Hall laughed. "That man's a survivor," he said. "My bet is that he'll be a Member of Parliament in a couple of years' time and by then no one will even remember what all the fuss was about."
Danny frowned, suddenly aware that he might have only wounded Payne, although he didn't expect Davenport or Craig to recover quite so easily. "I have another job for you," he said, opening his briefcase and extracting a bundle of papers. "I need you to dispose of a property in Redcliffe Square; number twenty-five. The previous owner-"
"Hi, Nick," said a voice.
Danny looked up. A tall, heavily built man he'd never seen before was towering over him. He was wearing a kilt, had a shock of brown wavy hair and a ruddy complexion, and must have been around the same age as Danny. Think like Danny, behave like Nick. Be Nick. Danny had realized that this situation was bound to arise at some time, but lately he had become so relaxed in his new persona that he didn't think it was still possible for him to be taken by surprise. He was wrong. First, he needed to find out if the man had been at school or in the army with Nick, because it certainly wasn't prison. He stood up.
"Hello," said Danny, giving the stranger a warm smile and shaking him by the hand.
"Can I introduce you to a business associate of mine, Gary Hall."
The man bent down and shook hands with Hall, saying, "Pleased to meet you, Gary. I'm Sandy, Sandy Dawson," he added in a strong Scottish accent.
"Sandy and I go back a long way," said Danny, hoping to find out just how long.
"Sure do," said Dawson. "But I haven't seen Nick since we left school."
"We were at Loretto together," Danny said, smiling at Hall. "So what have you been up to, Sandy?" he asked, desperately searching for another clue.
"Like my father, still in the meat business," said Dawson. "And ever thankful that Highland beef remains the most popular meat in the kingdom. What about you, Nick?"
"I've been taking it pretty easy since..." said Danny, attempting to discover if Dawson knew that Nick had been to prison.
"Yes, of course," said Sandy. "Terrible business, most unfair. But I'm delighted to see you've come through the whole experience unscathed." A puzzled look appeared on Hall's face. Danny couldn't think of a suitable reply. "I hope you're still finding time to play the occasional game of cricket," said Dawson. "Best fast bowler of our generation at school," he said, turning to Hall. "I should know-I was the wicketkeeper."
"And a damn good one," said Danny, slapping him on the back.
"Sorry to interrupt you," said Dawson, "but I couldn't just walk by without saying hello."
"Quite right," said Danny. "It was good to see you, Sandy, after all this time."
"You, too," said Dawson as he turned to leave. Danny sat back down, and hoped that Hall didn't hear the sigh of relief that followed Dawson 's departure. He began taking some more papers out of his briefcase, when Dawson turned back. "I don't suppose anyone has told you, Nick, that Squiffy Humphries died?"
"No, I'm sorry to hear that," said Danny.
"Had a heart attack on the golf course while playing a round with the headmaster. The fifteen has never been the same since Squiffy retired."
"Yes, poor old Squiffy. Great coach."
"I'll leave you in peace," said Dawson. "I thought you'd want to know. The whole of Musselburgh turned out for his funeral."
"No more than he deserved," said Danny. Dawson nodded and walked away.
This time Danny didn't take his eyes off the man until he saw him leave the room.
"Sorry about that," he said.
"Always embarrassing to meet up with old school chums years later," said Hall. "Half the time I can't even remember their names. Mind you, it would be difficult to forget that one. Quite a character."
"Yes," said Danny, quickly passing over the deeds of the house in Red-cliffe Square.
Hall studied the document for some time before he asked, "What sort of price are you expecting the property to fetch?"
"Around three million," said Danny. "There's a mortgage of just over a million, and I've put up another million, so anything above two point two, two point three should show me a profit."
"The first thing I'll have to do is arrange for a survey."
"Pity Payne didn't carry out a survey on the Stratford site."
"He claims he did," said Hall. "My bet is the surveyor had never heard of Japanese knotweed. To be fair, neither had anyone else in the office."
"I certainly hadn't," said Danny. "Well, not until quite recently."
"Any problems with the present owner?" asked Hall as he turned the last page of the deeds. Then he added before Danny could reply, "Is that who I think it is?"
"Yes, Lawrence Davenport, the actor," said Danny.
"Did you know he's a friend of Gerald's?"
"Yur on the front page of the Evening Standard, boss," said Big Al as he pulled out of the Dorchester forecourt and joined the traffic heading toward Hyde Park Corner.
"What do you mean?" said Danny, fearing the worst.
Big Al passed the paper back to Danny. He stared at the banner headline: Royal pardon for Cartwright?
He skimmed through the article before reading it more carefully a second time.
"I don't know whit yur gonnae dae, boss, if they ask Sir Nicholas Moncrieff tae appear in front of a tribunal an gie evidence in defense of Danny Cartwright."
"If all goes to plan," said Danny, looking at a photo of Beth surrounded by hundreds of campaigners from Bow, "it won't be me who's the defendant."
CRAIG HAD SENT out for four pizzas, and there would be no waitresses to serve chilled wine for this particular gathering of the Musketeers.
Since leaving the Lord Chancellor's office, he had spent every spare moment trying to find out everything he could about Sir Nicholas Mon-crieff. He had been able to confirm that Moncrieff had shared a cell with Danny Cartwright and Albert Crann while they were inmates at Bel-marsh. He also discovered that Moncrieff had been released from prison six weeks after Cartwright's death.
What Craig couldn't work out was why anyone would be willing to devote his entire existence, as Moncrieff had clearly done, to tracking down and then attempting to destroy three men he had never met. Unless... It was when he placed the two photographs of Moncrieff and Cartwright next to each other that he first began to consider the possibility. It didn't take him too long to come up with a plan to discover if the possibility could in fact be a reality.
There was a knock on the front door. Craig opened it, to be greeted by the forlorn figure of Gerald Payne, clutching on to a cheap bottle of wine. All the self-assurance of their previous meeting had evaporated.
"Is Larry coming?" he asked, not bothering to shake hands with Craig.
"I'm expecting him at any minute," said Craig as he led his old friend through to the drawing room. "So where have you been hiding yourself?"
"I'm staying in Sussex with my mother until this all blows over," Payne replied, sinking into a comfortable chair.