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."