different from a trial.
Three judges would have trawled through all the original evidence, as well as the transcript of the trial, and would have to be persuaded that there was fresh evidence that the judge and jury had not been privy to before they would consider overturning the original verdict.
Once he had heard the tape, Alex Redmayne was confident that doubt would be planted in their lordships' minds, although he didn't intend to dwell for too long on why Toby Mortimer was unable to appear as a witness.
It was some time before the door of Danny's cell was unlocked, and Alex joined him. After their last consultation, he had insisted that Danny call him by his Christian name. He still refused, as it just didn't feel right, despite the fact that his counsel had always treated him as an equal. Alex began to go over all the new evidence in great detail. Despite Mortimer taking his own life, they were still in possession of the tape, which Alex described as their trump card.
"One should always try to avoid clichés, Mr. Redmayne," Danny said with a grin.
Alex smiled. "Another year and you'll be conducting your own defense."
"Let's hope that won't be necessary."
Danny looked up to where Beth and her mother were seated in the front row of a gallery that was packed with the good citizens of Bow, who were in no doubt that he would be released later that day. He was only sorry that Beth's father was not among them.
What Danny didn't realize was how many more people were standing on the pavement outside the Royal Courts, chanting and holding up placards demanding his release. He glanced down at the press benches where a young man from the Bethnal Green and Bow Gazette sat with his notepad open and his pen poised. Would he have an exclusive for tomorrow's paper? The tape might not prove to be enough in itself, Alex had warned Danny, but once it had been played in court, its contents could be reported in any newspaper in the land, and after that…
Danny was no longer alone. Alex, Nick, Big Al and of course Beth were the generals in what was fast becoming a small army. Alex had admitted that he was still hopeful a second witness might come forward to confirm Mortimer's story. If Toby Mortimer had been willing to confess, wasn't it possible that either Gerald Payne or Lawrence Davenport might, after more than two years of having had to live with their consciences, want to set the record straight?
"Why don't you go and see them?" Danny had asked. "They might just listen to you."
Alex had explained why that wasn't possible, and went on to point out that even if he bumped into one of them socially he could be forced to withdraw from the case, or face a charge of unprofessional conduct.
"Couldn't you send someone else in your place, and have them get hold of the evidence we need, the way Big Al did?"
"No," said Alex firmly. "If such an action were traced back to me, you'd be looking for a new barrister and I'd be looking for another job."
"What about the barman?" Danny asked.
Alex told him that they'd already carried out a background check on Reg Jackson, the barman of the Dunlop Arms, to find out if he had any previous convictions.
"Nothing," said Alex. "He's been arrested twice in the past five years for handling stolen goods, but the police didn't have enough evidence to be sure of a conviction, so the charges were dropped."
"What about Beth?" Danny asked. "Will they give her a second chance to testify?"
"No," replied Alex. "The judges will have read her written testimony as well as the transcript of the trial and they're not interested in repeat performances." He also warned Danny that he couldn't find anything in the judge's summing-up, which suggested sufficient prejudice to seek a retrial. "The truth is, everything rests on the tape."
"What about Big Al?"
Alex told him that he had considered calling Albert Crann as a witness, but had decided that it might do more harm than good.
"But he's a loyal friend," said Danny.
"With a criminal record."
As ten o'clock struck, the three judges trooped into the courtroom. The court officials rose, bowed to their lordships and then waited for them to take their places on the bench. To Danny, the two men and one woman who held the rest of his life in their hands appeared somewhat shadowy figures, their heads covered in short wigs and their everyday clothes masked by full-length black gowns.
Alex Redmayne placed a file on a small lectern in front of him. He had explained to Danny that he would be alone on the front bench, as prosecuting counsel didn't have to be present at appeals. Danny felt he wouldn't miss Mr. Arnold Pearson QC.
Once the court had settled, the senior judge, Lord Justice Browne, invited Mr. Redmayne to begin his summation.
Alex opened by reminding the court of the background to the case, trying once again to sow doubt in their lordships' minds, but from the looks on their faces he clearly wasn't making much of an impression. In fact, Lord Justice Browne interrupted him on more than one occasion to inquire if there was going to be any new evidence presented in this case, as he stressed that all three judges had studied the court transcripts of the original trial.
After an hour, Alex finally gave in. "Be assured, m'lord, that I do indeed intend to present important new evidence for your consideration."
"Be assured, Mr. Redmayne, that we are looking forward to hearing it," was Lord Justice Browne's response.
Alex steadied himself and turned another page of his file. "My lords, I am in possession of a tape recording that I should like you to consider. It is a conversation with a Mr. Toby Mortimer, a fellow Musketeer who was present at the Dunlop Arms on the night in question, but was unable to give evidence at the original trial as he was indisposed." Danny held his breath as Alex picked up the tape and placed it in a cassette player on the table in front of him. He was just about to press the play button, when Lord Justice Browne leaned forward and said, "One moment please, Mr. Redmayne."
Danny felt a shiver go through his body as the three judges whispered among themselves. It was some time before Lord Justice Browne asked a question to which Alex had no doubt he already knew the answer.
"Will Mr Mortimer be appearing as a witness?" he asked.
"No, m'lord, but the tape will show-"
"Why will he not be appearing before us, Mr. Redmayne? Is he still indisposed?"
"Unfortunately, m'lord, he died quite recently."
"May I inquire what was the cause of death?"
Alex cursed. He knew that Lord Justice Browne was well aware of the reason Mortimer couldn't be in court, but was making sure that every detail was on the record. "He committed suicide, m'lord, after taking an overdose of heroin."
"Was he a registered heroin addict?" continued Lord Justice Browne relentlessly.
"Yes, m'lord, but fortunately this recording was made during a period of remission."
"No doubt a doctor will appear before us to confirm this?"
"Unfortunately not, m'lord."
"Am I to understand that a doctor was not present when the tape recording was made?"
"I see. And where was the tape recording made?"
"In Belmarsh prison, m'lord."
"Were you present at the time?"
"Perhaps an officer of the prison was on hand to witness the circumstances in which this tape recording was made?"
"Then I am curious to know, Mr. Redmayne, exactly who was present on the occasion."
"A Mr. Albert Crann."
"And if he is not a doctor or a member of the prison staff, what was his position at the time?"
"He is a prisoner."
"Is he, indeed? I am bound to ask, Mr. Redmayne, if you have any proof that this recording was made without Mr. Mortimer being coerced or threatened."
Alex hesitated. "No, m'lord. But I'm confident that you will be able to make such a judgment concerning Mr. Mortimer's state of mind once you have listened to the tape."
"But how can we be sure that Mr. Crann wasn't holding a knife to his throat, Mr. Redmayne? Indeed, perhaps his very presence would have been enough to put the fear of God into Mr. Mortimer."
"As I have suggested, m'lord, you might feel better able to form an opinion once you have heard the tape."
"Allow me a moment to consult with my colleagues, Mr. Redmayne."
Once again the three judges whispered among themselves.
After a short time, Lord Justice Browne turned his attention back to defense counsel. "Mr. Redmayne, we are all of the opinion that we cannot allow you to play the tape, as it is clearly inadmissible."
"But, my lord, may I refer you to a recent European Commission directive-"
"European directives do not yet constitute law in my court," said Lord Justice Browne, but quickly corrected himself, "-in this country. Let me warn you that if the contents of this tape were ever to become public, I would be obliged to refer the matter to the CPS."
The one journalist on the press benches put down his pen. For a moment he had thought he had an exclusive, as Mr. Redmayne would surely pass over the tape at the conclusion of the hearing so that he could decide if his readers might be interested, even if their lordships were not. But that would no longer be possible. If the paper published one word of the tape following the judge's directive, it would be in contempt of court-something even the most robust editors draw the line at.
Alex shuffled some papers around, but he knew that he wouldn't be troubling Lord Justice Browne again.
"Please carry on with your submission, Mr. Redmayne," the judge offered helpfully. Alex continued defiantly with the little new evidence he had left at his disposal, but he could no longer call on anything that caused Lord Justice Browne even to raise an eyebrow. When Alex finally resumed his place, he cursed himself under his breath. He should have released the tape to the press the day before the appeal was due to be heard, and then the judge would have had no choice but to consider the conversation to be admissible as fresh evidence. But Lord Justice Browne proved too wily a customer to allow Alex even to press the play button.
His father had later pointed out that if their lordships had heard so much as one sentence, they would have had no choice but to listen to the whole tape. They hadn't heard one word, let alone a sentence.
The three judges retired at twelve thirty-seven, and it was only a short time before they returned with a unanimous verdict. Alex lowered his head when Lord Justice Browne uttered the words, "Appeal dismissed."
He looked across at Danny, who had just been condemned to spend the next twenty years of his life in jail for a crime Alex was now certain he did not commit.
SEVERAL OF THE guests were on their third or fourth glass of champagne by the time Lawrence Davenport appeared on the staircase of the crowded ballroom. He didn't move from the top step until he was satisfied that most of them had turned to gaze in his direction. A smattering of applause broke out. He smiled and waved a hand in acknowledgment. A glass of champagne was thrust into his other hand with the words, "You were magnificent, darling."
When the curtain fell, the first-nighters had given the cast a standing ovation, but that would not have come as a surprise to any regular theatergoers because they always do. After all, the first eight rows are usually filled with the cast's family, friends and agents and the next six with comps and hangers-on. Only a seasoned critic would fail to rise the moment the curtain fell, unless it was to leave quickly so that they could file their piece in time to catch the first edition the following morning.
Davenport slowly looked around the room. His eyes settled on his sister Sarah, who was chatting to Gibson Graham.
"How do you think the critics will react?" Sarah asked Larry's agent.
"They'll be sniffy," said Gibson, puffing away on his cigar. "They always are when a soap star appears in the West End. But as we've got an advance of nearly three hundred thousand pounds and it's only a fourteen-week run, we're critic-proof. It's bums on seats that matter, Sarah, not the critics."
"Has Larry got anything else lined up?"
"Not at the moment," Gibson admitted. "But I'm confident that after tonight there will be no shortage of inquiries."
"Larry, well done," said Sarah as her brother walked over to join them.
"What a triumph," added Gibson, raising his glass.
"Do you really think so?" asked Davenport.
"Oh, yes," said Sarah, who understood her brother's insecurities better than anyone. "In any case, Gibson tells me that you're almost booked out for the entire run."
"True, but I still worry about the critics," said Davenport. "They've never been kind to me in the past."
"Don't give them a thought," said Gibson. "It doesn't matter what they say-the show's going to be a sell-out."
Davenport scanned the room to see who he wanted to talk to next. His eyes rested on Spencer Craig and Gerald Payne, who were standing in the far corner, deep in conversation.
"It looks as if our little investment will pay off," said Craig. "Doubly."
"Doubly?" said Payne.
"Not only did Larry clam up the moment he was offered the chance to appear in the West End, but with an advance of three hundred thousand, we're certain to get our money back, and possibly even show a small profit. And now that Cartwright has lost his appeal, we won't have to worry about him for at least another twenty years," Craig added with a chuckle.
"I'm still worried about the tape," said Payne. "I'd be far more relaxed if I knew it no longer existed."
"It's no longer relevant," said Craig.
"But what if the papers got hold of it?" said Payne.
"The papers won't dare to go anywhere near it."
"But that wouldn't stop it being published on the Internet, which could be every bit as damaging for both of us."
"You keep worrying yourself unnecessarily," said Craig.
"Not a night goes by when I don't worry about it," said Payne. "I wake up every morning wondering if my face will be plastered across the front pages."
"I don't think it would be your face that ended up on the front pages," said Craig as Davenport appeared by his side. "Congratulations, Larry. You were quite brilliant."
"My agent tells me that you both invested in the show," said Davenport.
"You bet we did," said Craig. "We know a winner when we see one. In fact, we're going to spend part of the profits on the Musketeers' annual bash."
Two young men came up to Davenport, happy to confirm his own opinion of himself, which gave Craig the opportunity to slip away.
As he circulated around the room, he caught a glimpse of Sarah Davenport talking to a short, balding, overweight man who was smoking a cigar. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He wondered if the man puffing away on the cigar was her partner. When she turned in his direction, Craig smiled at her, but she didn't respond. Perhaps she hadn't seen him. In his opinion she had always been better looking than Larry and after their one night together… He walked across to join her. He would know in a moment if Larry had confided in her.
"Hello, Spencer," she said. Craig bent down to kiss her on both cheeks. "Gibson," said Sarah, "this is Spencer Craig, an old friend of Larry's from university days. Spencer, this is Gibson Graham, Larry's agent."
"You invested in the show, didn't you?" said Gibson.
"A modest amount," admitted Craig.
"I never thought of you as an angel," said Sarah.
"I've always backed Larry," said Craig, "but then I never doubted he was going to be a star."
"You've become something of a star yourself," said Sarah with a smile.
"Then I'm bound to ask," said Craig, "if you feel that way, why you never brief me?"
"I don't deal with criminals."
"I hope that won't stop you having dinner with me sometime, because I'd like-"
"The first editions of the papers have arrived," interrupted Gibson. "Excuse me while I find out if we've got a hit, or just a winner."
Gibson Graham made his way quickly across the ballroom, barging anyone aside who was foolish enough to stand in his path. He grabbed a copy of the Daily Telegraph and turned to the review section. He smiled when he saw the headline: Oscar Wilde is still at home in the West End . But the smile turned to a frown by the time he reached the second paragraph:
Lawrence Davenport gave us his usual stock performance, this time as Jack, but it didn't seem to matter as the audience was littered with Dr. Beresford fans. In contrast, Eve Best, playing Gwendolen Fairfax, sparkled from her first entrance…
Gibson looked across at Davenport, pleased to see that he was deep in conversation with a young actor who had been resting for some time.
BY THE TIME they reached his cell, the damage had been done. The table had been smashed to pieces, the mattresses torn apart, the sheets ripped to shreds and the little steel mirror wrenched from the wall. As Mr. Hagen heaved open the door, he found Danny trying to pull the washbasin from its stand. Three officers came charging toward him, and he took a swing at Hagen. If the punch had landed it would have felled a middleweight champion, but Hagen ducked just in time. The second officer grabbed Danny's arm, while the third kicked him sharply in the back of the knee, which gave Hagen enough time to recover and cuff his arms and legs while his colleagues held him down.
They dragged him out of his cell and bounced him down the iron staircase, keeping him on the move until they reached the purple corridor that led to the segregation unit. They came to a numberless cell. Hagen opened the door and the other two threw him in.
Danny lay still on the cold stone floor for some considerable time. Had there been a mirror in the cell, he would have been able to admire his black eye and the patchwork quilt of bruises that was woven across his body. He didn't care; you don't, when you've lost hope and have another twenty years to think about it.
"My name is Malcolm Hurst," said the representative from the Parole Board. "Please have a seat, Mr. Moncrieff."
Hurst had given some thought to how he should address the prisoner. "You have applied for parole, Mr. Moncrieff," he began, "and it is my responsibility to write a report for the board's consideration. Of course I have read your case history, which gives a full account of how you have conducted yourself while you've been in prison, and your wing officer, Mr. Pascoe, has described your behavior as exemplary." Nick remained silent.
"I have also noted that you are an enhanced prisoner, who works in the library as well as assisting the prison teaching staff in both English and History. You seem to have had remarkable success with some of your fellow prisoners, who have gone on to be awarded GCSEs, and one in particular, who is currently preparing to take three A levels."
Nick nodded sadly. Pascoe had tipped him off that Danny had lost his appeal and was on his way back from the Old Bailey. He had wanted to be waiting in the cell when Danny arrived, but unfortunately the Parole Board had scheduled the interview some weeks ago.
Nick had already resolved to be in touch with Alex Redmayne as soon as he was released, and to offer to assist in any way possible. He couldn't understand why the judge hadn't allowed the tape to be played. No doubt Danny would tell him the reason once he returned to his cell. He tried to concentrate on what the representative from the Parole Board was saying.
"I see that during your time in prison, Mr. Moncrieff, you have taken an Open University degree in English, gaining a two-two." Nick nodded. "While your record in prison is highly commendable, I'm sure you'll understand that I still have to ask you some questions before I can complete my report."
Nick had already taken advice from Pascoe on what those questions might be. "Of course," he replied.
"You were convicted by an army board of being reckless and negligent during the course of duty, to which you pleaded guilty. The board stripped you of your commission, and sentenced you to eight years in prison. Is that a fair assessment?"
"Yes it is, Mr. Hurst."
Hurst placed a tick in the first box. "Your platoon was guarding a group of Serbian prisoners when a band of Albanian militia drove up to the compound firing their Kalashnikovs in the air."
"Your staff sergeant retaliated."
"Warning shots," said Nick, "after I had given the insurgents a clear order to stop firing."
"But two United Nations observers who witnessed the whole incident gave evidence at your trial suggesting that the Albanians were only firing their guns in the air at the time." Nick made no attempt to defend himself. "And although you did not fire a shot yourself, you were the watch commander on that occasion."
"And you accept that your sentence was just."
Hurst made a further note before asking, "And were the board to recommend that you should be released having served only half of your sentence, what plans do you have for the immediate future?"
"I intend to return to Scotland, where I would take up a teaching post in any school that will employ me."
Hurst put another tick in another box before moving on to his next question. "Do you have any financial problems that might prevent you taking up a teaching post?"
"No," said Nick, "on the contrary. My grandfather has left me sufficiently well off to ensure that I need not work again."
Hurst ticked another box. "Are you married, Mr. Moncrieff?"
"No," said Nick.
"Do you have any children, or other dependants?"
"Are you currently on any medication?"
"If you were to be released, do you have a home to go to?"
"Yes, I have a house in London and another in Scotland."
"Do you have any family to assist you were you to be released?"
"No," said Nick. Hurst looked up; this was the first box not to be ticked. "Both my parents are dead, and I have no brothers or sisters."
"Aunts or uncles?"
"One uncle and aunt who live in Scotland, whom I have never been close to, and another aunt on my mother's side, who lives in Canada, and whom I have corresponded with but never met."
"I understand," said Hurst. "One final question, Mr. Moncrieff. It may seem a little strange given your circumstances, but nevertheless I have to ask it. Can you think of any reason why you might consider committing the same crime again?"
"As I am unable to resume my career in the army, and indeed have no desire to do so, the answer to your question has to be no."
"I fully understand," said Hurst, placing a tick in the last box. "Finally, do you have any questions for me?"
"Only to ask when I'll be informed of the board's decision."
"It will take me a few days to write my report before I submit it to the board," said Hurst, "but once they've received it, it should be no more than a couple of weeks before they're in touch with you."
"Thank you, Mr. Hurst."
"Thank you, Sir Nicholas."
"We didn't have any choice, sir," said Pascoe.
"I'm sure that's right, Ray," said the governor, "but I do think a little common sense is called for with this particular prisoner."
"What do you have in mind, sir?" asked Pascoe. "After all, he did trash his cell."
"I'm aware of that, Ray, but we all know how lifers can react if their appeal is turned down: they either become silent loners, or tear the place apart."
"A few days in the slammer will bring Cartwright to his senses," said Pascoe.
"Let's hope so," said Barton, "because I'd like to get him back on an even keel as quickly as possible. He's a bright lad. I'd hoped he'd be Moncrieff's natural successor."
"The obvious choice, although he'll automatically lose his enhanced status and have to return to basic."
"That need only be for a month," said the governor.
"In the meantime," said Pascoe, "what do I do about his work category? Do I take him off education and put him back on the chain gang?"
"Heaven forbid," said Barton. "That would be more of a punishment for us than it would be for him."
"What about his canteen rights?"
"No pay and no canteen for four weeks."
"Right, sir," said Pascoe.
"And have a word with Moncrieff. He's Cartwright's closest friend. See if he can knock some sense into him, as well as supporting him over the next few weeks."
"Will do, sir."
"What's the charge this time?"
"Failure to return a library book."
"Can't you deal with something as minor as that without involving me?" asked the governor.
"In normal circumstances yes, sir, but in this case it was a valuable leather-bound copy of the Law Review, which Leach failed to return despite several verbal and written warnings."
"I still don't see why he needs to come in front of me," said Barton.
"Because when we eventually found the book in a rubbish skip at the back of the block, it had been torn apart."
"Why would he do that?"
"I have my suspicions, sir, but no proof."
"Another way of getting drugs in?"
"As I said, sir, I have no proof. But Leach is back in segregation for another month, just in case he takes it upon himself to tear the whole library apart." Pascoe hesitated. "We have another problem."
"One of my informers tells me he overheard Leach saying he was going to get even with Cartwright, if it was the last thing he did."
"Because he's the librarian?"
"No, something to do with a tape," replied Pascoe, "but I can't get to the bottom of it."
"That's all I need," said the governor. "You'd better keep a twenty-four-hour watch on both of them."
"We're pretty short-staffed at the moment," said Pascoe.
"Then do the best you can. I don't want a repeat of what happened to the poor bastard at Garside-and all he did was give Leach a V sign."
DANNY LAY ON the top bunk composing a letter which he'd given a great deal of thought to. Nick had tried to talk him out of it, but he had made his decision and there was nothing that would change his mind.
Nick was taking a shower and Big Al was over at the hospital helping sister with the evening surgery, so Danny had the cell to himself. He climbed down from his bunk and took a seat at the small formica table. He stared at a blank sheet of paper. It was some time before he managed to write the first sentence.
This will be the last time I write to you. I have given a great deal of thought to this letter and have come to the conclusion that I cannot condemn you to the same life sentence that has been imposed on me.
He glanced at the photograph of Beth that was sellotaped to the wall in front of him.
As you know, I am not due to be released until I'm fifty and with that in mind, I want you to start a new life without me. If you write to me again, I will not open your letters; if you try to visit, I will remain in my cell; I will not contact you, and will not respond to any attemptyou make to contact me. On this I am adamant, and nothing will change my mind.
Do not imagine even for a moment that I don't love you and Christy, because I do, and I will for the rest of my life. But I am in no doubt that this course of action will be best for both of us in the long run.
Goodbye, my love
He folded the letter and placed it in an envelope, which he addressed to Beth Wilson, 27 Bacon Road, Bow, London E3. Danny was still staring at the photograph of Beth when the cell door swung open. "Letters," said an officer standing in the doorway. "One for Moncrieff, and one for…" he spotted the watch on Danny's wrist and the silver chain around his neck and hesitated.
"Nick's taking a shower," Danny explained.
"Right," said the officer. "There's one for you, and one for Moncrieff."
Danny immediately recognized Beth's neat handwriting. He didn't open the envelope, just tore it up, dropped the pieces into the lavatory and pulled the flush. He placed the other envelope on Nick's pillow.
Printed in bold letters in the top left-hand corner were the words "Parole Board."
"How many times have I written to him?" asked Alex Redmayne.
"This will be the fourth letter you've sent in the past month," replied his secretary.
Alex looked out of the window. Several gowned figures were rushing to and fro across the square. "Lifer's syndrome," he said.
"You either cut yourself off from the outside world, or carry on as if nothing has happened. He's obviously decided to cut himself off."
"So is there any point in writing to him again?"
"Oh, yes," replied Alex. "I want him to be left in no doubt that I haven't forgotten him."
When Nick came back from the shower room, Danny was still at the table going over some financial forecasts that were part of his A level in business studies, while Big Al remained slumped on his bed. Nick strolled into the cell with a thin wet towel around his waist, his flip-flops making water marks on the stone floor. Danny stopped writing and handed him back his watch, ring and silver chain.
"Thanks," said Nick. He then spotted the thin brown envelope on his pillow. For a moment he just stared at it. Danny and Big Al said nothing as they waited to see Nick's reaction. Finally he grabbed a plastic knife and slit open an envelope that the prison authorities were not allowed to tamper with.
Dear Mr. Moncrieff,
I am directed by the Parole Board to inform you that your request for early release has been granted. Your sentence will therefore be terminated on July 17th, 2002. The full details of your release and your parole conditions will be sent to you at a later date, along with the name of your probation officer and the office you will be expected to report to.
T. L. Williams
Nick looked up at his two cellmates, but he didn't need to tell them that he would soon be a free man.
"Visits!" hollered a voice that could be heard from one side of the block to the other. A few moments later the cell door swung open and an officer checked his clipboard. "You've got a visitor, Cartwright. Same young lady as last week." Danny turned another page of Bleak House and just shook his head.
"Suit yourself," said the officer, and slammed the cell door closed.
Nick and Big Al didn't comment. They had both given up trying to make him change his mind.
HE HAD CHOSEN the day carefully, even the hour, but what he couldn't have planned was that the minute would fall so neatly into place.
The governor had decided the day, and the senior officer had backed his judgment. On this occasion an exception would be made. The prisoners would be allowed out of their cells to watch the World Cup match between England and Argentina.
At five minutes to twelve, the doors were unlocked and the prisoners flooded out of their cells, all heading in one direction. Big Al, as a patriotic Scot, gruffly declined the opportunity to watch the old enemy in action and remained supine on his bunk.
Danny was among those seated at the front, staring attentively at an ancient square box, waiting for the referee to blow his whistle and start the game. All the prisoners were clapping and shouting long before the kickoff, with one exception, who was standing silently at the back of the group. He wasn't looking at the television, but up at an open cell door on the first floor. He didn't move. Officers don't notice prisoners who don't move. He was beginning to wonder if the man had broken his usual routine because of the match. But he wasn't watching the match. His mate was sitting on a bench at the front, so he must still be in his cell.
After thirty minutes, with the score nil-nil, there was still no sign of him.
Then, just before the referee blew his whistle for half-time, an English player was brought down in the Argentine penalty area. The crowd surrounding the TV seemed to make almost as much noise as the thirty-five thousand spectators in the stadium, and even some of the officers joined in. Background noise was all part of his plan. His eyes remained fixed on the open door when suddenly, without warning, the rabbit came out of his hutch. He was wearing boxer shorts and flip-flops with a towel draped over his shoulder. He didn't look down; he clearly had no interest in football.
He walked backward for a few paces until he had detached himself from the group, but nobody noticed. He turned and walked slowly to the far end of the block, then climbed stealthily up the spiral staircase to the second floor. No one looked around as the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
When he reached the top step he checked to see if anyone had noticed him leave. No one even glanced in his direction. The Argentine players were surrounding the referee and protesting, while the England captain picked up the ball and walked calmly into the penalty box.
He came to a halt outside the shower room, and peered inside to discover it was steamed up; all part of his plan. He stepped inside, relieved to find that only one person was taking a shower. He padded silently over to the wooden bench on the far side of the room, where a single towel lay neatly folded in the corner. He picked it up and carefully twisted it into a noose. The prisoner standing under the shower rubbed some shampoo into his hair.
Everyone on the ground floor had gone silent. There was not a murmur as David Beckham placed the ball on the penalty spot. Some even held their breath as he took a few paces back.
The man in the shower room took a few paces forward as Beckham's right foot connected with the ball. The roar that followed sounded like a prison riot, with all the officers joining in.
The prisoner who was rinsing his hair under the shower opened his eyes when he heard the roar, and immediately had to place a hand across his forehead to stop more lather running into his eyes. He was just about to step out of the shower and grab his towel from the bench when a knee landed in his groin with such force that Beckham would have been impressed, followed by a clenched fist into the middle of his ribs which propelled him against the tiled wall. He tried to retaliate, but a forearm was rammed into his throat, and another hand grabbed his hair and jerked his head back. One swift movement, and although no one heard the bone snap, when he was released his body sank to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
His attacker bent down and carefully placed the noose around his neck, then with all the strength he possessed lifted the dead man up and held him against the wall while he tied the other end of the towel to the shower rail. He slowly lowered the body into place and stood back for a moment to admire his handiwork. He returned to the entrance of the shower room and poked his head around the doorway to check what was going on down below. The celebrations were now out of control, and any officers were fully occupied making sure that the prisoners didn't start breaking up the furniture.
He moved like a ferret, making his way swiftly and silently back down the spiral staircase, ignoring the dripping water that would have dried long before the match came to an end. He was back in his cell in less than a minute. Laid out on his bed were a towel, a clean T-shirt and a pair of jeans, a fresh pair of socks and his Adidas trainers. He quickly stripped off his wet gear, dried himself and put on the clean clothes. He then checked his hair in the little steel mirror on the wall before slipping back out of the cell.
The prisoners were now impatiently waiting for the second half to begin. He joined his fellow inmates unnoticed, and slowly, a pace here, a sideways move there, made his way to the center of the melee. For most of the second half the crowd were urging the referee to whistle for full time so that England could leave the pitch as one-nil winners.
When the final whistle eventually blew, there was another eruption of noise. Several officers shouted, "Back to your cells!" but the response was not immediate.
He turned and walked purposefully toward one particular officer, knocking against his elbow as he passed by.
"Look where you're going, Leach," said Pascoe.
"Sorry, guv," said Leach, and continued on his way.
Danny made his way back upstairs. He knew that Big Al would have already reported to surgery, but he was surprised that Nick wasn't in the cell. He sat down at the table and stared at the photo of Beth still sellotaped to the wall. It brought back memories of Bernie. They would have been at their local watching the match together, if… Danny tried to concentrate on the essay that had to be handed in by tomorrow, but he just went on looking at the photo, trying to convince himself that he didn't miss her.
Suddenly the shriek of a klaxon echoed around the block, accompanied by the sound of officers screaming "Back to your cells!" Moments later the cell door was pulled open and an officer stuck his head in. "Moncrieff, where's Big Al?"
Danny didn't bother to correct him-after all, he was still wearing Nick's watch, ring and silver chain, which had been given to him for safekeeping-and simply said, "He'll be at work in the hospital."
When the door slammed shut, Danny wondered why he hadn't asked where he was. It was impossible to concentrate on his essay with so much noise going on all around him. He assumed some overexuberant prisoner was being carted off to segregation in the aftermath of the English victory. A few minutes later the door was pulled opened again by the same officer, and Big Al ambled in.
"Hello, Nick," he said in a loud voice before the door was slammed shut.
"What's your game?" asked Danny.
Big Al placed a finger on his lips, walked across to the lavatory and sat down on it.
"They cannae see me while I'm sitting here, so look like yer working and don't turn roon."
"And don't open yer mooth, just listen." Danny picked up his pen and pretended to be concentrating on his essay. "Nick's topped himself."
Danny thought he was going to be sick. "But why-" he repeated.
"I said don't speak. They found him hangin' in the showers."
Danny began to pound the table with his fist. "It can't be true."
"Shut up, ya stupid fucker, and listen. I wis in surgery when two screws came rushing in-one of them said, 'Sister, come quickly, Cartwright's topped himself.' I knew that wis balls, 'cause I'd seen ye at the football a few minutes before. It hud tae be Nick. He always uses the shower when he's least likely tae be disturbed."
"Don't worry about why, Danny boy," Big Al said firmly. "The screws and the sister ran off, so I was left on ma own fur a few minutes. Then another screw turns up and marches mi back here." Danny was now listening intently. "He told me it wis you who'd committed suicide."
"But they'll find out it wasn't me as soon as-"
"No, they won't," said Big Al, "because I hud enough time tae switch the names on yer two files."
"You did what?" said Danny in disbelief.
"You heard me."
"But I thought you told me the files are always locked up?"
"They are, but no during surgery, in case sister needs tae check on someone's medication. And she left in a hurry." Big Al stopped talking when he heard someone in the corridor outside. "Keep writing," he said, and stood up, returned to his bed and lay down. An eye peered through the spyhole then moved on to the next cell.
"But why did you do that?" Danny asked.
"Wance they check his fingerprints and his blood group, they're gonnae go on thinkin' it's you who topped himself because ye couldnae face another twenty years in this shite-hole."
"But Nick had no reason to hang himself."
"I know," said Big Al. "But as long as they think it wis you on the end ay that rope, there's no gonnae be an inquiry."
"But that doesn't explain why you switched…" began Danny. He went silent for some time, before adding, "So I can walk out of here a free man in six weeks' time."
"Ye catch on fast, Danny boy."
The blood drained from Danny's face as the consequences of Big Al's impetuous action began to sink in. He stared at the photo of Beth. He still wouldn't be able to see her, even if he did manage to escape. He'd have to spend the rest of his life pretending to be Nick Moncrieff. "You didn't think of asking me first?" he said.
"If I hud, it would 've been too late. Don't forget, there are only aboot half a dozen people in this place who cin tell ye apart, and wance they've checked the files, even they're gonnae be programmed tae thinking yur died."
"But what if we're caught?"
"Ye'll carry on serving a life sentence, an I'll lose ma job in the hospital and go back tae being a wing cleaner. Big deal."
Danny was silent again for some time. Eventually he said, "I'm not sure I can pull it off, but if, and I mean if-"
"Nae time for ifs, Danny boy. Ye've probably got twenty-four hours before that cell door opens again, by which time ye'll huv tae decide if yer Danny Cartwright, serving another twenty years for a crime ye didnae commit, or Sir Nicholas Moncrieff, due for release in six weeks' time. And let's face it, ye'll huv a far better chance of clearing yer name wance you're on the ootside-not tae mention getting those bastards who murdered yer mate."
"I need time to think," said Danny as he began to climb up onto the top bunk.
"No fur too long," said Big Al. "Remember Nick always slept on the bottom bunk."
"NICK WAS FIVE months older than me," said Danny, "and half an inch shorter."
"How dae ye know that?" asked Big Al nervously.
"It's all in his diaries," replied Danny. "I've just reached the point where I turn up in this cell and you two have to decide what story you're going to tell me." Big Al frowned. "I've been blind for the past two years, when all the time it was staring me in the face." Big Al still didn't speak. "You were the staff sergeant who shot those two Kosovan Albanians when Nick's platoon was ordered to guard a group of Serbian prisoners."
"Wurse," said Big Al. "It wis ifter Captain Moncrieff hud given a clear order no tae fire till he'd issued a warnin' in both English and Serbo-Croat."
"And you chose to ignore that order."
"There's nae point issuing warnings tae someone who's already firing at ye."
"But two UN observers told the court martial that the Albanians were only firing their weapons into the air."
"An observation made fae the safety of their hotel suite on the other side of the square."
"And Nick ended up carrying the can."
"Aye," said Big Al. "Despite the fact that I told the provost marshal exactly whit happened, they chose tae take Nick's word over mine."
"Which resulted in you being charged with manslaughter."
"An only being sentenced tae ten years rather than twenty-two for murder with nae hope of remission."
"Nick writes a lot about your courage, and how you saved half the platoon, including himself, while you were serving in Iraq."
"Not his style," said Danny, "although it does explain why he was willing to shoulder the blame, even though you had disobeyed his orders."
"I told the court martial the truth," repeated Big Al, "but they still stripped Nick of his commission and sentenced him tae eight years fur being reckless and negligent in the course of his duty. Do you imagine a day goes by when I don't think aboot the sacrifice he made fur me? But I'm certain of wan thing-he wouldae wanted ye tae take his place."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Read on, Danny boy, read on."
"Something doesn't ring quite true about this whole episode," said Ray Pascoe.
"What are you getting at?" asked the governor. "You know as well as I do that it's not uncommon for a lifer to commit suicide within days of his appeal being turned down."
"But not Cartwright. He had too much to live for."
"We can't begin to know what was going on in his mind," said the governor. "Don't forget that he tore his cell apart and ended up in segregation. He also refused to see his fiancée or his child whenever they turned up for a visit-wouldn't even open her letters."
"True. But is it just a coincidence that this happens within days of Leach threatening to get even with him?"
"You wrote in your latest report that there's been no contact between the two of them since the library-book incident."
"That's what worries me," said Pascoe. "If you intended to kill someone, the last thing you'd do is be seen anywhere near them."
"The doctor has confirmed that Cartwright died of a broken neck."
"Leach is quite capable of breaking someone's neck."
"Because he didn't return a library book?"
"And ended up in segregation for a month," said Pascoe.
"What about that tape you've been banging on about?"
Pascoe shook his head. "I'm none the wiser on that subject," he admitted. "It's still just a gut feeling…"
"You'd better have a little more to go on than a gut feeling, Ray, if you expect me to open a full inquiry."
"A few minutes before the body was found, Leach bumped into me quite purposely."
"So what?" said the governor.
"He was wearing a brand new pair of trainers."
"Is this leading somewhere?"
"I noticed that he was wearing his blue prison gym shoes when the match started, so how come he was wearing brand-new Adidas trainers when it ended? It doesn't add up."
"Much as I admire your powers of observation, Ray, that's hardly enough proof to convince me that we need to open an inquiry."
"His hair was wet."
"Ray," said the governor, "we've got two choices. Either we accept the doctor's report and confirm to our masters at the Home Office that it was suicide, or we call in the police and ask them to mount a full investigation. If it's the latter, I'll need a little more to go on than wet hair and a new pair of trainers."
"But if Leach-"
"The first question we'd be asked is why, if we knew about Leach's threat to Cartwright, we didn't recommend that he was transferred to another prison the same day."
There was a gentle tap on the door.
"Come in," said the governor.
"Sorry to disturb you," said his secretary, "but I thought you'd want to see this immediately." She handed him a sheet of lined prison paper.
He read the short note twice before passing it across to Ray Pascoe.
"Now that's what I call proof," said the governor.
Payne was showing a client around a penthouse apartment in Mayfair when his mobile phone began to ring. He would normally have switched it off whenever he was with a potential buyer, but when the name Spencer appeared on the screen he excused himself for a moment and went into the next room to take the call.
"Good news," said Craig. "Cartwright's dead."
"He committed suicide-he was found hanging in the showers."
"How do you know?"
"It's on page seventeen of the Evening Standard. He even left a suicide note, so that's the end of our problems."
"Not while that tape still exists," Payne reminded him.
"No one is going to be interested in a tape of one dead man talking about another."
The cell door swung open and Pascoe walked in. He stared at Danny for some time, but didn't speak. Danny looked up from the diary; he'd reached the date of Nick's interview with Hurst from the Parole Board. The same day his appeal had been turned down. The day he trashed the cell and ended up in segregation.
"OK, lads, grab a meal and then get back to work. And, Moncrieff," said Pascoe, "I'm sorry about your friend Cartwright. I for one never thought he was guilty." Danny tried to think of a suitable reply, but Pascoe was already unlocking the next door cell.
"He knows," said Big Al quietly.
"Then we're done for," said Danny.
"I don't think so," said Big Al. "Fur some reason he's gon' along wi' the suicide, an ma bet is that he's no the only wan who's got his doubts. By the way, Nick, whit made ye change yer mind?"
Danny picked up the diary, flicked back a few pages and read out the words: If I could change places with Danny, I would. He has far more right to his freedom than I do.
DANNY STOOD AS inconspicuously as possible at the back of the churchyard as Michael raised his right hand and gave the sign of the cross.
The governor had granted Nick's request to attend Danny Cartwright's funeral at St. Mary's in Bow. He turned down a similar application from Big Al on the grounds that he still had at least fourteen months to serve, and had not yet been granted parole.
As the unmarked car had swung into Mile End Road, Danny looked out of the window, checking for familiar sights. They passed his favorite chippie, his local, the Crown and Garter, and the Odeon, where he and Beth used to sit in the back row every Friday night. When they stopped at the lights outside Clement Attlee Comprehensive, he clenched his fist as he thought of the wasted years he had spent there.
He tried not to look when they passed Wilson 's garage, but he couldn't stop himself. There were few signs of life in the little yard. It would take more than a fresh coat of paint to make anyone think about buying a second-hand car from Wilson 's. He turned his attention to Monty Hughes's place on the other side of the road: row upon row of gleaming new Mercedes with smartly dressed salesmen displaying cheerful smiles.
The governor had reminded Moncrieff that although he had only five weeks left to serve, he would still have to be accompanied by two officers, who would never leave his side. And if he were to disobey any of the strictures placed upon him, the governor would not hesitate to recommend to the Parole Board that they rescind their decision for an early release, which would result in him having to serve another four years.
"But you already know all this," Michael Barton had gone on to say, "because the same strictures were placed on you when you attended your father's funeral just a couple of months ago." Danny didn't comment.
The governor's strictures, as he called them, rather suited Danny, as he was not allowed to mix with the Cartwright family, their friends or any members of the public. In fact, he was not permitted to speak to anyone other than the accompanying officers until he was back inside the prison walls. The possibility of another four years in Belmarsh was quite enough to concentrate the mind.
Pascoe and Jenkins stood on either side of him, some way back from the mourners who surrounded the grave. Danny was relieved to find that Nick's clothes might have been tailor-made for him-well, perhaps the trousers could have been an inch longer, and although he had never worn a hat before, it had the advantage of shielding his face from any curious onlookers.
Father Michael opened the service with a prayer while Danny watched a gathering that was far larger than he had anticipated. His mother looked pale and drawn, as if she had been weeping for days, and Beth was so thin that a dress he well remembered now hung loosely on her, no longer emphasizing her graceful figure. Only his two-year-old daughter, Christy, was oblivious to the occasion as she played quietly by her mother's side; but then, she had only ever come into contact with her dad briefly, followed by month-long intervals, so she'd probably long forgotten him. Danny hoped that the only memory of her father wouldn't be of visiting him in prison.
Danny was touched to see Beth's father standing by her side, head bowed, and just behind the family, a tall elegant young man in a black suit, lips pursed, a look of smoldering anger in his eyes. Danny suddenly felt guilty that he hadn't replied to any of Alex Redmayne's letters since the appeal.
When Father Michael had finished intoning the prayers, he bowed his head before delivering his eulogy. "The death of Danny Cartwright is a modern tragedy," he told his parishioners as he looked down at the coffin. "A young man who had lost his way, and so troubled was he in this world that he took his own life. Those of us who knew Danny well still find it hard to believe that such a gentle, considerate man could have committed any crime, let alone the slaying of his closest friend. Indeed, many of us in this parish," he glanced at an innocent constable standing by the entrance to the church, "have still to be convinced that the police arrested the right person." A smattering of applause broke out among some of the mourners encircling the grave. Danny was pleased to see that Beth's father was among them.
Father Michael raised his head. "But for now, let us remember the son, the young father, the gifted leader and sportsman, for many of us believe that had Danny Cartwright lived, his name would have echoed far beyond the streets of Bow." Applause broke out a second time. "But that was not the Lord's will, and in His divine mystery He chose to take our son away, to spend the rest of his days with our savior." The priest sprinkled holy water around the grave and, as the coffin was lowered into the ground, he began to intone, "May eternal rest be granted unto Danny, O Lord."
As the young choir softly chanted the "Nunc Dimittis," Father Michael, Beth and the rest of the Cartwright family knelt by the graveside. Alex Redmayne along with several other mourners waited behind to pay their last respects. Alex bowed his head as if in prayer, and spoke a few words that neither Danny nor anyone else present could hear: "I will clear your name so that you may finally rest in peace."
Danny wasn't allowed to move until the last mourners had departed, including Beth and Christy, who never once looked in his direction. When Pascoe finally turned to tell Moncrieff that they should leave, he found him in tears. Danny wanted to explain that his tears were shed not only for his dear friend Nick, but for the privilege of being one of those rare individuals who discover how much they are loved by those closest to them.
DANNY SPENT EVERY spare moment reading and rereading Nick's diaries, until he felt there was nothing left to know about the man.
Big Al, who had served with Nick for five years before they were both court-martialed and sent to Belmarsh, was able to fill in several gaps, including how Danny should react if he ever bumped into an officer of the Cameron Highlanders, and he also taught him how to spot the regimental tie at thirty paces. They endlessly discussed the first thing Nick would have done the moment he was released.
"He'd go straight up tae Scotland," said Big Al.
"But all I'll have is forty-five pounds and a rail voucher."
"Mr. Munro will be able tae sort all that oot fur ye. Don't forget that Nick said ye'd huv handled him far better than he did."
"If I'd been him."
"Ye ur him," said Big Al, "thanks to Louis and Nick, who between them huv done a brilliant job, so Munro shouldnae be too difficult. Just be sure that when he sees ye fur the first time-"
"The second time."
"-but he only saw Nick fur an hour, and he'll be expecting tae see Sir Nicholas Moncrieff, not someone he's never met before. The bigger problem will be whit tae dae efter that."
"I'll come straight back to London," said Danny.
"Then make sure ye keep away fae the East End."
"There are millions of Londoners who have never been to the East End," said Danny with some feeling. "And although I don't know where The Boltons is, I'm pretty sure it's west of Bow."
"So whit will ye dae wance yur back in London?"
"After attending my own funeral and having to watch Beth suffer, I'm more determined than ever to ensure that she isn't the only person who knows I didn't kill her brother."
"Bit like that Frenchman ye told me aboot-whit's his name?"
"Edmond Dantès," said Danny. "And like him, I will not be satisfied until I have had revenge on the men whose deceit has ruined my life."
"Yur gonnae kill them aw?"
"No, that would be too easy. They must suffer, to quote Dumas, a fate worse than death. I've had more than enough time to think how I'd go about it."
"Perhaps ye should add Leach tae that list," said Big Al.
"Leach? Why should I bother with him?"
"Because I think it wis Leach who killed Nick. I keep asking maself, why would he top hisself six weeks before he wis gonnae be released?"
"But why would Leach kill Nick? If he had a quarrel with anyone, it was me."
"It wasnae Nick he wis efter," said Big Al. "Don't forget ye were wearing Nick's silver chain, watch and ring while he wis in the shower."
"But that means-"
"Leach killed the wrong man."
"But he can't have wanted to kill me just because I asked him to return a library book."
"An ended up back in segregation."
"You think that would be enough to make him murder someone?"
"Perhaps not," said Big Al. "But you cin be sure that Craig wouldnae 'uve paid up fur the wrong tape. And I doubt if ye'er on Mr. Hagen's Christmas card list."
Danny tried not to think about the fact that he might have been unwittingly responsible for Nick's death.
"But don't worry yersel, Nick. Once you're oot ay here, a fate worse than death isnae whit I huv planned for Leach."
Spencer Craig didn't need to look at the menu, because it was his favorite restaurant. The maître d' was used to seeing him accompanied by different women-sometimes two or three times in the same week.
"Sorry I'm late," said Sarah as she sat down opposite him. "I was held up by a client."
"You work too hard," said Craig. "But then you always did."
"This particular client always makes an appointment for an hour and then expects me to clear my diary for the rest of the afternoon. I didn't even have time to go home and change."
"I would never have guessed," said Craig. "In any case, I find white blouses, black skirts and black stockings quite irresistible."
"I see you've lost none of your charm," said Sarah, as she began to study the menu.
"The food here is excellent," said Craig. "I can recommend-"
"I only ever have one course in the evenings," said Sarah. "One of my golden rules."
"I remember your golden rules from Cambridge," said Craig. "They're the reason you ended up with a first while I only got a two-one."
"But you also managed a boxing blue, if I recall?" said Sarah.
"What a good memory you have."
"Said Little Red Riding Hood. By the way, how's Larry? I haven't seen him since opening night."
"Nor me," said Craig. "But then, he's no longer able to come out and play in the evenings."
"I hope he wasn't too hurt by those vicious reviews."
"Can't imagine why he should have been," said Craig. "Actors are like barristers-it's only the jury's opinion that matters. I never give a damn what the judge thinks."
A waiter reappeared by their side. "I'll have the John Dory," said Sarah, "but please no sauce, even on the side."
"Steak for me, so rare that the blood is almost running," said Craig. He handed the menu to the waiter and turned his attention back to Sarah.
"It's good to see you after all this time," he said, "especially as we didn't part on the best of terms. Mea culpa."
"We're both a little older now," Sarah replied. "In fact, aren't you being tipped to be among the youngest QCs of our generation?"
The cell door swung open, which surprised Danny and Big Al because lock-up had been called over an hour before.
"You put in a written request to see the governor, Moncrieff."
"Yes, Mr. Pascoe," said Danny, "if that's possible."
"He'll give you five minutes at eight o'clock tomorrow morning." The door slammed without further explanation.
"Ye sound mer like Nick every day," said Big Al. "Carry on like this and I'll soon be saluting and calling ye sir."
"Carry on, sergeant," said Danny.
Big Al laughed, but then asked, "How come ye want tae see the governor? Yer no changing yer mind?"
"No," said Danny, thinking on his feet. "There are two young lads in education who would benefit from sharing a cell, as they're both studying the same subject."
"But cell allocation is Mr. Jenkins's responsibility. Why not huv a word wi' him?"
"I would, but there's an added problem," said Danny, trying to think of one.
"And whit's that?" asked Big Al.
"They've both applied to be the librarian. I was going to suggest to the governor that he appoints two librarians in future, otherwise one of them could end up back on the wing as a cleaner."
"Good try, Nick, but ye dinnae expect me tae believe that load of bullshit, dae ye?"
"Yes," said Danny.
"Well, if yur gonnae try and bluff an auld soldier like me, make sure you're no taken by surprise-always have yer story well prepared."
"So if you'd been asked why you wanted to see the governor," said Danny, "how would you have replied?"
"Mind yer own business."
"Can I give you a lift home?" asked Craig, as the waiter handed him back his credit card.
"Only if it's not out of your way," said Sarah.
"I was hoping it would be on my way," he replied, delivering a wellhoned line.
Sarah rose from the table but didn't respond. Craig accompanied her to the door and helped her on with her coat. He then took her by the arm and led her across the road to where his Porsche was parked. He opened the passenger door and admired her legs as she climbed in.
"Cheyne Walk?" he asked.
"How did you know that?" asked Sarah as she fastened her seatbelt.
"Larry told me."
"But you said-"
Craig turned on the ignition, revved up for several seconds then suddenly shot off. He swung sharply around the first bend, causing Sarah to lurch toward him. His left hand ended up on her thigh. She gently removed it.
"Sorry about that," said Craig.
"Not a problem," said Sarah, but she was surprised when he tried the same move as he rounded the next corner, and this time she removed the hand more firmly. Craig didn't try again during the rest of the journey, satisfying himself with small talk until he drew up outside her flat in Cheyne Walk.
Sarah unclipped her seatbelt, expecting Craig to get out and open the door for her, but he leaned across and attempted to kiss her. She turned her head away so that his lips only brushed against her cheek. Craig then wrapped an arm firmly around her waist and pulled her toward him. Her breasts were pressed against his chest, and he placed his other hand on her thigh. She tried to push him away, but she had forgotten how strong he was. He smiled at her and attempted to kiss her again. She pretended to give in, leaned forward and bit his tongue. He fell back and shouted, "You bitch!"
This allowed Sarah enough time to open the door, although she quickly discovered just how difficult it was to get out of a Porsche. She turned back to confront him. "And to think I was living under the illusion that you might have changed," she said angrily. She slammed the door, and didn't hear him say, "I don't know why I bothered. You weren't that good a lay the first time."
Pascoe marched him into the governor's office.
"Why did you want to see me, Moncrieff?" asked Barton.
"It's a delicate matter," Danny replied.
"I'm listening," said the governor.
"It concerns Big Al."
"Who, if I remember correctly, was a staff sergeant in your platoon?"
"That's right, sir, which is why I feel somewhat responsible for him."
"Naturally," said Pascoe. "After your four years in this place, Moncrieff, we know you're not a nark and will have Crann's best interests at heart. So out with it."
"I overheard a heated row between Big Al and Leach," said Danny. "Of course, it's possible that I'm overreacting, and I'm confident I can keep the lid on it while I'm still around, but if anything were to happen to Big Al after I left, I would feel responsible."
"Thank you for the warning," said the governor. "Mr. Pascoe and I have already discussed what we should do about Crann once you've been released. While you're here, Moncrieff," continued the governor, "do you have a view on who should be the next librarian?"
"There are two lads, Sedgwick and Potter, who are both well capable of doing the job. I'd split the role between them."
"You'd have made a good governor, Moncrieff."
"I think you'll find that I lack the necessary qualifications."
It was the first time Danny had heard either man laugh. The governor nodded, and Pascoe opened the door so that he could accompany Moncrieff to work.
"Mr. Pascoe, perhaps you could remain behind for a moment. I'm sure Moncrieff can find his way to the library without your help."
"How much longer has Moncrieff got to serve?" asked Barton after Danny had closed the door behind him.
"Ten more days, sir," said Pascoe.
"Then we'll have to move quickly if we're going to ship Leach out."
"There is an alternative, sir," said Pascoe.
Hugo Moncrieff tapped his boiled egg with a spoon while he considered the problem. His wife Margaret was sitting at the other end of the table reading The Scotsman. They rarely spoke at breakfast; a routine that had been established over many years.
Hugo had already sifted through the morning post. There was a letter from the local golf club and another from the Caledonian Society, along with several circulars, which he put on one side, until he finally came across the one he was looking for. He picked up the butter knife, slit the envelope open, extracted the letter and then did what he always did, checked the signature at the bottom of the last page: Desmond Galbraith. He left his egg untouched as he began to consider his lawyer's advice.
At first he smiled, but by the time he had reached the last paragraph he was frowning. Desmond Galbraith was able to confirm that following Hugo's brother's funeral, his nephew Sir Nicholas had attended a meeting with his solicitor. Fraser Munro had called Galbraith the following morning, and did not raise the subject of the two mortgages. This led Galbraith to believe that Sir Nicholas would not be disputing Hugo's right to the two million pounds that had been raised using his grandfather's two homes as security. Hugo smiled, removed the top from his egg and took a spoonful. It had taken a lot of persuading to get his brother Angus to agree to take out mortgages on both the estate and his London home without consulting Nick, especially after Fraser Munro had advised so firmly against it. And Hugo had had to move quickly once Angus's doctor confirmed that his brother had only a few weeks to live.
Since Angus had left the regiment, single malt had become his constant companion. Hugo regularly visited Dunbroathy Hall to partake of a wee dram with his brother, and he rarely left before they'd finished the bottle. Toward the end, Angus was willing to sign almost any document placed in front of him: first a mortgage on the London property he rarely visited, followed by another on the estate, which Hugo was able to convince him was in dire need of urgent repair. Finally Hugo persuaded him to end his professional association with Fraser Munro, who in Hugo's opinion had far too great a sway over his brother.
To take over the family's affairs Hugo appointed Desmond Galbraith, a lawyer who believed in abiding by the letter of the law, but took no more than a passing interest in its spirit.
Hugo's final triumph had been Angus's last Will and Testament, which was signed only a few nights before his brother passed away. Hugo had it witnessed by a magistrate who just happened to be the secretary of the local golf club and the local parish prices.
When Hugo came across an earlier will in which Angus had bequeathed the bulk of the estate to his only son Nicholas, he shredded it, and Hugo tried not to show the relief he felt when his brother died just a few months before Nick was due to be released. A reunion and reconciliation between father and son hadn't formed any part of his plans. However, Galbraith had failed to prize out of Mr. Munro the original copy of Sir Alexander's earlier will, as the old solicitor had correctly pointed out that he now represented the main beneficiary, Sir Nicholas Moncrieff.
Once he had finished off his first egg, Hugo reread the paragraph of Galbraith's letter that had made him frown. He cursed, which caused his wife to look up from her paper, surprised by this break in their wellordered routine.
"Nick is claiming that he knows nothing about the key his grandfather left him. How can that be when we've all seen him wearing the damn thing around his neck?"
"He didn't wear it at the funeral," said Margaret. "I looked most carefully when he knelt down to pray."
"Do you think he knows what that key unlocks?" said Hugo.
"He may well do," Margaret replied, "but that doesn't mean he knows where to look for it."
"Father should have told us where he had hidden his collection in the first place."
"You and your father were hardly on speaking terms towards the end," Margaret reminded him. "And he considered Angus to be weak, and far too fond of the bottle."
"True, but that doesn't solve the problem of the key."
"Perhaps the time has come for us to resort to more robust tactics."
"What do you have in mind, old gal?"
"I think the vulgar expression is 'putting a tail on him'. Once Nick is released, we can have him followed. If he does know where the collection is, he'll lead us straight to it."
"But I wouldn't know how to…" said Hugo.
"Don't even think about it," said Margaret. "Leave it all to me."
"Whatever you say, old gal," said Hugo as he attacked his second egg.
DANNY LAY AWAKE on the lower bunk and thought about everything that had taken place since Nick's death. He couldn't sleep, despite the fact that Big Al wasn't snoring. He knew his last night at Belmarsh would be as long as the first-another night he would never forget.
During the past twenty-four hours, several officers and inmates had dropped in to say goodbye and to wish him luck, confirming just how popular and respected Nick had been.
The reason Big Al wasn't snoring was that he'd been shipped out of Belmarsh the previous morning and transferred to Wayland prison in Norfolk, while Danny had been revising for his A levels in Nick's name. Danny still had the maths papers to look forward to, but was disappointed to have to forgo the English exams as Nick was not taking them. By the time Danny returned to his cell that afternoon, there was no sign of Big Al. It was almost as if he had never existed. Danny hadn't even been given the chance to say goodbye.
By now Big Al would have worked out why Danny had been to see the governor, and he'd be fuming. But Danny knew that he'd calm down once he settled into his C cat, with a television in every cell, food that was almost edible, an opportunity to visit a gym that wasn't overcrowded and, most important of all, being allowed out of his cell fourteen hours a day. Leach had also disappeared, but no one knew where, and few cared enough to ask a second time.
During the past few weeks Danny had begun to form a plan in his mind, but in his mind it had remained, because he couldn't risk committing anything to paper. If he was discovered, it would condemn him to another twenty years in hell. He slept.
He woke. His first thought was of Bernie, who had been robbed of his life by Craig and the misnamed Musketeers. His second was of Nick, who had made it possible for him to be given another chance. His final thoughts were of Beth, when he was reminded once again that the decision had made it impossible for him ever to see her again.
He began to think about tomorrow. Once he'd had his meeting with Fraser Munro and tried to sort out Nick's immediate problems in Scotland, he would return to London and put into motion the plans he'd been working on for the past six weeks. He'd become realistic about the chances of clearing his name, but that wouldn't stop him seeking justice of a different kind-what the Bible called retribution, and what Edmond Dantès described less subtly as revenge. Whatever. He slept.
He woke. He would stalk his prey like an animal, observing them at a distance while they relaxed in their natural habitat: Spencer Craig in the courtroom, Gerald Payne in his Mayfair offices, and Lawrence Davenport on stage. Toby Mortimer, the last of the four Musketeers, had suffered a death even more dreadful than any he could have devised. But first Danny must travel to Scotland, meet up with Fraser Munro and find out if he could pass his initiation test. If he fell at the first hurdle, he would be back in Belmarsh by the end of the week. He slept.
He woke. The early morning sun was producing a feeble square of light on his cell floor, but it could not disguise the fact that he was in prison, for the bars were clearly reflected on the cold gray stones. A lark attempted a cheerful tune to greet the dawn, but quickly flew away.
Danny pulled aside the green nylon sheet and placed his bare feet on the ground. He walked across to the tiny steel washbasin, filled it with luke-warm water and shaved carefully. Then, with the assistance of a sliver of soap, he washed, wondering how long the smell of prison would remain in the pores of his skin.
He studied himself in the small steel mirror above the basin. The bits he could see appeared to be clean. He put on his prison clothes for the last time: a pair of boxer shorts, a blue and white striped shirt, jeans, gray socks and Nick's trainers. He sat on the end of the bed and waited for Pascoe to appear, jangling keys and with his usual morning greeting, "Let's be having you, lad. It's time to go to work." Not today. He waited.
When the key eventually turned in the lock and the door opened, Pascoe had a broad grin on his face. "Morning, Moncrieff," he said. "Look lively, and follow me. It's time for you to pick up your personal belongings from the stores, be on your way and leave us all in peace."
As they walked down the corridor at a prison pace, Pascoe ventured, "The weather's on the turn. You should have a nice day for it," as if Danny was off on a day trip to the seaside.
"How do I get from here to King's Cross?" Danny asked. Something Nick wouldn't have known.
"Take the train from Plumstead station to Cannon Street, then the tube to King's Cross," said Pascoe as they reached the storeroom. He banged on the double doors, and a moment later they were pulled open by the stores manager.
"Morning, Moncrieff," said Webster. "You must have been looking forward to today for the past four years." Danny didn't comment. "I've got everything ready for you," continued Webster, taking two full plastic bags from the shelf behind him and placing them on the counter. He then disappeared into the back, returning a moment later with a large leather suitcase that was covered in dust and bore the initials N.A.M. in black. "Nice piece of kit, that," he said. "What does the A stand for?"
Danny couldn't remember if it was Angus, after Nick's father, or Alexander, after his grandfather.
"Get on with it, Moncrieff," said Pascoe. "I don't have all day to stand around chatting."
Danny tried manfully to pick up both the plastic bags in one hand and the large leather suitcase with the other, but found that he had to stop and change hands every few paces.
"I'd like to help you, Moncrieff," whispered Pascoe, "but if I did, I'd never hear the end of it."
Eventually they ended up back outside Danny's cell. Pascoe unlocked the door. "I'll return in about an hour to fetch you. I have to get some of the lads off to the Old Bailey before we can think about releasing you." The cell door slammed in Danny's face for the last time.
Danny took his time. He opened the suitcase and placed it on Big Al's bed. He wondered who would sleep in his bunk tonight; someone who would be appearing at the Old Bailey later that morning, hoping the jury would find him not guilty. He emptied the contents of the plastic bags onto the bed, feeling like a robber surveying his swag: two suits, three shirts, what the diary described as a pair of cavalry twills, along with a couple of pairs of brogues, one black, one brown. Danny selected the dark suit he'd worn at his own funeral, a cream shirt, a striped tie and a pair of smart black shoes that even after four years didn't require a polish.
Danny Cartwright stood in front of the mirror and stared at Sir Nicholas Moncrieff, officer and gentleman. He felt like a fraud.
He folded up his prison gear and placed it on the end of Nick's bed. He still thought of it as Nick's bed. Then he packed the rest of the clothes neatly in the suitcase before retrieving Nick's diary from under the bed, along with a file of correspondence marked "Fraser Munro"-twentyeight letters that Danny knew almost off by heart. Once he'd finished packing, all that remained were a few of Nick's personal belongings, which Danny had put on the table, and the photo of Beth taped to the wall. He carefully peeled off the sellotape before putting the photo in a side pocket of the suitcase, which he then snapped closed and placed by the cell door.
Danny sat back down at the table and looked at his friend's personal belongings. He strapped on Nick's slim Longines watch with 11.7.91 stamped on the back-a gift from his grandfather on his twenty-first birthday-then he slipped on a gold ring, which bore the Moncrieff family crest. He stared at a black leather wallet and felt even more like a thief. Inside it he found seventy pounds in cash and a Coutts checkbook with an address in The Strand printed on the cover. He put the wallet in an inside pocket, turned the plastic chair around to face the cell door, sat down and waited for Pascoe to reappear. He was ready to escape. As he sat there, he recalled one of Nick's favorite misquotes: In prison, time and tide wait for every man.
He reached inside his shirt and touched the small key that was hanging from the chain around his neck. He was no nearer to discovering what it unlocked-it unlocked the prison gate. He had searched through the diaries for the slightest clue, over a thousand pages, but had come up with nothing. If Nick had known, he had taken the secret to his grave.
Now a very different key was turning in the lock of his cell door. It opened to reveal Pascoe standing alone. Danny quite expected him to say, "Good try, Cartwright, but you didn't really expect to get away with it, did you?" But all he said was, "It's time to go, Moncrieff, look sharp about it."
Danny rose, picked up Nick's suitcase and walked out onto the landing. He didn't look back at the room that had been his home for the past two years. He followed Pascoe along the landing and down the spiral staircase. As he left the block he was greeted with cheers and jeers from those who were soon to be released and those who would never see the light of day again.
They continued down the blue corridor. He'd forgotten how many sets of double-barred gates there were between B block and reception, where Jenkins was seated behind his desk waiting for him.
"Good morning, Moncrieff," he announced cheerfully; he had one voice for those coming in, quite another for those who were leaving. He checked the open ledger in front of him. "I see that over the past four years you have saved two hundred and eleven pounds, and as you are also entitled to forty-five pounds discharge allowance, that makes in all two hundred and fifty-six pounds." He counted out the money slowly and carefully, before passing it over to Danny. "Sign here," he said. Danny wrote Nick's signature for the second time that morning before putting the money in his wallet. "You are also entitled to a rail warrant to any part of the country you decide on. It's one way, of course, as we don't want to see you back here again." Prison humor.
Jenkins handed him a rail warrant to Dunbroath in Scotland, but not before Danny had falsely signed another document. It wasn't surprising that his handwriting resembled Nick's-after all, it was Nick who had taught him to write.
"Mr. Pascoe will accompany you to the gate," said Jenkins once he'd checked the signature. "I'll say goodbye, as I have a feeling we'll never meet again, which sadly I'm not able to say all that often."
Danny shook his hand, picked up the suitcase and followed Pascoe out of reception, down the steps and into the yard.
Together they walked slowly across a bleak concrete square, which acted as a car park for the prison vans and private vehicles that made their legal entrance and exit every day. In the gatehouse sat an officer Danny had never seen before.
"Name?" he demanded without looking up from the list of discharges on his clipboard.
"Moncrieff," Danny replied.
"CK4802," said Danny without thinking.
The officer ran a finger slowly down his list. A puzzled look appeared on his face.
"CK1079," whispered Pascoe.
"CK1079," repeated Danny, shaking.
"Ah, yes," said the officer, his finger coming to rest on Moncrieff. "Sign here."
Danny's hand was shaking as he scribbled Nick's signature in the little rectangular box. The officer checked the name against the prison number and the photograph, before looking up at Danny. He hesitated for a moment.
"Don't hang around, Moncrieff," said Pascoe firmly. "Some of us have got a day's work to do, haven't we, Mr. Tomkins?"
"Yes, Mr. Pascoe," replied the gate officer, and quickly pressed the red button beneath his desk. The first of the massive electric gates slowly began to open.
Danny stepped out of the gatehouse, still not sure in which direction he would be heading. Pascoe said nothing.
Once the first gate had slipped into the gap in the wall, Pascoe finally offered, "Good luck, lad, you'll need it."
Danny shook him warmly by the hand. "Thank you, Mr. Pascoe," he said. "For everything." Danny picked up Nick's suitcase and stepped into the void between the two different worlds. The first gate slid back into place behind him, and a moment later the second one began to open.
Danny Cartwright walked out of prison a free man. The first inmate ever to escape from Belmarsh.
BOOK THREE. Freedom
AS NICK MONCRIEFF crossed the road, one or two passersby glanced at him in mild surprise. It wasn't that they were unaccustomed to seeing prisoners coming out of that gate, but not someone carrying a leather suitcase and dressed like a country gentleman.
Danny never once looked back as he walked to the nearest station. After he'd bought a ticket-his first handling of cash for over two years-he boarded the train. He stared out of the window, feeling strangely insecure. No walls, no razor wire, no barred gates and no screws-prison officers. Look like Nick, talk like Nick, think like Danny.
At Cannon Street, Danny switched to the tube. The commuters were moving at a different pace from the one he had become accustomed to in prison. Several of them were dressed in smart suits, speaking in smart accents and dealing in smart money, but Nick had shown him that they were no smarter than he was; they had just started life in a different cot.
At King's Cross, Nick disembarked, lugging his heavy suitcase. He passed a policeman who didn't even glance at him. He checked the departures board. The next train to Edinburgh was scheduled to leave at eleven, arriving at Waverley station at 3:20 that afternoon. He still had time for breakfast. He grabbed a copy of The Times from a stand outside W.H. Smith. He'd walked a few paces before he realized he hadn't paid for the paper. Sweating profusely, Danny ran back and quickly joined the queue at the till. He remembered being told about a prisoner who had just been released and while he was on his way home to Bristol had taken a Mars Bar from a display cabinet on Reading station. He was arrested for shoplifting and was back in Belmarsh seven hours later; he'd ended up serving another three years.
Danny paid for the paper and walked into the nearest café, where he joined another queue. When he reached the hotplate he passed his tray across to the girl behind the counter. "What would you like?" she asked, ignoring the proffered tray.
Danny wasn't sure how to respond. For over two years he had just taken whatever ended up on his plate. "Eggs, bacon, mushrooms and…"
"You may as well have the full English breakfast while you're at it," she suggested.
"Fine, the full English breakfast," said Danny. "And, and…"
"Tea or coffee?"
"Yes, coffee would be great," he said, aware that it was going to take him a little time to become used to being given whatever he asked for. He found a seat at a table in the corner. He picked up the bottle of HP sauce and shook an amount onto the side of the plate that Nick would have approved of. He then opened his paper and turned to the business pages. Look like Nick, talk like Nick, think like Danny.
Internet companies were still falling by the wayside as their owners discovered that the meek rarely inherit the earth. By the time Danny had reached the front pages, he'd finished his meal and was enjoying a second cup of coffee. Someone had not only walked over to his table and refilled his cup, but also smiled when he said thank you. Danny began to read the lead article on the front page. The leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, was under attack again. If the Prime Minister called an election, Danny would have voted for Tony Blair. He suspected that Nick would have supported Iain Duncan Smith; after all, he was another old soldier. Perhaps he would abstain. No, he must stay in character if he hoped to fool the voters, let alone remain in office.
Danny finished his coffee, but didn't move for some time. He needed Mr. Pascoe to tell him he could return to his cell. He smiled to himself, rose from his seat and strolled out of the café. He knew the time had come to face his first test. When he spotted a row of phone booths, he took a deep breath. He took out his wallet-Nick's wallet-extracted a card, and dialed the number embossed in the bottom right-hand corner.
"Munro, Munro and Carmichael," announced a voice.
"Mr. Munro, please," said Nick.
"Which Mr. Munro?"
Danny checked the card. "Mr. Fraser Munro."
"Who shall I say is calling?"
"I'll put you straight through, sir."
"Good morning, Sir Nicholas," said the next lilting voice Danny heard. "How nice to hear from you."
"Good morning, Mr. Munro." Danny spoke slowly. "I'm thinking of traveling up to Scotland later today and I wondered if you might be free to see me sometime tomorrow."
"Of course, Sir Nicholas. Would ten o'clock suit you?"
"Admirably," said Danny, recalling one of Nick's favorite words.
"Then I'll look forward to seeing you here in my office at ten o'clock tomorrow morning."
"Goodbye, Mr. Munro," said Danny, just stopping himself from asking where his office was. Danny put the phone down. He was covered in sweat. Big Al had been right. Munro was expecting a call from Nick. Why would he have thought for a moment that he might be speaking to someone else?
Danny was among the first to board the train. While he waited for it to depart he turned his attention to the sports pages. The football season was still a month away, but he had high hopes for West Ham, who had finished seventh in the Premier League the previous season. He felt a tinge of sadness at the thought that he would never be able to risk visiting Upton Park again for fear of being recognized. No more "I'm forever blowing bubbles." Try to remember, Danny Cartwright is dead-and buried.
The train pulled slowly out of the station, and Danny watched London pass by giving way to the countryside. He was surprised how quickly they reached full speed. He had never been to Scotland before-the farthest north he had ever been was Vicarage Road, Watford.
Danny felt exhausted, and he'd only been out of prison for a few hours. The pace of everything was so much quicker and, hardest of all, you had to make decisions. He checked Nick's watch-his watch-a quarter past eleven. He tried to go on reading the paper, but his head fell back.
Danny woke with a start, rubbed his eyes and handed his rail warrant to the ticket collector. "I'm sorry, sir, but this ticket isn't valid for the express train. You'll have to pay a supplement."
"But I was-" began Danny. "I do apologize, how much will that be?" asked Nick.
Danny couldn't believe he'd made such a stupid mistake. He took out his wallet and handed over the cash. The ticket collector printed out a receipt.
"Thank you, sir," he said after he'd issued Danny with his ticket. Danny noticed that he called him sir without thinking about it, not mate, as an East End bus driver would have addressed him.
"Will you be having lunch today, sir?"
Once again, simply because of his dress and accent. "Yes," said Danny.
"The dining car is a couple of carriages forward. They'll begin serving in about half an hour."
"I'm grateful." Another of Nick's expressions.
Danny looked out of the window and watched the countryside flying by. After they passed through Grantham he returned to the financial pages, but was interrupted by a voice over the loudspeaker announcing that the dining car was now open. He made his way forward and took a seat at a small table hoping that no one would join him. He studied the menu carefully, wondering which dishes Nick would have chosen. A waiter appeared by his side.
"The pâté," Danny said. He knew how to pronounce it, although he had no idea what it would taste like. In the past his golden rule had been never to order anything that had a foreign name. "Followed by the steak and kidney pie."
"And for pudding?"
Nick had taught him that you should never order all three courses at once. "I'll think about it," said Danny.
"Of course, sir."
By the time Danny had finished his meal, he had read everything The Times had to offer, including the theater reviews, which only made him think about Lawrence Davenport. But for now, Davenport would have to wait. Danny had other things on his mind. He had enjoyed the meal, until the waiter gave him a bill for twenty-seven pounds. He handed over three ten-pound notes, aware that his wallet was becoming lighter by the minute.
According to Nick's diary, Mr. Munro believed that if the estate in Scotland and the London house were placed on the market, they would fetch handsome sums, although he had cautioned that it could be several months before a sale was completed. Danny knew that he couldn't survive for several months on less than two hundred pounds.
He returned to his seat, and began to give some thought to his meeting with Munro the following morning. When the train stopped at Newcastle upon Tyne, Danny unbuckled the leather straps around the suitcase, opened it and found Mr. Munro's file. He extracted the letters. Although they contained all of Munro's replies to Nick's questions, Danny had no way of knowing what Nick had written in his original letters. He had to try to second-guess what questions Nick must have asked after reading Munro's answers, with only the dates and the diary entries as reference points. After reading the correspondence again, he wasn't in any doubt that Uncle Hugo had taken advantage of the fact that Nick had been locked up for the past four years.
Danny had come across customers like Hugo when he worked at the garage-loan sharks, property dealers and barrow boys who thought they could get the better of him, but they never did, and none of them ever discovered that he couldn't read a contract. He found his mind drifting to the A levels he'd taken only days before being released. He wondered if Nick had passed with flying colors-another Nick expression. He had promised his cellmate that if he won his appeal, the first thing he would do was study for a degree. He intended to keep that promise and take the degree in Nick's name. Think like Nick, forget Danny, he reminded himself. You are Nick, you are Nick. He went over the letters once again as if he was revising for an exam; an exam he couldn't afford to fail.
The train arrived at Waverley station at three-thirty, ten minutes late. Danny joined the crowd as they walked along the platform. He checked the departure board for the time of the next train to Dunbroath. Another twenty minutes. He bought a copy of the Edinburgh Evening News and satisfied himself with a bacon baguette from Upper Crust. Would Mr. Munro realize that he wasn't upper crust? He went in search of his platform, then sat down on a bench. The paper was full of names and places he had never heard of: problems with the planning committee in Duddlingston, the cost of the unfinished Scottish Parliament building and a supplement giving details of something called the Edinburgh Festival, which was taking place the following month. Hearts' and Hibs's prospects in the forthcoming season dominated the back pages, rudely replacing Arsenal and West Ham.
Ten minutes later Danny climbed on board the cross-country train to Dunbroath, a journey that took forty minutes, stopping at several stations whose names he couldn't even pronounce. At four-forty, the little train trundled into Dunbroath station. Danny lugged his case along the platform and out onto the pavement, relieved to see a single taxi waiting on the stand. Nick climbed into the front seat while the driver put his case in the boot.
"Where to?" asked the driver once he was back behind the wheel.
"Perhaps you can recommend a hotel?"
"There is only one," said the taxi driver.
"Well, that solves the problem," said Danny, as the car moved off.
Three pounds fifty later, plus a tip, and Danny was dropped outside the Moncrieff Arms. He walked up the steps, through the swing doors and dumped his suitcase by the reception desk.
"I need a room for the night," he told the woman behind the counter.
"Just a single?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Would you please sign the booking form, sir?" Danny could now sign Nick's name almost without thinking. "And can I take an imprint of your credit card?"
"But I don't…" began Danny. "I'll be paying cash," said Nick.
"Of course, sir." She swiveled the form around, checked the name and tried to hide her surprise. She then disappeared into a back room without another word. A few moments later a middle-aged man wearing a plaid sweater and brown corduroys emerged from the office.
"Welcome home, Sir Nicholas. I'm Robert Kilbride, the hotel manager, and I do apologize, but we weren't expecting you. I'll transfer you to the Walter Scott suite."
Transfer is a word every prisoner dreads. "But-" began Danny, recalling how little cash was left in his wallet.
"At no extra cost," added the manager.
"Thank you," said Nick.
"Will you be joining us for dinner?"
Yes, said Nick. "No," said Danny, remembering his diminishing reserves. "I've already eaten."
"Of course, Sir Nicholas. I'll have a porter take your case up to the room."
A young man accompanied Danny to the Walter Scott suite.
"My name's Andrew," he said as he unlocked the door. "If you need anything, just pick up the phone and let me know."
"I need a suit pressed and a shirt washed in time for a ten o'clock meeting tomorrow morning," said Danny.
"Of course, sir. You'll have them back well in time for your meeting."
"Thank you," said Danny. Another tip.
Danny sat on the end of the bed and turned on the television. He watched the local news, delivered in an accent that reminded him of Big Al. It wasn't until he switched channels to BBC2 that he was able to follow every word, but within a few minutes he had fallen asleep.
DANNY WOKE TO find he was fully dressed and the credits were running at the end of a black and white film starring someone called Jack Hawkins. He switched it off, undressed and decided to take a shower before going to bed.
He stepped into a shower which sent down a steady stream of warm water that didn't turn itself off every few seconds. He washed himself with a bar of soap the size of a bread roll, and dried himself with a large fluffy towel. He felt clean for the first time in years.
He climbed into a bed with a thick comfortable mattress, clean sheets and more than one blanket before resting his head on a feather pillow. He fell into a deep sleep. He woke. The bed was too comfortable. It even changed shape when he moved. He peeled off one of the blankets and dumped it on the floor. He turned over and fell asleep again. He woke. The pillow was too soft, so it joined the blanket on the floor. He fell asleep again, and when the sun rose accompanied by a cacophony of unrecognizable bird tunes, he woke again. He looked around, expecting to see Mr. Pascoe standing in the doorway, but this door was different: it was wooden, not steel, and it had a handle on the inside that he could open whenever he pleased.
Danny climbed out of bed and walked across the soft carpet to the bathroom-a separate room-to take another shower. This time he washed his hair, and shaved with the aid of a circular glass mirror that magnified his image.
There was a polite tap on the door, which remained closed, instead of being heaved open. Danny put on a hotel dressing gown and opened the door to find the porter standing there holding a neat package.
"Your clothes, sir."
"Thank you," said Danny.
"Breakfast will be served until ten o'clock in the dining room."
Danny put on a clean shirt and a striped tie before trying on his freshly pressed suit. He looked at himself in the mirror. Surely no one would doubt that he was Sir Nicholas Moncrieff. Never again would he have to wear the same shirt for six days in a row, the same jeans for a month, the same shoes for a year-that was assuming Mr. Munro was about to solve all his financial problems. That was also assuming Mr. Munro…
Danny checked the wallet that had felt so thick only yesterday. He cursed; he wouldn't have much left once he had settled the hotel bill. He opened the door, and once he'd closed it he immediately realized that he'd left the key inside. He would have to ask Pascoe to open the door for him. Would he end up on report? He cursed again. Damn. A Nick curse. He went off in search of the dining room.
A large table in the center of the room was brimming over with a choice of cereals and juices, and the hotplate offered porridge, eggs, bacon, black pudding and even kippers to order. Danny was shown to a table by the window and offered a morning paper, The Scotsman. He turned to the financial pages to find that the Royal Bank of Scotland was expanding its property portfolio. While he was in prison, Danny had watched with admiration the RBS's takeover of the NatWest Bank; a minnow swallowing a whale, and not even burping.
He looked around, suddenly fearful that the staff might be commenting on the fact that he didn't have a Scottish accent. But Big Al had once told him that officers never do. Nick certainly didn't. A pair of kippers was placed in front of him. His father would have considered them a right treat. First thoughts of his father since he had been released.
"Would you care for anything else, sir?"
"No, thank you," said Danny. "But would you be kind enough to have my bill ready?"
"Of course, sir," came back the immediate reply.
He was just about to leave the dining room when he remembered he had no idea where Mr. Munro's office was. According to his business card it was 12 Argyll Street, but he couldn't ask the receptionist for directions, because everyone thought he'd been brought up in Dunbroath. Danny picked up another key from reception and returned to his room. It was nine-thirty. He still had thirty minutes to find out where Argyll Street was.
There was a knock on the door. It was still going to be a little time before he didn't leap up and stand at the end of the bed and wait for the door to be opened.
"Can I take your luggage, sir?" asked the porter. "And will you need a taxi?"
"No, I'm only going to Argyll Street," Danny risked.
"Then I'll put your case in reception and you can pick it up later."
"Is there still a chemist shop on the way to Argyll Street?" Danny asked.
"No, it closed a couple of years ago. What do you need?"
"Just some razor blades and shaving cream."
"You'll be able to get those at Leith 's, a few doors down from where Johnson's used to be."
"Many thanks," said Danny, parting with another pound, although he had no idea where Johnson's used to be.
Danny checked Nick's watch: 9:36 A.M. He walked quickly downstairs and headed for reception, where he tried a different ploy.
"Do you have a copy of The Times?"
"No, Sir Nicholas, but we could pick one up for you."
"Don't trouble yourself. I could do with the exercise."
"They'll have one at Menzies," said the receptionist. "Turn left as you go out of the hotel, about a hundred yards…" She paused. "But of course you know where Menzies is."
Danny slipped out of the hotel and turned left, and soon spotted the Menzies sign. He strolled inside. No one recognized him. He bought a copy of The Times, and the girl behind the counter, much to his relief, addressed him as neither "sir" nor "Sir Nicholas."
"Am I far from Argyll Street?" he asked her.
"A couple of hundred yards. Turn right out of the shop, go past the Moncrieff Arms…"
Danny walked quickly back past the hotel, checking every intersection until he finally saw the name Argyll Street carved in large letters on a stone slab above him. He checked his watch as he turned into the street: 9:54. He still had a few minutes to spare, but he couldn't afford to be late. Nick was always on time. He recalled one of Big Al's favorite lines: "Battles are lost by armies who turn up late. Ask Napoleon."
As he passed numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, his pace became slower and slower; number 10, and then he came to a halt outside 12. A brass plate on the wall that looked as if it had been polished that morning, and on ten thousand mornings before, displayed the faded imprint of Munro, Munro and Carmichael.
Danny took a deep breath, opened the door and marched in. The girl behind the reception desk looked up. He hoped she couldn't hear his heart pounding. He was about to give his name when she said, "Good morning, Sir Nicholas. Mr. Munro is expecting you." She rose from her seat and said, "Please follow me."
Danny had passed the first test, but he hadn't opened his mouth yet.
"Following the death of your partner," said a woman officer standing behind the counter, "I'm authorized to pass over all of Mr. Cartwright's personal belongings to you. But first I need to see some form of identification."
Beth opened her bag and pulled out her driving license.
"Thank you," said the officer, who checked the details carefully before passing it back. "If I read out the description of each item, Miss Wilson, perhaps you'd be kind enough to identify them." The officer opened a large cardboard box and removed a pair of designer jeans. "One pair of jeans, light blue," she said. When Beth saw the jagged tear where the knife had entered Danny's leg, she burst into tears. The officer waited until she had composed herself, before she continued. "One West Ham shirt; one belt, brown leather; one ring, gold; one pair of socks, gray; one pair of boxer shorts, red; one pair of shoes, black; one wallet containing thirty-five pounds and a membership card for the Bow Street Boxing Club. If you'd be kind enough to sign here, Miss Wilson," she said finally, placing a finger on a dotted line.
Once Beth had signed her name she put all Danny's possessions neatly back in the box. "Thank you," she said. As she turned to leave she came face to face with another prison officer.
"Good afternoon, Miss Wilson," he said. "My name is Ray Pascoe."
Beth smiled. "Danny liked you," she said.
"And I admired him," said Pascoe, "but that's not why I'm here. Allow me to carry that for you," he said, taking the box from her as they started to walk down the corridor. "I wanted to find out if you still intend to try to have the appeal verdict overturned."
"What's the point," said Beth, "now that Danny's dead."
"Would that be your attitude if he was still alive?" asked Pascoe.
"No, of course it wouldn't," said Beth sharply. "I'd go on fighting to prove his innocence for the rest of my life."
When they reached the front gate Pascoe handed the box back to her and said, "I have a feeling Danny would like to see his name cleared."
"GOOD MORNING, MR. Munro," said Danny, thrusting out his hand. "How nice to see you again."
"And you, Sir Nicholas," Munro replied. "I trust you had a pleasant journey."
Nick had described Fraser Munro so well that Danny almost felt he knew him. "Yes, thank you. The train journey allowed me to go over our correspondence once again, and reconsider your recommendations," said Danny as Munro ushered him into a comfortable chair by the side of his desk.
"I fear my latest letter may not have reached you in time," said Munro. "I would have telephoned, but of course…"
"That wasn't possible," said Danny, only interested in what the latest letter contained.
"I fear it's not good news," said Munro, tapping his fingers on the desk-a habit Nick hadn't mentioned. "A writ has been issued against you"-Danny gripped the arms of his chair. Were the police waiting for him outside?-"by your uncle Hugo." Danny breathed an audible sigh of relief. "I should have seen it coming," said Munro, "and therefore I blame myself."
Get on with it, Danny wanted to say. Nick said nothing.
"The writ claims that your father left the estate in Scotland and the house in London to your uncle and that you have no legal claim over either of them."
"But that's nonsense," said Danny.
"I entirely agree with you, and with your permission I will reply that we intend to defend the action vigorously." Danny accepted Munro's judgment, although he realized that Nick would have been more cautious. "To add insult to injury," Munro continued, "your uncle's lawyers have come up with what they describe as a compromise." Danny nodded, still unwilling to offer an opinion. "If you were to accept your uncle's original offer, namely that he retains possession of both properties along with responsibility for the mortgage payments, he will give instructions to withdraw the writ."
"He's bluffing," said Danny. "If I recall correctly, Mr. Munro, your original advice was to take my uncle to court and make a claim for the money my father borrowed against both houses, a matter of two million, one hundred thousand pounds."
"That was indeed my advice," continued Munro. "But if I recall your response at the time, Sir Nicholas"-he placed his half-moon spectacles back on the end of his nose and opened a file-"yes, here it is. Your exact words were, 'If those were my father's wishes, I will not go against them.' "
"That was how I felt at the time, Munro," said Danny, "but circumstances have changed since then. I do not believe my father would have approved of Uncle Hugo issuing a writ against his nephew."
"I agree with you," said Munro, unable to hide his surprise at his client's change of heart. "So can I suggest, Sir Nicholas, that we call his bluff?"
"And how would we go about that?"
"We could issue a counter-writ," replied Munro, "asking the court to make a judgment on whether your father had the right to borrow money against the two properties without consulting you in the first place. Although I am by nature a cautious man, Sir Nicholas, I would go as far as to suggest that the law is on our side. However, I'm sure that you read Bleak House in your youth."
"Quite recently," admitted Danny.
"Then you will be acquainted with the risks of becoming embroiled in such an action."
"But unlike Jarndyce and Jarndyce," said Danny, "I suspect Uncle Hugo will agree to settle out of court."
"What makes you think that?"
"He won't want to see his picture on the front page of The Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, both of which would be only too happy to remind their readers where his nephew had been residing for the past four years."
"A point I had not taken into consideration," said Munro. "But on reflection, I have to agree with you." He coughed. "When we last met, you did not seem to be of the opinion that…"
"When we last met, Mr. Munro, I was preoccupied with other matters, and was therefore unable to fully grasp the significance of what you were telling me. Since then I have had time to consider your advice, and…" Danny had rehearsed these sentences again and again in his cell, with Big Al playing the role of Mr. Munro.
"Quite so," said Munro, removing his spectacles and looking more carefully at his client. "Then with your permission, I will take up the cudgels on your behalf. However, I must warn you that the matter may not be resolved quickly."
"How long?" asked Danny.
"It could be a year, even a little longer, before the case comes to court."
"That might be a problem," said Danny. "I'm not sure there's enough money in my account at Coutts to cover…"
"No doubt you will advise me once you have been in touch with your bankers."
"Certainly," said Danny.
Munro coughed again. "There are one or two other matters I feel we ought to discuss, Sir Nicholas." Danny simply nodded, as Munro put his half-moon spectacles back on and rummaged among the papers on his desk once again. "You recently executed a will while you were in prison," said Munro, extracting a document from the bottom of the pile.
"Remind me of the details," said Danny, recognizing Nick's familiar hand on the lined prison paper.
"You have left the bulk of your estate to one Daniel Cartwright."
"Oh, my God," said Danny.
"From that, am I to assume that you wish to reconsider your position, Sir Nicholas?"
"No," said Danny, recovering quickly. "It's just that Danny Cartwright died recently."
"Then you will need to make a new will at some time in the future. But frankly, there are far more pressing matters for us to consider at this moment in time."
"Like what?" asked Danny.
"There is a key that your uncle seems most anxious to get his hands on."
"Yes," said Munro. "It seems that he is willing to offer you one thousand pounds for a silver chain and key that he believes are in your possession. He realizes that they have little intrinsic value, but he would like them to remain in the family."
"And so they will," responded Danny. "I wonder if I might ask you in confidence, Mr. Munro, if you have any idea what the key opens?"
"No, I do not," admitted Munro. "On that particular subject your grandfather did not confide in me. Though I might make so bold as to suggest that if your uncle is so keen to lay his hands on it, I think we can assume that the contents of whatever the key opens will be worth far more than a thousand pounds."
"Quite so," said Danny, mimicking Munro.
"How do wish me to respond to this offer?" Munro asked.
"Tell him that you are not aware of the existence of such a key."
"As you wish, Sir Nicholas. But I have no doubt that he'll not be that easily dissuaded, and will come back with a higher offer."
"My reply will be the same whatever he offers," said Danny firmly.
"So be it," said Munro. "May I inquire if it is your intention to settle in Scotland?"
"No, Mr. Munro. I shall be returning to London shortly to sort out my financial affairs, but be assured I will stay in touch."
"Then you will require the keys to your London residence," said Munro, "which have been in my safekeeping since your father's death." He rose from his chair and walked across to a large safe in the corner of the room. He entered a code and pulled open the heavy door to reveal several shelves stacked with documents. He took two envelopes from the top shelf. "I am in possession of the keys to both the house in The Boltons and your estate here in Scotland, Sir Nicholas. Would you care to take charge of them?"
"No, thank you," said Danny. "For the time being I only require the keys for my home in London. I would be obliged if you retained the keys to the estate. After all, I can't be in two places at once."
"Quite so," said Munro, handing over one of the bulky envelopes.
"Thank you," said Danny. "You have served our family loyally over many years." Munro smiled. "My grandfather-"
"Ah," said Munro with a sigh. Danny wondered if he'd gone too far. "I apologize for interrupting you, but the mention of your grandfather reminds me that there is a further matter that I should bring to your attention." He returned to the safe, and after rummaging around for a few moments, extracted a small envelope. "Ah, here it is," he declared, a look of triumph on his face. "Your grandfather instructed me to hand this to you in person, but not until after your father had died. I should have carried out his wishes at our previous meeting, but with all the, er, constraints you were under at that time, I confess it quite slipped my mind." He passed the envelope to Danny who looked inside, but found nothing.
"Does this mean anything to you?" Danny asked.
"No, it doesn't," confessed Munro. "But recalling your grandfather's lifelong hobby, perhaps the stamp might be of some significance."
Danny placed the envelope in an inside pocket without further comment.
Munro rose from his chair. "I hope, Sir Nicholas, that it will not be too long before we see you in Scotland again. In the meantime, should you require my assistance, do not hesitate to call."
"I don't know how to repay your kindness," said Danny.
"I'm sure that after we have dealt with the problem of your uncle Hugo, I shall be more than adequately compensated." He smiled drily, then accompanied Sir Nicholas to the door, shook him warmly by the hand and bade him farewell.
As Munro watched his client stride back in the direction of the hotel, he couldn't help thinking how like his grandfather Sir Nicholas had turned out to be, although he wondered if it had been wise of him to wear the regimental tie-given the circumstances.
"He's done what?" said Hugo, shouting down the phone.
"He's issued a counter-writ against you, making a claim for the two million one hundred thousand you raised on the two properties."
"Fraser Munro must be behind this," said Hugo. "Nick wouldn't have the nerve to oppose his father's wishes. What do we do now?"
"Accept service of the writ and tell them we'll see them in court."
"But we can't afford to do that," said Hugo. "You've always said that if this case were to end up in court, we'd lose-and the press would have a field day."
"True, but it will never come to court."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I'll make certain that the case drags on for at least a couple of years, and your nephew will have run out of money long before then. Don't forget, we know how much is in his bank account. You'll just need to be patient while I bleed him dry."
"What about the key?"
"Munro is claiming that he doesn't know anything about a key."
"Offer him more money," said Hugo. "If Nick ever discovers what that key opens, he'll be able to watch me bleed to death."
ON THE TRAIN back to London, Danny took a closer look at the envelope Nick's grandfather must have wanted him to have without his father knowing. But why?
Danny turned his attention to the stamp. It was French, value five francs, and showed the five circles of the Olympic emblem. The envelope was postmarked Paris and dated 1896. Danny knew from Nick's diaries that his grandfather, Sir Alexander Moncrieff, had been a keen collector, so the stamp might possibly be rare and valuable, but he had no idea who to turn to for advice. He found it hard to believe that the name and address could be of any significance: Baron de Coubertin, 25 rue de la Croix-Rouge, Genève, La Suisse. The baron must have been dead for years.
From King's Cross, Danny took the tube to South Kensington-not a part of London in which he felt at home. With the aid of an A to Z bought from a station kiosk, he walked down Old Brompton Road in the direction of The Boltons. Although Nick's suitcase was becoming heavier by the minute, he didn't feel he could waste any more of his rapidly dwindling reserves on a taxi.
When he finally reached The Boltons, Danny came to a halt outside number 12. He couldn't believe that only one family had lived there; the double garage alone was larger than his home in Bow. He opened a squeaky iron gate and walked up a long path covered in weeds to the front door. He pressed the bell. He couldn't think why, except that he didn't want to put the key in the lock until he was certain the house was unoccupied. No one answered.
Danny made several attempts at turning the key in the lock before the door reluctantly opened. He switched on the hall light. Inside, the house was exactly as Nick had described it in his diary. A thick green carpet, faded; red-patterned wallpaper, faded; and long antique lace curtains that hung from ceiling to floor, and had been allowed to attract moths over the years. There were no pictures on the walls, just less faded squares and rectangles to show where they had once hung. Danny wasn't in much doubt who had removed them, and in whose home they were now hanging.
He walked slowly around the rooms trying to get his bearings. It felt like a museum rather than someone's home. Once he'd explored the ground floor, he climbed the stairs to the landing and walked down another corridor before entering a large double bedroom. In a wardrobe hung a row of dark suits that could have been hired out for a period drama, along with shirts with wing collars, and on a rail at the bottom were several pairs of heavy black brogues. Danny assumed that this must have been Nick's grandfather's room, and clearly his father had preferred to stay in Scotland. Once Sir Alexander had died, Uncle Hugo must have removed the pictures and anything else of value that wasn't nailed down, before committing Nick's father to a million-pound mortgage on the house while Nick was safely locked up in prison. Danny was beginning to think that he might have to settle with Hugo before he could turn his attention to the Musketeers.
Having checked all the bedrooms-seven in all-Danny selected one of the smaller rooms in which to spend his first night. After he'd looked through the wardrobe and the chest of drawers, he concluded that it had to be Nick's old room, because there was a rack of suits, a drawer full of shirts and a row of shoes that fitted him perfectly, but looked as if they had been worn by a soldier who spent most of his time in uniform and had little interest in fashion.
Once Danny had unpacked, he decided to venture higher and find out what was on the top floor. He came across a children's room that looked as if it had never been slept in, next door to a nursery full of toys that no child had ever played with. His thoughts turned to Beth and Christy. He looked out of the nursery window onto a large garden. Even in the fading light of dusk he could see that the lawn was overgrown from years of neglect.
Danny returned to Nick's room, undressed and ran himself a bath. He sat in it, deep in thought, and didn't move until the water had turned cold. Once he'd dried himself, he decided against wearing Nick's silk pajamas and climbed straight into bed. Within minutes he was fast asleep. The mattress was more like the one he had become accustomed to in prison.
Danny leaped out of bed the following morning, pulled on a pair of pants, grabbed a silk dressing gown that was hanging on the back of the door, and went in search of the kitchen.
He descended a small uncarpeted staircase to a dark basement, where he discovered a large kitchen with an Aga and shelves full of glass bottles containing he knew not what. He was amused by a line of little bells attached to the wall, marked "Drawing Room," "Master Bedroom," "Study," "Nursery" and "Front Door." He began to search for some food, but couldn't find anything that hadn't passed its sell-by date years before. He now realized what the smell was that pervaded the whole house. If there was any money in Nick's bank account, the first thing he needed to do was employ a cleaner. He pulled open one of the large windows to allow a gust of fresh air to enter the room, into which it hadn't been invited for some time.
Having failed to find anything to eat, Danny returned to the bedroom to get dressed. He chose the least conservative garments he could find from Nick's wardrobe, but still ended up looking like a Guards captain on furlough.
As eight o'clock struck on the church clock in the square, Danny picked up the wallet from the bedside table and put it in his jacket pocket. He looked at the envelope Nick's grandfather had left him, and decided the stamp had to be the secret. He sat down at the desk by the window and wrote out a check to Nicholas Moncrieff for five hundred pounds. Was there five hundred pounds in Nick's account? There was only one way he was going to find out.
When he left the house a few minutes later he pulled the door closed, but this time he remembered to take the keys with him. He strolled to the top of the road, turned right and walked in the direction of South Kensington tube station, only stopping to drop into a newsagent and pick up a copy of The Times. As he was leaving the shop, he spotted a noticeboard offering various services. "Massage, Sylvia will come to your home, £100." "Lawnmower for sale, only used twice, £250 o.n.o." He would have bought it if he had been confident there was £250 in Nick's bank account. "Cleaner, five pounds an hour, references supplied. Call Mrs. Murphy on…" Danny wondered if Mrs. Murphy had a thousand hours to spare. He made a note of her mobile number, which reminded him of something else he needed to put on his shopping list, but that would also have to wait until he had discovered how much money there was in Nick's account.
By the time he got off the tube at Charing Cross, Danny had settled on two plans of action, depending on whether the manager of Coutts knew Sir Nicholas well, or had never come across him before.
He walked along the Strand looking for the bank. On its gray cover Nick's checkbook simply stated Coutts amp; Co, The Strand, London ; clearly it was too grand an establishment to admit it had a number. He had not gone far before he spotted a large glass-fronted bronze building on the other side of the road, discreetly displaying two crowns above the name Coutts. He crossed the road, nipping in and out of the traffic. He was about to find out the extent of his wealth.
He entered the bank through the revolving doors, and quickly tried to get his bearings. Ahead of him, an escalator led up to the banking hall. He made his way up to a large, glass-roofed room with a long counter running the length of one wall. Several tellers, dressed in black frock coats, were serving customers. Danny selected a young man who looked as if he had only just started shaving. He walked up to his window. "I would like to make a withdrawal."
"How much do you require, sir?" the teller asked.
"Five hundred pounds," said Danny, handing over the check he had written out earlier that morning.
The teller checked the name and number on his computer, and hesitated. "Would you be kind enough to wait for one moment, Sir Nicholas?" he asked. Danny's mind started racing. Was Nick's account overdrawn? Had the account been closed? Were they unwilling to deal with an ex-con? A few moments later an older man appeared, and gave him a warm smile. Had Nick known him?
"Sir Nicholas?" he ventured.
"Yes," said Danny, one of his questions answered.
"My name is Mr. Watson. I'm the manager. It's a pleasure to meet you after all this time." Danny shook him warmly by the hand before the manager said, "Perhaps we could have a word in my office?"
"Certainly, Mr. Watson," said Danny, trying to appear confident. He followed the manager across the banking floor and through a door that led into a small wood-paneled office. There was a single oil painting of a gentleman in a long black frock coat hanging on the wall behind his desk. Under the portrait was the legend John Campbell, Founder, 1692.
Mr. Watson began speaking even before Danny had sat down. "I see that you haven't made a withdrawal for the past four years, Sir Nicholas," he said, looking at his computer screen.
"That's correct," said Danny.
"Perhaps you have been abroad?"
"No, but in future I will be a more regular customer. That is, if you have been handling my account with care while I've been away."
"I hope you will think so, Sir Nicholas," responded the manager. "We have been paying interest at three percent per annum into your current account year on year."
Danny wasn't impressed, but only asked, "And how much is in my current account?"
The manager glanced at the screen. "Seven thousand, two hundred and twelve pounds." Danny breathed a sigh of relief, then asked, "Are there any other accounts, documents or valuables in my name which you are holding at the present time?" The manager looked a little surprised. "It's just that my father died recently."
The manager nodded. "I'll just check, sir," he said, before pressing some keys on his computer. He shook his head. "It seems that your father's account was closed two months ago, and all his assets were transferred to the Clydesdale Bank in Edinburgh."
"Ah, yes," said Danny. "My uncle Hugo."
"Hugo Moncrieff was indeed the recipient," confirmed the manager.
"Just as I thought," said Danny.
"Is there anything else I can do for you, Sir Nicholas?"
"Yes, I'll need a credit card."
"Of course," said Watson. "If you fill in this form," he added, pushing a questionnaire across the table, "we'll send one to your home address in the next few days."
Danny tried to remember Nick's date and place of birth and his middle name; he wasn't sure what to put under "occupation" or "annual earnings."
"There's one other thing," said Danny once he'd completed the form. "Would you have any idea where I can get this valued?" He took out the little envelope from an inside pocket and slid it across the desk.
The manager looked at the envelope carefully. "Stanley Gibbons," he replied without hesitation. "They are leaders in the field, and they have an international reputation."
"Where would I find them?"
"They have a branch just up the road. I would recommend that you have a word with Mr. Prendergast."
"I'm lucky that you're so well informed," said Danny suspiciously.
"Well, they have banked with us for almost a hundred and fifty years."
Danny walked out of the bank with an extra £500 in his wallet, and set off in search of Stanley Gibbons. On the way he passed a mobile phone shop, which allowed him to tick another item off his shopping list. After he'd selected the latest model, he asked the young assistant if he knew where Stanley Gibbons was.
"Another fifty yards on your left," he replied.
Danny continued down the road until he saw the sign over the door. Inside, a tall thin man was leaning on the counter turning the pages of a catalog. He stood up straight the moment Danny came in.
"Mr. Prendergast?" asked Danny.
"Yes," he said. "How may I help you?"
Danny took out the envelope and put it on the counter. "Mr. Watson at Coutts suggested that you might be able to value this for me."
"I'll do my best," said Mr. Prendergast, picking up a magnifying glass from under the counter. He studied the envelope for some time before he ventured an opinion. "The stamp is a first-edition five-franc imperial, issued to mark the founding of the modern Olympic Games. The stamp itself is of little value, no more than a few hundred pounds. But there are two other factors that could possibly add to its importance."
"And what are they?" asked Danny.
"The postmark is dated April sixth 1896."
"And why is that of any significance?" asked Danny, trying not to sound impatient.
"That was the date of the opening ceremony of the first modern Olympic Games."
"And the second factor?" asked Danny, not waiting this time.
"The person the envelope is addressed to," said Prendergast, sounding rather pleased with himself.
"Baron de Coubertin," said Danny, not needing to be reminded.
"Correct," said the dealer. "It was the baron who founded the modern Olympics, and that is what makes your envelope a collector's item."
"Are you able to place a value on it?" asked Danny.
"That's not easy, sir, as the item is unique. But I would be willing to offer you two thousand pounds for it."
"Thank you, but I'd like a little time to think about it," replied Danny, and turned to leave.
"Two thousand two hundred?" said the dealer as Danny closed the door quietly behind him.
DANNY SPENT THE next few days settling into The Boltons, not that he thought he'd ever really feel at home in Kensington. That was until he met Molly.
Molly Murphy hailed from County Cork and it was some time before Danny could understand a word she was saying. She must have been about a foot shorter than Danny, and was so thin that he wondered if she had the strength to manage more than a couple of hours' work a day. He had no idea of her age, although she looked younger than his mother and older than Beth. Her first words to him were, "I charge five pounds an hour, cash. I won't be paying any tax to those English bastards," she had added firmly after learning that Sir Nicholas hailed from north of the border, "and if you don't think I'm up to it, I'll leave at the end of the week."
Danny kept an eye on Molly for the first couple of days, but it soon became clear that she had been forged in the same furnace as his mother. By the end of the week he was able to sit down anywhere in the house without a cloud of dust rising, climb into a bath that didn't have a water mark, and open the fridge to grab something without fearing he'd be poisoned.
By the end of the second week, Molly had started making his supper as well as washing and ironing his clothes. By the third week he wondered how he had ever survived without her.
Molly's enterprise allowed Danny to concentrate on other things. Mr. Munro had written to let him know that he had served a writ on his uncle. Hugo's solicitor had allowed the full twenty-one days to pass before acknowledging service.
Mr. Munro warned Sir Nicholas that Galbraith had a reputation for taking his time, but assured him that he would keep snapping at his ankles whenever the opportunity arose. Danny wondered how much this snapping would cost. He found out when he turned the page. Attached to Munro's letter was a bill for four thousand pounds, which covered all the work he had done since the funeral, including the serving of the writ.
Danny checked his bank statement, which had arrived, along with a credit card, in the morning post. Four thousand pounds would make a very large dent on the bottom line and Danny wondered how long he could survive before he would have to throw in the towel; it might have been a cliché but the expression did remind him of happier times in Bow.
During the past week, Danny had bought a laptop and a printer, a silver photo frame, several files, assorted pens, pencils and erasers, as well as reams of paper. He had already begun to build a database on the three men who had been responsible for Bernie's death, and he spent most of the first month entering everything he knew about Spencer Craig, Gerald Payne and Lawrence Davenport. That didn't amount to a great deal, but Nick had taught him that it's easier to pass exams if you've put in the research. He had just been about to begin that research when he received Munro's invoice, which reminded him how quickly his funds were drying up. Then he remembered the envelope. The time had come to seek a second opinion.
He picked up The Times-brought in by Molly every morning-and turned to an article he'd spotted on the Arts pages. An American collector had bought a Klimt for fifty-one million pounds in an auction at somewhere called Sotheby's.
Danny opened his laptop and googled Klimt to discover that he was an Austrian Symbolist painter, 1862-1918. He next turned his attention to Sotheby's, which turned out to be an auction house that specialized in fine art, antiques, books, jewelry and other collectible items. After a few clicks of the mouse, he discovered that collectible items included stamps. Those wishing to seek advice could do so by calling Sotheby's or by visiting their offices in New Bond Street.
Danny thought he'd take them by surprise, but not today, because he was going to the theater, and not to see the play. The play was not the thing.
Danny had never been to a West End theater before, unless he counted a trip on Beth's twenty-first to see Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre. He hadn't enjoyed it that much, and didn't think he'd bother with another musical.
He had phoned the Garrick the previous day and booked a seat for a matinee performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. They had told him to pick up his ticket from the box office fifteen minutes before the curtain rose. Danny arrived a little early, to find that the theater was almost deserted. He collected his ticket, bought a program and with the assistance of an usher made his way to the stalls, where he found his seat at the end of row H. Just a handful of people were dotted around.
He opened his program and read for the first time about how Oscar Wilde's play had been an instant hit in 1895 when it was first performed at the St. James's Theatre in London. He had to keep standing up to allow other people to take their seats in row H as a steady stream of ticket holders made their way into the theater.
By the time the lights went down, the Garrick was almost full and the majority of seats seemed to be occupied by young girls. When the curtain rose, Lawrence Davenport was nowhere to be seen, but Danny didn't have to wait long, because he made his entrance a few moments later. A face he would never forget. One or two of the audience immediately began clapping. Davenport paused before delivering his first line, as though he expected nothing less.
Danny was tempted to charge up onto the stage and tell the assembled gathering what sort of a man Davenport really was, and what had taken place at the Dunlop Arms the night their hero had stood and watched Spencer Craig stab his best friend to death. How differently he had acted in the alley from the swaggering, confident man he now portrayed. On that occasion he had given a far more convincing performance as a coward.
Like the young girls in the audience, Danny's eyes never left Davenport. As the performance continued, it became clear that if there was a mirror to gaze in, Davenport would find it. By the time the curtain fell for the interval, Danny felt he had seen quite enough of Lawrence Davenport to know just how much he'd appreciate a few matinees in jail. Danny would have returned to The Boltons and brought his file up to date if he hadn't found to his surprise how much he was enjoying the play.
He followed the jostling crowd into a packed bar and waited in a long queue while one barman tried manfully to serve all his would-be customers. Finally Danny gave up, and decided to use the time to read his program and learn more about Oscar Wilde, who he wished had been featured on the A-level syllabus. He became distracted by a high-pitched conversation that was taking place between two girls standing at the corner of the bar.
"What did you think of Larry?" asked the first.
"He's wonderful," came back the reply. "Pity he's gay."
"But are you enjoying the play?"
"Oh, yes. I'm coming again on closing night."
"How did you manage to get tickets?"
"One of the stagehands lives in our street."
"Does that mean you'll be going to the party afterwards?"
"Only if I agree to be his date for the night."
"Do you think you'll get to meet Larry?"
"It's the only reason I said I'd go out with him."
A bell sounded three times and several customers quickly downed their drinks before drifting back into the auditorium to take their seats. Danny followed in their wake.
When the curtain rose again, Danny became so engrossed in the play that he almost forgot his real purpose for being there. While the girls' attention remained firmly focused on Dr. Beresford, Danny sat back waiting to find out which one of two men would turn out to be Earnest.
When the curtain fell and the cast took their bows, the audience rose to their feet, shouting and screaming, just as Beth had done that night, but a different kind of scream. It only made Danny more determined that they should find out the truth about their flawed idol.
After the final curtain call, the chattering crowd spilled out of the theater onto the pavement. Some headed straight for the stage door, but Danny made his way back to the box office.
The box office manager smiled. "Enjoy the show?"
"Yes, thank you. Do you by any chance have a ticket for the closing night?"
"Afraid not, sir. Sold out."
"Just a single?" said Danny hopefully. "I don't mind where I sit."
The box office manager checked his screen and studied the seating plan for the last performance. "I do have a single seat in row W."
"I'll take it," said Danny, passing over his credit card. "Does that allow me to attend the party afterwards?"
"No, I'm afraid not," said the manager with a smile. "That's by invitation only." He swiped Danny's card, "Sir Nicholas Moncrieff," he said, looking at him more closely.
"Yes, that's right," said Danny.
The manager printed out a single ticket, took an envelope from below the counter and slipped the ticket inside.
Danny continued to read the program on the tube journey back to South Kensington, and after he'd devoured every word on Oscar Wilde and read about the other plays he'd written, he opened the envelope to check his ticket. C9. They must have made a mistake. He looked inside the envelope and pulled out a card which read:
THE GARRICK THEATRE
invites you to the closing-night party of
The Importance of Being Earnest
at the Dorchester
Saturday 14th September 2002
Admittance by ticket only 11:00 p.m. till heaven knows when
Danny suddenly realized the importance of being Sir Nicholas.
"HOW INTERESTING. HOW very interesting," said Mr. Blundell as he placed his magnifying glass back on the table and smiled at his potential customer.
"How much is it worth?" asked Danny.
"I have no idea," Blundell admitted.
"But I was told you were one of the leading experts in the field."
"And I like to think I am," replied Blundell, "but in thirty years in the business I've never come across anything quite like this." He picked up his magnifying glass again, bent down and studied the envelope more closely. "The stamp itself is not all that uncommon, but one franked on the day of the opening ceremony is far more rare. And for the envelope to be addressed to Baron de Coubertin…"
"The founder of the modern Olympics," said Danny. "Must be even rarer."
"If not unique," suggested Blundell. He ran the magnifying glass over the envelope once again. "It's extremely difficult to put a value on it."
"Could you give me a rough estimate, perhaps?" asked Danny hopefully.
"If the envelope was purchased by a dealer, two thousand two hundred to two thousand five hundred would be my guess; by a keen collector, perhaps as much as three thousand. But should two collectors want it badly enough, who can say? Allow me to give you an example, Sir Nicholas. Last year an oil painting entitled A Vision of Fiammetta by Dante Gabriel Rossetti came under the hammer here at Sotheby's. We put an estimate on it of two and a half to three million pounds, which was certainly at the high end of the market, and, indeed, all the well-known dealers had fallen out some time before it reached the high estimate. However, because Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elizabeth Rothschild both wanted to add the picture to their collections, the hammer came down for the final time at nine million pounds, more than double the previous record for a Rossetti."
"Are you suggesting that my envelope might sell for more than double its valuation?"
"No, Sir Nicholas, I am simply saying that I have no idea how much it might sell for."
"But can you make sure that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elizabeth Rothschild turn up for the sale?" asked Danny.
Blundell lowered his head, fearing Sir Nicholas might see that he was amused by such a suggestion. "No," he said, "I have no reason to believe that either Lord Lloyd Webber or Elizabeth Rothschild has any interest in stamps. However, if you decide to put your envelope into our next sale, it would be featured in the catalog, and sent to all the leading collectors in the world."
"And when will your next stamp sale be?" asked Danny.
"September the sixteenth," replied Blundell. "Just over six weeks' time."
"That long?" said Danny, who had assumed that they would be able to sell his envelope within a few days.
"We are still preparing the catalog, and will be mailing it to all our clients at least two weeks prior to the sale."
Danny thought back to his meeting with Mr. Prendergast at Stanley Gibbons, who had offered him £2,200 for the envelope, and probably would have gone as high as £2,500. If he accepted his offer he wouldn't have to wait for another six weeks. Nick's latest bank statement showed that he only had £1,918, so he might well be overdrawn by September 16th with still no prospect of any income.
Blundell did not hurry Sir Nicholas, who was clearly giving the matter his serious consideration, and if he was the grandson of… this could be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.
Danny knew which of the two options Nick would have settled for. He would have accepted the original offer of £2,000 from Mr. Prendergast, walked back to Coutts and banked the money immediately. That helped Danny come to a decision. He picked up the envelope, handed it to Mr. Blundell and said, "I'll leave you to find the two people who want my envelope."
"I'll do my best," said Blundell. "Nearer the time, Sir Nicholas, I'll see that you are sent a catalog, along with an invitation to the sale. And may I add how much I always enjoyed assisting your grandfather in the building of his magnificent collection."
"His magnificent collection?" repeated Danny.
"Should you wish to add to that collection, or indeed to sell any part of it, I would be only too happy to offer my services."
"Thank you," said Danny. "I may well be in touch." He left Sotheby's without another word-he couldn't risk asking Mr. Blundell questions to which he himself would be expected to know the answers. But how else was he going to find out about Sir Alexander's magnificent collection?
No sooner was Danny back out on Bond Street than he wished he had accepted Prendergast's original offer, because even if the envelope raised as much as six thousand, it still wouldn't be nearly enough to cover the costs of a prolonged legal battle with Hugo Moncrieff, and if he were to settle the writ before the expenses ran out of control, he'd still have enough money to survive on for a few more weeks while he looked for a job. But unfortunately, Sir Nicholas Moncrieff was not qualified to work as an East End garage mechanic; in fact, Danny was beginning to wonder what he was qualified to do.
Danny strolled on up Bond Street and into Piccadilly. He thought about the significance, if any, of Blundell's words "your grandfather's magnificent collection." He didn't notice that someone was following him. But then, the man was a professional.
Hugo picked up the phone.
"He's just left Sotheby's and he's standing at a bus stop in Piccadilly."
"So he must be running out of funds," said Hugo. "Why did he go to Sotheby's?"
"He left an envelope with a Mr. Blundell, the head of the philatelic department. It will come up for auction in six weeks' time."
"What was on the envelope?" asked Hugo.
"A stamp issued to mark the first modern Olympics, which Blundell estimated to be worth between two and two and a half thousand."
"When's the sale?"
"Then I'll have to be there," said Hugo, putting down the phone.
"How unlike your father to allow one of his stamps to be put up for sale. Unless…" said Margaret as she folded her napkin.
"I'm not following you, old gal. Unless what?" said Hugo.
"Your father devotes his life to putting together one of the world's finest stamp collections, which not only disappears on the day he dies, but isn't even mentioned in his will. But what is mentioned are a key and an envelope, which he leaves to Nick."
"I'm still not sure what you're getting at, old gal?"
"The key and the envelope are clearly connected in some way," said Margaret.
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I don't believe the stamp is of any importance."
"But two thousand pounds would be a great deal of money to Nick at the present time."
"But not to your father. I suspect that the name and address on the envelope are far more important, because they will lead us to the collection."
"But we still won't have the key," said Hugo.
"The key will be of little importance if you can prove that you are the rightful heir to the Moncrieff fortune."
Danny jumped on a bus for Notting Hill Gate, hoping he'd be in time for the monthly meeting with his probation officer. Another ten minutes and he would have had to take a cab. Ms. Bennett had written to say that something of importance had come up. Those words made him nervous, though Danny knew that if they had found out who he really was, he wouldn't have been informed by a letter from his probation officer, but would have woken in the middle of the night to find the house surrounded by police.
Although he was becoming more and more confident with his new persona, not a day passed when he wasn't reminded that he was an escaped prisoner. Anything could give him away: a second glance, a misunderstood remark, a casual question to which he didn't know the answer. Who was your housemaster at Loretto? Which college were you in at Sandhurst? Which rugby team do you support?
Two men stepped off the bus when it came to a halt in Notting Hill Gate. One of them began to jog toward the local probation office; the other followed close behind, but didn't enter the building. Although Danny checked in at reception with a couple of minutes to spare, he still had to wait for another twenty minutes before Ms. Bennett was free to see him.
Danny entered a small, sparse office that contained only one table and two chairs, no curtains, and a threadbare carpet that would have been left orphaned at a car-boot sale. It wasn't much of an improvement on his cell at Belmarsh.
"How are you, Moncrieff?" asked Ms. Bennett as he sat down in the plastic chair opposite her. No "Sir Nicholas," no "sir," just "Moncrieff."
Behave like Nick, think like Danny. "I'm well, thank you, Ms. Bennett. And you?" She didn't reply, simply opened a file in front of her that revealed a list of questions that had to be answered by all former prisoners once a month while they are on probation. "I just want to bring myself up to date," she began. "Have you had any success finding a job as a teacher?"
Danny had forgotten that Nick intended to return to Scotland and teach once he was released from prison.
"No," Danny replied. "Sorting out my family problems is taking a little longer than I had originally anticipated."
"Family problems?" repeated Ms. Bennett sharply. That wasn't the reply she had expected. Family problems spelled trouble. "Do you wish to discuss these problems?"
"No, thank you, Ms. Bennett," said Danny. "I'm just trying to sort out my grandfather's will. There's nothing for you to worry about."
"I will be the judge of that," responded Ms Bennett. "Does this mean you are facing financial difficulties?"
"No, Ms. Bennett."
"Have you found any employment yet?" she asked, returning to her list of questions.
"No, but I expect to be looking for a job in the near future."
"Presumably as a teacher."
"Let's hope so," said Danny.
"Well, if that proves difficult, perhaps you should consider other employment."
"Well, I see that you were a librarian in prison."
"I'd certainly be willing to consider that," said Danny, confident that would achieve another tick in another box.
"Do you have somewhere to live at the present time, or are you staying in a prison hostel?"
"I have somewhere to live."
"With your family?"
"No, I have no family."
One tick, one cross and one question mark. She continued. "Are you in rented accommodation, or staying with a friend?"
"I live in my own house."
Ms. Bennett looked perplexed. No one had ever given that reply to the question before. She decided on a tick. "I have just one more question for you. Have you, during the past month, been tempted to commit the same crime as the one you were sent to prison for?"
Yes, I've been tempted to kill Lawrence Davenport, Danny wanted to tell her, but Nick replied, "No, Ms. Bennett, I have not."
"That will be all for now, Moncrieff. I'll see you again in a month's time. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you feel I can be of any assistance in the meantime."
"Thank you," said Danny, "but you mentioned in your letter that there was something of importance…"
"Did I?" said Ms. Bennett as she closed the file on her desk to reveal an envelope. "Ah, yes, you're quite right." She handed him a letter addressed to N.A. Moncrieff, Education Department, HMP Belmarsh. Danny began to read a letter to Nick from the UK Matriculation Board to discover what Ms. Bennett considered important.
The results of your A level exams are listed below:
Business Studies A*
Danny leaped up and punched his fist in the air as if he was at Upton Park and West Ham had scored the winning goal against Arsenal. Ms. Bennett wasn't sure if she should congratulate Moncrieff or press the button under her desk to summon security. When his feet touched the ground, she asked, "If it's still your intention to take a degree, Moncrieff, I'll be happy to assist you with your application for a grant."
Hugo Moncrieff studied the Sotheby's catalog for some considerable time. He had to agree with Margaret, it could only be Lot 37: A rare envelope displaying a first-edition stamp celebrating the opening of the modern Olympics addressed to the founder of the Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, estimate £2,200-£2,500.
"Perhaps I should attend one of the viewing days and take a closer look?" he suggested.
"You will do nothing of the sort," said Margaret firmly. "That would only alert Nick, and he might even work out that it's not the stamp we're interested in."
"But if I went down to London the day before the sale and found out the address on the envelope, we'd know where the collection is, without having to waste any money buying it."
"But then we wouldn't have a calling card."
"I'm not sure I'm following you, old gal."
"We may not be in possession of the key, but if your father's only surviving son turns up with the envelope as well as the new will, we must have a chance of convincing whoever is holding the collection on his behalf that you are the rightful heir."
"But Nick might be at the sale."
"If he hasn't worked out by then that it's the address that matters, not the stamp, it will be too late for him to do anything about it. Just be thankful of one thing, Hugo."
"And what's that, old gal?"
"Nick doesn't think like his grandfather."
Danny opened the catalog once again. He turned to Lot 37 and studied the entry more carefully. He was pleased to find such a full description of his envelope, if not a little disappointed that, unlike several of the other items, there was no photograph accompanying it.
He started to read the conditions of sale and was horrified to discover that Sotheby's deduct 10 percent of the hammer price from the seller as well as loading a further 20 percent premium on the buyer. If he ended up with only £1,800, he would have been better off selling the envelope to Stanley Gibbons-which was exactly what Nick would have done.
Danny closed the catalog and turned his attention to the only other letter he had received that morning: a booklet and an application form from London University to apply for one of its degree courses. He spent some time considering the various options. He finally turned to the section marked grant applications, aware that if he did honor his promise to Nick and Beth, it was going to mean a considerable change in lifestyle.
Nick's current account was down to £716, with not a single addition to the entry column since he had been released from prison. He feared his first sacrifice would have to be Molly, in which case the house would soon return to the state he'd found it in when he had first opened the front door.
Danny had avoided calling Mr. Munro for a progress report on his battle with Uncle Hugo for fear it would only prompt another bill. He sat back and thought about the reason he had been willing to take Nick's place. Big Al had convinced him that if he were able to escape, anything was possible. He was, in fact, quickly discovering that a penniless man working on his own was in no position to take on three highly successful professionals, even if they did think he was dead and long forgotten. He thought of the plans he had begun to put in place, starting with tonight's visit to the final performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. Its real purpose would come after the curtain had fallen, when he attended the closing-night party and came face to face with Lawrence Davenport for the first time.
DANNY ROSE FROM his place and joined the standing ovation, not least because if he hadn't, he would have been one of the few people in the theater who was still sitting. He had enjoyed the play even more a second time, but that was possibly because he'd now had a chance to read the script.
Sitting in the third row among the family and friends of the cast had only added to his enjoyment. The set designer sat on one side of him, and the wife of the producer on the other. They invited him to join them for a drink in the extended interval. He listened to theater talk, rarely feeling confident enough to offer an opinion. It didn't seem to matter, as they all had unshakable views on everything from Davenport 's performance to why the West End was full of musicals. Danny appeared to have only one thing in common with theater folk: none of them seemed to know what their next job would be.
After Davenport had taken countless curtain calls, the audience slowly made their way out of the theater. As it was a clear night, Danny decided he would walk to the Dorchester. The exercise would do him good, and in any case, he couldn't afford the expense of a cab.
He began to stroll toward Piccadilly Circus, when a voice behind him said, "Sir Nicholas?" He looked around to see the box office manager hailing him with one hand, while holding a taxi door open with the other. "If you're going to the party, why don't you join us?"
"Thank you," said Danny, and climbed in to find two young women sitting on the back seat.
"This is Sir Nicholas Moncrieff," said the box office manager as he unfolded one of the seats and sat down to face them.
"Nick," insisted Danny as he sat on the other folding seat.
"Nick, this is my girlfriend Charlotte. She works in props. And this is Katie, who's an understudy. I'm Paul."
"Which part do you understudy?" Nick asked.
"I stand in for Eve Best, who's been playing Gwendolen."
"But not tonight," said Danny.
"No," admitted Katie, as she crossed her legs. "In fact, I've only done one performance during the entire run. A matinee when Eve had to fulfill a commitment for the BBC."
"Isn't that a little frustrating?" asked Danny.
"It sure is, but it beats being out of work."
"Every understudy lives in hope that they'll be discovered while the lead is indisposed," said Paul. "Albert Finney took over from Larry Olivier when he was playing Coriolanus at Stratford, and became a star overnight."
"Well, it didn't happen the one afternoon I was on stage," said Katie with feeling. "What about you, Nick, what do you do?"
Danny didn't reply immediately, partly because no one except his probation officer had ever asked him that question. "I used to be a soldier," he said.
"My brother's a soldier," said Charlotte. "I'm worried that he might be sent to Iraq. Have you ever served there?"
Danny tried to recall the relevant entries in Nick's diary. "Twice," he replied. "But not recently," he added.
Katie smiled at Danny as the cab drew up outside the Dorchester. He remembered so well the last young woman who had looked at him that way.
Danny was the last to climb out of the taxi. He heard himself saying, "Let me get this one," quite expecting Paul's reply to be certainly not.
"Thanks, Nick," said Paul, as he and Charlotte strolled into the hotel. Danny took out his wallet and parted with another ten pounds he could ill afford-one thing was certain, he would be walking home tonight.
Katie hung back and waited for Nick to join her. "Paul tells me this is the second time you've seen the show," she said as they made their way into the hotel.
"I came on the off-chance you'd be playing Gwendolen," said Danny with a grin.
She smiled and kissed his cheek. Something else Danny hadn't experienced for a long time. "You're sweet, Nick," she said as she took his hand and led him into the ballroom.
"So what are you hoping to do next?" asked Danny, almost having to shout above the noise of the crowd.
"Three months of rep with the English Touring Company."
"No, they can't afford understudies on tour. If anyone falls out, the program seller takes your place. So this is going to be my chance to be on stage, and your chance to come and see me."
"Where will you be performing?" asked Danny.
"Take your choice- Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cambridge or Bromley."
"I think it will have to be Bromley," said Danny as a waiter offered them champagne.
He looked around the overcrowded room. Everyone seemed to be talking at once. Those that weren't were drinking champagne, while others continually moved from person to person, hoping to impress directors, producers and casting agents in an endless quest to land their next job.
Danny let go of Katie's hand, recalling that, not unlike the out-of-work actors, he had a purpose for being there. He slowly scanned the room in search of Lawrence Davenport, but there was no sign of him. Danny assumed that he would make an entrance later.
"Bored with me already?" asked Katie, grabbing another glass of champagne from a passing waiter.
"No," said Danny unconvincingly, as a young man joined them.
"Hi, Katie," he said, kissing her on the cheek. "Have you got another job lined up or are you resting?"
Danny took a sausage from a passing tray, remembering that he wouldn't be having anything else to eat that night. Once again he looked around the room in search of Davenport. His eyes rested on another man he should have realized might be there that evening. He was standing in the center of the room chatting to a couple of girls who were hanging on his every word. He wasn't as tall as Danny remembered from their last encounter, but then, it had been in an unlit alley, and his only interest had been in saving Bernie's life.
Danny decided to take a closer look. He took a pace toward him, and then another, until he was just a few feet away. Spencer Craig looked straight at him. Danny froze, then realized Craig was looking over his shoulder, probably at another girl.
Danny stared at the man who had killed his best friend and thought he'd got away with it. "Not while I'm still alive," said Danny, almost loud enough for Craig to hear. He took another pace forward, emboldened by Craig's lack of interest. Another pace, and a man in Craig's group, who had his back to Danny, instinctively turned around to see who was invading his territory. Danny came face to face with Gerald Payne. He'd put on so much weight since the trial that it was a few seconds before Danny recognized him. Payne turned back, uninterested. Even when he had appeared in the witness box, he hadn't given Danny a second look-no doubt part of the tactics Craig had advised him to adopt.
Danny helped himself to a smoked salmon blini while listening to Craig's conversation with the two girls. He was delivering an obviously well-rehearsed line about the courtroom being rather like the theater, except that you never know when the curtain will fall. Both girls dutifully laughed.
"Very true," said Danny in a loud voice. Craig and Payne both looked at him, but without a flicker of recognition, despite the fact that they had seen him in the dock only two years before, but at that time his hair had been a lot shorter, he had been unshaven and wearing prison clothes. In any case, why should they give Danny Cartwright a thought? After all, he was dead and buried.
"How are you getting on, Nick?" Danny turned to find Paul standing by his side.
"Very well, thank you," said Danny. "Better than I expected," he added without explanation. Danny took a pace closer to Craig and Payne so that they could hear his voice, but nothing seemed to distract them from their conversation with the two girls.
A burst of applause erupted around the room, and all heads turned to watch Lawrence Davenport as he made his entrance. He smiled and waved as if he were visiting royalty. He made his way slowly across the floor, receiving plaudits and praise with every step he took. Danny remembered F. Scott Fitzgerald's haunting line: While the actor danced, he could find no mirrors, so he leant back to admire his image in the chandeliers.
"Would you like to meet him?" asked Paul, who had noticed that Danny couldn't take his eyes off Davenport.
"Yes, I would," said Danny, curious to discover if the actor would treat him with the same indifference as his fellow Musketeers.
"Then follow me." They began to make slow progress across the crowded ballroom, but before they reached Davenport, Danny came to a sudden halt. He stared at the woman the actor was addressing, with whom it was clear that he was on intimate terms.
"So good-looking," said Danny.
"Yes, he is, isn't he," agreed Paul, but before Danny could correct him, he said, "Larry, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Nick Moncrieff."
Davenport didn't bother to shake hands with Danny; he was just another face in the crowd hoping for an audience. Danny smiled at Davenport 's girlfriend.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Sarah."
"Nick. Nick Moncrieff," he replied. "You must be an actress."
"No, far less glamorous. I'm a solicitor."
"You don't look like a solicitor," said Danny. Sarah didn't respond. She had clearly heard that dull response before.
"And are you an actor?" she asked.
"I'll be whatever you want me to be," Danny replied, and this time she did smile.
"Hi, Sarah," said another young man, putting an arm around her waist. "You are without question the most gorgeous woman in the room," he said before kissing her on both cheeks. Sarah laughed. "I'd be flattered, Charlie, if I didn't know that it's my brother you really fancy, not me."
"Are you Lawrence Davenport's sister?" said Danny in disbelief.
"Someone has to be," said Sarah. "But I've learned to live with it."
"What about your friend?" said Charlie, smiling at Danny.
"I don't think so," said Sarah. "Nick, this is Charlie Duncan, the play's producer."
"Pity," said Charlie, and turned his attention to the young men who were surrounding Davenport.
"I think he fancies you," said Sarah.
"But I'm not…"
"I'd just about worked that out," said Sarah with a grin.
Danny continued to flirt with Sarah, aware that he no longer needed to bother with Davenport when his sister could undoubtedly tell him everything he needed to know.
"Perhaps we might-" began Danny, when another voice said, "Hi, Sarah, I was wondering if…"
"Hello, Spencer," she said coldly. "Do you know Nick Moncrieff?"
"No," he replied, and after a cursory handshake, he continued his conversation with Sarah. "I was just coming across to tell Larry how brilliant he was when I spotted you."
"Well, now's your chance," said Sarah.
"But I was also hoping to have a word with you."
"I was just about to leave," said Sarah, checking her watch.
"But the party's only just begun, can't you hang around a little longer?"
"I'm afraid not, Spencer. I need to go over some papers before briefing counsel."
"It's just that I was hoping…"
"Just as you were on the last occasion we met."
"I think we got off on the wrong foot."
"I seem to remember it being the wrong hand," said Sarah, turning her back on him.
"Sorry about that, Nick," said Sarah. "Some men don't know when to take no for an answer, while others…" She gave him a gentle smile. "I hope we'll meet again."
"How do I-" began Danny, but Sarah was already halfway across the ballroom; the kind of woman who assumes that if you want to find her, you will. Danny turned back to see Craig looking more closely at him.
"Spencer, good of you to come," said Davenport. "Was I all right tonight?"
"Never better," said Craig.
Danny thought it was time to leave. He no longer needed to talk to Davenport, and like Sarah, he also had a meeting he had to prepare for. He intended to be wide awake when the auctioneer called for an opening bid for Lot 37.
"Hi, stranger. Where did you disappear to?"
"Ran into an old enemy," said Danny. "And you?"
"The usual bunch. So boring," said Katie. "I've had enough of this party. How about you?"
"I was just leaving."
"Good idea," said Katie, taking him by the hand. "Why don't we jump ship together?"
They walked across the ballroom and headed toward the swing doors. Once Katie had stepped out onto the pavement, she hailed a taxi.
"Where to, miss?" asked the driver.
"Where are we going?" Katie asked Nick.
"Twelve The Boltons."
"Right you are, guv," said the cabbie, which brought back unhappy memories for Danny.
Danny hadn't even sat down before he felt a hand on his thigh. Katie's other arm draped around his neck, and she pulled him toward her.
"I'm sick of being the understudy," she said. "I'm going to take the lead for a change." She leaned across and kissed him.
By the time the taxi drew up outside Nick's home, there were very few buttons left to undo. Katie jumped out of the cab and ran up the drive as Danny paid for a second taxi that night.
"I wish I was your age," remarked the cabbie.
Danny laughed and joined Katie at the front door. It took him some time to get the key in the lock, and as they stumbled into the hall she pulled off his jacket. They left a trail of clothes all the way from the front door to the bedroom. She dragged him onto the bed and pulled him on top of her. Something else Danny hadn't experienced for a long time.
DANNY JUMPED OFF the bus and began walking up Bond Street. He could see a blue flag fluttering in the breeze, boldly displaying in gold the legend Sotheby's.
Danny had never attended an auction before, and was beginning to wish he'd sat in on one or two other sales before he lost his virginity. The uniformed officer on the door saluted him as he walked in, as if he were a regular who thought nothing of spending a few million on a minor Impressionist.
"Where is the stamp sale being held?" Danny asked the woman behind the reception desk.
"Up the stairs," she said pointing to her right, "on the first floor. You can't miss it. Do you want a paddle?" she asked. Danny wasn't sure what she meant. "Will you be bidding?"
"No," said Danny. "Collecting, I hope."
Danny climbed the stairs and walked into a large, brightly lit room, to find half a dozen people milling around. He wasn't certain if he was in the right place until he spotted Mr. Blundell talking to a man in smart green overalls. The room was filled with rows and rows of chairs, although only a few were occupied. At the front, where Blundell was standing, was a highly polished circular podium, from which Danny assumed the auction would be conducted. On the wall behind it was a large screen giving the conversion rates of several different currencies, so that any bidders from abroad would know how much they were expected to pay, while on the right-hand side of the room a row of white telephones were evenly spaced on a long table.
Danny hung around at the back of the room as more people began to stroll in and take their places. He decided to sit at the far end of the back row so that he could keep his eye on all those who were bidding, as well as the auctioneer. He felt like an observer rather than a participant. Danny leafed through the pages of the catalog, although he had already read it several times. His only real interest was Lot 37, but he noticed that Lot 36, an 1861 Cape of Good Hope four-penny red, had a low estimate of £40,000 and a high of £60,000, making it the most expensive item in the sale.
He looked up to see Mr. Prendergast from Stanley Gibbons enter the room and join a small group of dealers who were whispering among themselves at the back of the room.
Danny began to relax as more and more people carrying paddles strolled in and took their seats. He checked his watch-the one Nick's grandfather had given him for his twenty-first birthday-it was ten to ten. He couldn't help noticing when a man who must have weighed over twenty-five stone waddled into the room, carrying a large unlit cigar in his right hand. He made his way slowly down the aisle before taking a seat on the end of the fifth row that appeared to have been reserved for him.
When Blundell spotted the man-not that he could have missed him-he left the group he was with and walked across to greet him. To Danny's surprise they both turned and looked in his direction. Blundell raised his catalog in acknowledgment, and Danny nodded. The man with the cigar smiled as if he recognized Danny, and then continued his conversation with the auctioneer.
The seats were quickly beginning to fill as seasoned customers appeared only moments before Blundell returned to the front of the sale room. He mounted the half-dozen steps of the podium, smiled down at his potential customers, and then filled a glass with water before checking the clock on the wall. He tapped his microphone and said, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our biannual auction of rare stamps. Lot number one." An enlarged image of the stamp displayed in the catalog appeared on the screen by his side.
"We begin today with a penny black, dated 1841, in near mint condition. Do I see an opening bid of one thousand pounds?" A dealer standing in Prendergast's small group at the back raised his paddle. "One thousand two hundred?" This was met by an immediate response from a bidder in the third row who, six bids later, ended up purchasing the stamp for £1,800.
Danny was delighted that the penny black had sold for a far higher price than its estimate, but as each new lot came under the hammer, the prices achieved were inconsistent. There seemed no reason to Danny why some of them exceeded the high estimate, while others failed to reach the low, after which the auctioneer said quietly, "No sale." Danny didn't want to think about the consequences of "no sale" when it came to Lot 37.
Danny occasionally glanced at the man with the cigar, but there was no sign that he was bidding for any of the early lots. He hoped his interest was in the de Coubertin envelope, otherwise why would Blundell have pointed him out?
By the time the auctioneer had reached Lot 35, an assortment of Commonwealth stamps, which was disposed of in less than thirty seconds for £1,000, Danny was becoming increasingly nervous. Lot No. 36 caused an outbreak of chatter, which made Danny check his catalog once again: the 1861 Cape of Good Hope four-penny red, one of only six known in the world.
Blundell opened the bidding at £30,000, and after some dealers and a few minor collectors had dropped out, the only two bidders left appeared to be the man with the cigar and an anonymous telephone bidder. Danny watched the man with the cigar very closely. He didn't seem to give any sign that he was bidding, but when Mr. Blundell finally received a shake of the head from the woman on the phone, he turned back to him and said, "Sold to Mr. Hunsacker for seventy-five thousand pounds." The man smiled and removed the cigar from his mouth.
Danny had become so engrossed in the bidding war that had just taken place that he was taken by surprise when Mr. Blundell announced, "Lot number thirty-seven, a unique envelope showing an eighteen ninety-six first edition of a stamp issued by the French government to celebrate the opening ceremony of the modern Olympic Games. The envelope is addressed to the founder of the Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Do I have an opening bid of a thousand pounds?" Danny was disappointed that Blundell had started the bidding at such a low figure, until he saw several paddles being raised around the room.
"Fifteen hundred?" Almost as many.
"Two thousand?" Not quite as many.
"Two thousand five hundred?" Mr. Hunsacker kept the unlit cigar in his mouth.
"Three thousand?" Danny craned his neck and peered around the room, but couldn't see where the bidding was coming from.
"Three thousand five hundred?" The cigar remained in the mouth.
"Four thousand. Four thousand five hundred. Five thousand. Five thousand five hundred. Six thousand." Hunsacker removed his cigar and frowned.
"Sold, to the gentleman in the front row, for six thousand pounds," said the auctioneer as he brought the hammer down. " Lot thirty-eight, a rare example of…"
Danny tried to see who was seated in the front row, but he couldn't work out which one of them had bought his envelope. He wanted to thank them for bidding three times the high estimate. He felt a tap on his shoulder, and looked around to see the man with the cigar towering over him.
"My name is Gene Hunsacker," he said in a voice almost as loud as the auctioneer's. "If you'd care to join me for a coffee, Sir Nicholas, it's possible that we may have something of mutual interest to discuss. I'm a Texan," he said, shaking Danny by the hand, "which may not come as a big surprise, as we met in Washington. I had the honor of knowing your grand-daddy," he added as they left the room and walked down the stairs together. Danny didn't say a word. Never offer hostages, he had learned since he had begun playing the role of Nick. When they reached the ground floor, Hunsacker led him into the restaurant and headed for another seat that appeared to be his by right.
"Two black coffees," he said to a passing waiter, without giving Danny any choice. "Now, Sir Nicholas. I'm puzzled."
"Puzzled?" said Danny, speaking for the first time.
"I can't work out why you let the de Coubertin come up for auction, and then allowed your uncle to outbid me for it. Unless you and he were working together, and hoped you could force me to go even higher."
"My uncle and I are not on speaking terms," said Danny, selecting his words carefully.
"That's something you have in common with your late grand-daddy," said Hunsacker.
"You were a friend of my grandfather's?" asked Danny.
"Friend would be presumptuous," said the Texan. "Pupil and follower would be nearer the mark. He once outfoxed me for a rare two-penny blue way back in 1977 when I was still a rookie collector, but I learned quickly from him and, to be fair, he was a generous teacher. I keep reading in the press that I have the finest stamp collection on earth, but it just ain't true. That honor goes to your late grand-daddy." Hunsacker sipped his coffee before adding, "Many years ago he tipped me off that he'd be leaving the collection to his grandson, and not to either of his sons."
"My father is dead," Danny said.
Hunsacker looked surprised. "I know-I was at his funeral. I thought you saw me."
"I did," said Danny, recalling Nick's description of the vast American in his diary. "But they would only allow me to speak to my solicitor," he added quickly.
"Yes, I know," said Hunsacker. "But I managed to have a word with your uncle and let him know that I was in the market should you ever want to dispose of the collection. He promised to keep in touch. That's when I realized that he hadn't inherited it, and that your grand-daddy must have kept his word and left the collection to you. So when Mr. Blundell phoned to tell me that you'd put the de Coubertin up for sale, I flew back across the pond in the hope that we might meet."
"I don't even know where the collection is," admitted Danny.
"Maybe that explains why Hugo was willing to pay so much for your envelope," said the Texan, "because he has absolutely no interest in stamps. There he is now." Hunsacker pointed his cigar at a man standing at the reception desk. So that's Uncle Hugo, Danny thought, taking a closer look at him. He could only wonder why he wanted the envelope so badly that he'd been willing to pay three times its estimated value. Danny watched as Hugo passed a check to Mr. Blundell, who in return handed over the envelope.
"You're an idiot," muttered Danny, rising from his place.
"What did you say?" asked Hunsacker, the cigar falling out of his mouth.
"Me, not you," said Danny quickly. "It's been staring me in the face for the past two months. It's the address he's after, not the envelope, because that's where Sir Alexander's collection has to be."
Gene looked even more puzzled. Why would Nick describe his grandfather as Sir Alexander?
"I have to go, Mr. Hunsacker, I apologize. I should never have sold the envelope in the first place."
"I wish I knew what in hell's name you were talking about," said Hunsacker, taking a wallet from an inside pocket. He passed a card across to Danny. "If you ever decide to sell the collection, at least give me first option. I'd offer you a fair price with no ten percent deduction."
"And no twenty percent premium either," said Danny with a grin.
"A chip off the older block," said Gene. "Your grand-daddy was a brilliant and resourceful gentleman, unlike your uncle Hugo, as I'm sure you realize."
"Goodbye, Mr. Hunsacker," said Danny as he tucked the card into Nick's wallet. His eyes never left Hugo Moncrieff, who had just put the envelope into a briefcase. He walked across the lobby to join a woman Danny hadn't noticed until that moment. She linked her arm in his and the two of them left the building quickly.
Danny waited for a few seconds before following them. Once he was back on Bond Street, he looked left and then right, and when he spotted them he was surprised by how much ground they'd already covered. It was clear they were in a hurry. They turned right as they passed the statue of Churchill and Roosevelt sitting on a bench, and then left when they reached Albemarle Street, where they crossed the road and walked for a few more yards before disappearing into Brown's Hotel.
Danny hung around outside the hotel for a few moments while he considered his options. He knew that if they spotted him they would think it was Nick. He entered the building cautiously, but there was no sign of either of them in the lobby. Danny took a seat that was half concealed by a pillar, but still allowed him a clear view of the lifts as well as reception. He didn't pay any attention to a man who had just sat down on the other side of the lobby.
Danny waited for another thirty minutes, and began to wonder if he'd missed them. He was about to get up and check with reception when the lift doors opened, and out stepped Hugo and the woman pulling two suitcases. They walked across to the reception desk, where the woman settled the bill before they quickly left the hotel by a different door. Danny rushed out onto the pavement to see them climbing into the back of a black cab. He hailed the next one on the rank, and even before he had closed the door shouted, "Follow that cab."
"I've waited all my life to hear someone say that," the cabbie responded as he pulled away from the curb.
The taxi in front turned right at the end of the road and made its way toward Hyde Park Corner, through the underpass, along Brompton Road and on to the Westway.
"Looks like they're heading for the airport," said the cabbie. Twenty minutes later he was proved right.
When the two cabs emerged from the Heathrow underpass, Danny's driver said, "Terminal two. So they must be flying to somewhere in Europe." They both came to a halt outside the entrance. The meter read £34.50, and Danny handed over forty pounds but remained in the cab until Hugo and the woman had disappeared inside the terminal.
He followed them in, and watched as they joined a queue of businessclass passengers. The screen above the check-in desk read BA0732, Geneva, 13:55.
"Idiot," Danny muttered again, recalling the address on the envelope. But where exactly in Geneva had it been? He looked at his watch. He still had enough time to buy a ticket and catch the plane. He ran across to the British Airways sales counter, and had to wait some time before he reached the front of the queue.
"Can you get me on the 13:55 to Geneva?" he asked, trying not to sound desperate.
"Do you have any luggage, sir?" asked the assistant behind the sales counter.
"None," said Danny.
She checked her computer. "They haven't closed the gate yet, so you should still be able to make it. Business or economy?"
"Economy," said Danny, wanting to avoid the section where Hugo and the woman would be seated.
"Window or aisle?"
"That will be £217, sir."
"Thank you," said Danny as he passed over his credit card.
"May I see your passport please?"
Danny had never had a passport in his life. "My passport?"
"Yes, sir, your passport."
"Oh, no, I must have left it at home."
"Then I'm afraid you won't be in time to catch the plane, sir."
"Idiot, idiot," said Danny.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm so sorry," said Danny. "Me, not you," he repeated. She smiled.
Danny turned around and walked slowly back across the concourse, feeling helpless. He didn't notice Hugo and the woman leave through the gate marked Departures, Passengers only, but someone else did, who had been watching both them and Danny closely.
Hugo pressed the green button on his mobile just as the loudspeaker announced, "Final call for all passengers traveling to Geneva on flight BA0732. Please make your way to gate nineteen."
"He followed you from Sotheby's to the hotel, and then from the hotel to Heathrow."
"Is he on the same flight as us?" asked Hugo.
"No, he didn't have his passport with him."
"Typical Nick. Where is he now?"
"On his way back to London, so you should have at least a twenty-four-hour start on him."
"Let's hope that's enough, but don't let him out of your sight for a moment." Hugo turned off his phone, as he and Margaret left their seats to board the aircraft.
"Have you come across another heirloom, Sir Nicholas?" asked Mr. Blundell hopefully.
"No, but I do need to know if you have a copy of the envelope from this morning's sale," said Danny.
"Yes, of course," replied Blundell. "We retain a photograph of every item sold at auction, in case a dispute should arise at some later date."
"Would it be possible to see it?" asked Danny.
"Is there a problem?" asked Blundell.
"No," Danny replied. "I just need to check the address on the envelope."
"Of course," repeated Blundell. He tapped some keys on his computer, and a moment later an image of the letter appeared on the screen. He swiveled the screen around so that Danny could see it.
Baron de Coubertin
25 rue de la Croix-Rouge
Danny copied down the name and address. "Do you by any chance know if Baron de Coubertin was a serious stamp collector?" asked Danny.
"Not to my knowledg