"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.