"Yes," said Mr. Isaacs after further consideration, "that seems to me to be a fair price." He placed the ring under the counter and took out his checkbook.
"Can I ask a favor, Mr. Isaacs, before you sign the check?"
"Yes, of course," said the pawnbroker.
"Will you allow me to borrow the ring on the first Sunday of every month?"
"That bad?" said Nick.
"Worse. If it 'adn't been for Liam the tealeaf, I would 'ave fallen asleep and ended up on report."
"Interesting case, Liam," said Big Al, stirring slightly but not bothering to turn around. "His whole family are tealeaves. He's got six brothers and three sisters, an'wance five o' the brothers and two o' the sisters wur aw inside at the same time. His fucking family must already have cost the taxpayer over a million quid."
Danny laughed, then asked Big Al, "What do you know about Kevin Leach?"
Big Al sat bolt upright. "Don't ever mention that name ootside o' this cell. He's a nutter. He'd cut yur throat fur a Mars Bar, and if ye ever cross him..." He hesitated. "They hud tae shift him oot of Garside nick just because another con gave him a V sign."
"Sounds a bit extreme," said Nick, writing down Big Al's every word.
"No efter Leach cut aff the two fingers."
"That's what the French did to the English longbowmen at the battle of Agincourt," said Nick, looking up.
"How interesting," said Big Al.
The klaxon sounded, and the cell doors were opened to allow them to go down and fetch their supper. As Nick closed his diary and pushed his chair back, Danny noticed for the first time that he was wearing a silver chain around his neck.
"There's a rumor circulating the corridors of the Old Bailey," said Mr. Justice Redmayne, "that Spencer Craig might not have been entirely forthcoming when he gave evidence in the Cartwright case. I hope it's not you who's fanning that particular flame."
"I don't have to," Alex replied. "That man has more than enough enemies willing to pump the bellows."
"Nevertheless, as you are still involved in the case, it would be unwise for you to let your views be known among our colleagues at the Bar."
"Even if he's guilty?"
"Even if he's the devil incarnate."
Beth wrote her first letter to Danny at the end of his first week, hoping he'd be able to find someone to read it to him. She slipped in a ten-pound note before sealing the envelope. She planned to write once a week, as well as visiting him on the first Sunday of every month. Mr. Redmayne had explained that lifers can only have one visit a month during their first ten years.
The following morning she dropped the envelope in the post box at the end of Bacon Road before catching the number 25 into the City. Danny's name was never mentioned in the Wilson household, because it only caused her dad to fly off the handle. Beth touched her stomach, and wondered what future a child could possibly hope for who only came into contact with its father once a month while he was in prison. She prayed that it would be a girl.
"You need a haircut," said Big Al.
"What do you expect me to do about it?" said Danny. "Ask Mr. Pascoe if I can take next Saturday morning off so I can drop into Sammy's on Mile End Road and have my usual?"
"No necessary," said Big Al. "Jist book yersel in wi' Louis."
"And who's Louis?" asked Danny.
"Prison barber," said Big Al. "He usually gets through about five cons in forty minutes during Association, but he's so popular ye might huv tae wait for a month before he cin dae ye. As yer no going anywhere fur the next twenty-two years, that shouldnae be a problem. But if ye want tae jump the queue, he charges three fags for a bullet hied, five for a short back and sides. And the squire here," he said, pointing to Nick, who was propped up against a pillow on his bunk reading a book, "has tae hand over ten fags on account of the fact that he still wishes tae look like an officer and a gentleman."
"A short back and sides will suit me just fine," said Danny. "But what does he use? I don't fancy having my hair cut with a plastic knife and fork."
Nick put down his book. "Louis has all the usual equipment-scissors, clippers, even a razor."
"How does he get away with that?" asked Danny.
"He disnae," said Big Al. "A screw hands over the stuff at the beginning of Association then collects it before we go back tae oor cells. An before ye ask, if anything went missing, Louis would lose his job and every cell wid be searched tiu the screws found it."
"Is 'e any good?" asked Danny.
"Before he ended up in here," said Big Al, "he used tae work in May-fair, charging the likes of the squire here fifty quid a hied."
"So how does someone like that end up in the nick?" asked Danny.
"Burglary," said Nick.
"Burglary, my arse," said Big Al. "Buggery mer like it. Caught wi' his troosers doon on Hampstead Heath, and he wasnae pishin' when the polis turned up."
"But if the cons know he's gay," said Danny, "how does he survive in a place like this?"
"Good question," said Big Al. "In maist nicks, when a queer takes a shower the cons take turns to bugger um, then tear um apart limb fae fucking limb."
"So what stops them?" asked Danny.
"Good barbers aren't that easy to come by," said Nick.
"The squire's right," said Big Al. "Oor last barber was in fur grievous, and the cons couldnae afford tae relax while he hud a razor in his hand. In fact, one or two of um ended up wi' very long hair."
"TWO LETTERS FOR you, Cartwright," Mr. Pascoe, the wing officer, said as he passed a couple of envelopes across to Danny. "By the way," he continued, "we found a ten-pound note attached to one of the letters. The money's been paid into your canteen account, but tell your girlfriend that in future she should send a postal order to the governor's office and they'll put the money straight into your account."
The heavy door slammed shut.
"They've opened my letters," said Danny, looking at the torn envelopes.
"They always do," said Big Al. "They also listen in on your phone conversations."
"Why?" asked Danny.
"Hoping to catch anyone involved in a drugs drop. And last week they caught some stupid bastard planning a robbery for the day after he was due to be released."
Danny extracted the letter from the smaller of the two envelopes. As it was handwritten, he assumed it had to be from Beth. The second letter was typed, but this time he couldn't be sure who had sent it. He lay silently on his bunk considering the problem for some time before he finally gave in.
"Nick, can you read my letters to me?" he asked quietly.
"I can and I will," replied Nick.
Danny passed across the two letters. Nick put down his pen, unfolded the handwritten letter first, and checked the signature on the bottom of the page. "This one's from Beth," he said. Danny nodded.
"Dear Danny," Nick read, "it's only been a week, but I already miss you so much. How could the jury have made such a terrible mistake? Why didn't they believe me? I've filled in the necessary forms and will come and visit you next Sunday afternoon, which will be the last chance I have to see you before our baby is born. I spoke to a woman officer on the phone yesterday and she couldn't have been more helpful. Your mum and dad are both well and send their love, and so does my mother. I'm sure Dad will come round given time, especially after you win the appeal. I miss you so much. I love you, I love you, I love you. See you on Sunday, Beth xxx."