"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.' "