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



CHAPTER ONE



"NOT GUILTY."



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."



CHAPTER TWO



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.