"Then I shall have to be the first person to invite you and Beth out for a meal as soon as you've been released."



"And what about me?" asked Big Al. "Don't I get invited?"



Nick ignored him. "Now it's time to move on to dessert."



"Pudding?" asked Danny.



"No, not pudding, dessert," repeated Nick. "If you are in a restaurant, you only ever order the starter and the main course, and not until you have finished them do you ask to see the dessert menu."



"Two menus in one restaurant?" said Danny.



Nick smiled as he placed a thinner slice of bread on Danny's plate. "That is an apricot tart," he said.



"An' I'm in bed wi' Cameron Diaz," said Big Al.



This time Danny and Nick did laugh.



"For dessert," said Nick, "you use the small fork. However, if you order a creme brulee or ice cream, you pick up the small spoon."



Big Al suddenly sat bolt upright on his bunk. "Whit's the fucking point of aw this?" he demanded. "This isnae a restaurant, it's a prison. The only thing Danny boy's gonnae be eating for the next twenty years is cold turkey."



"And tomorrow," said Nick, ignoring him, "I'll show you how to taste wine after the waiter has poured a small amount into your glass..."



"An the day efter that," said Big Al, accompanied by a long fart, "I shall allow you to sip a sample of ma piss, a rare vintage that wull remind ye yur in prison and no in the fuckin' Ritz."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR



THE HEAVY DOOR of his single cell swung open. "You've got a parcel, Leach. Follow me and look sharp about it."



Leach climbed slowly off his bed, strolled out onto the landing and joined the waiting officer. "Thanks for fixin' the single cell," he grunted as they walked down the corridor.



"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," said Hagen. He didn't speak again until they reached the stores, when he banged loudly on the double doors. The stores manager pulled them open and said, "Name?"



"Brad Pitt."



"Don't try it on with me, Leach, or I might have to put you on report."



"Leach, 6241."



"You've got a parcel." The stores manager turned around, took a box from the shelf behind him and placed it on the counter.



"I see you've already opened it, Mr. Webster."



"You know the regulations, Leach."



"Yes, I do," said Leach. "You are required to open any parcel in my presence, so that I can be sure nothing has been removed or planted inside."



"Get on with it," said Webster.



Leach removed the lid from the box to reveal the latest Adidas tracksuit. "Smart piece of gear, that," said Webster. "Must have set someone back a few quid." Leach didn't comment as Webster began to unzip the pockets one by one to check for any drugs contraband or cash. He found nothing, not even the usual five-pound note. "You can take it away, Leach," he said reluctantly.



Leach picked up the tracksuit and began to walk off. He'd only managed a couple of paces before the word "Leach!" was bellowed after him. He turned around.



"And the box, muppet," Webster added.



Leach returned to the counter, placed the tracksuit back in the box and tucked it under his arm.



"That will be quite an improvement on your present gear," remarked Hagen as he accompanied Leach back to his cell. "Perhaps I ought to take a closer look, since you've never been seen in the gym. But on the other hand, perhaps I could turn a blind eye."



Leach smiled. "I'll leave your cut in the usual place, Mr. Hagen," he said as the cell door closed behind him.



***



"I can't go on living a lie," said Davenport theatrically. "Don't you understand that we've been responsible for sending an innocent man to jail for the rest of his life?"



Once Davenport had been written out of his soap opera, Craig had assumed that it wouldn't be too long before he felt the need for some dramatic gesture. After all, he had little else to think about while he was "resting."



"So what do you intend to do about it?" asked Payne as he lit a cigarette, trying to appear unconcerned.



"Tell the truth," said Davenport, sounding a little overrehearsed. "I intend to give evidence at Cartwright's appeal and tell them what really happened that night. They may not believe me, but at least my conscience will be clear."



"If you do that," said Craig, "all three of us could end up in prison." He paused. "For the rest of our lives. Are you sure that's what you want?"



"No, but it's the lesser of two evils."



"And it doesn't concern you that you might end up in a shower being buggered by a couple of eighteen-stone lorry drivers?" said Craig. Davenport didn't respond.



"Not to mention the disgrace it will bring on your family," added Payne. "You may be out of work now, but let me assure you, Larry, if you decide to make an appearance in court, it will be your final performance."



"I've had a lot of time to consider the consequences," Davenport replied haughtily, "and I've made up my mind."



"Have you thought about Sarah, and the effect this would have on her career?" asked Craig.



"Yes, I have, and when I next see her I intend to tell her exactly what happened that night, and I feel confident she will approve of my decision."



"Could you do me one small favor, Larry?" asked Craig. "For old times' sake?"



"What's that?" asked Davenport suspiciously.



"Just give it a week before you tell your sister."



Davenport hesitated. "All right, a week. But not a day longer."



***



Leach waited until lights out at ten o'clock before he climbed off his bunk. He picked up a plastic fork from the table and walked across to the lavatory in the corner of the cell-the one place the screws can't see you through the spyhole when they make their hourly rounds to check if you are safely tucked up in bed.



He pulled off his new tracksuit bottoms and sat on the lavatory lid. He gripped the plastic fork firmly in his right hand and began to pick away at the stitching on the middle one of the three white stripes that ran down the length of the leg, a laborious process that took forty minutes. Finally, he was able to extract a long, wafer-thin cellophane packet. Inside was enough fine white powder to satisfy an addict for about a month. He smiled-a rare occurrence-at the thought that there were still another five stripes to unpick: they would guarantee his profit, as well as Hagen 's cut.



***



"Mortimer has to be getting the gear from somewhere," said Big Al.



"What makes you say that?" asked Danny.



"He used tae turn up at the hospital every morning without fail. Doc even got him started on a detox program. Then one day he's nowhere to be seen."



"Which can only mean he's found another source," concurred Nick.



"Not one of the regular suppliers, I can tell that," said Big Al. "I've asked around, and come up with nothing." Danny slumped back down on his bunk, succumbing to lifers' syndrome. "Dinnae give up on me, Danny boy. He'll be back. They always come back."