"What about Big Al?"
Alex told him that he had considered calling Albert Crann as a witness, but had decided that it might do more harm than good.
"But he's a loyal friend," said Danny.
"With a criminal record."
As ten o'clock struck, the three judges trooped into the courtroom. The court officials rose, bowed to their lordships and then waited for them to take their places on the bench. To Danny, the two men and one woman who held the rest of his life in their hands appeared somewhat shadowy figures, their heads covered in short wigs and their everyday clothes masked by full-length black gowns.
Alex Redmayne placed a file on a small lectern in front of him. He had explained to Danny that he would be alone on the front bench, as prosecuting counsel didn't have to be present at appeals. Danny felt he wouldn't miss Mr. Arnold Pearson QC.
Once the court had settled, the senior judge, Lord Justice Browne, invited Mr. Redmayne to begin his summation.
Alex opened by reminding the court of the background to the case, trying once again to sow doubt in their lordships' minds, but from the looks on their faces he clearly wasn't making much of an impression. In fact, Lord Justice Browne interrupted him on more than one occasion to inquire if there was going to be any new evidence presented in this case, as he stressed that all three judges had studied the court transcripts of the original trial.
After an hour, Alex finally gave in. "Be assured, m'lord, that I do indeed intend to present important new evidence for your consideration."
"Be assured, Mr. Redmayne, that we are looking forward to hearing it," was Lord Justice Browne's response.
Alex steadied himself and turned another page of his file. "My lords, I am in possession of a tape recording that I should like you to consider. It is a conversation with a Mr. Toby Mortimer, a fellow Musketeer who was present at the Dunlop Arms on the night in question, but was unable to give evidence at the original trial as he was indisposed." Danny held his breath as Alex picked up the tape and placed it in a cassette player on the table in front of him. He was just about to press the play button, when Lord Justice Browne leaned forward and said, "One moment please, Mr. Redmayne."
Danny felt a shiver go through his body as the three judges whispered among themselves. It was some time before Lord Justice Browne asked a question to which Alex had no doubt he already knew the answer.
"Will Mr Mortimer be appearing as a witness?" he asked.
"No, m'lord, but the tape will show-"
"Why will he not be appearing before us, Mr. Redmayne? Is he still indisposed?"
"Unfortunately, m'lord, he died quite recently."
"May I inquire what was the cause of death?"
Alex cursed. He knew that Lord Justice Browne was well aware of the reason Mortimer couldn't be in court, but was making sure that every detail was on the record. "He committed suicide, m'lord, after taking an overdose of heroin."
"Was he a registered heroin addict?" continued Lord Justice Browne relentlessly.
"Yes, m'lord, but fortunately this recording was made during a period of remission."
"No doubt a doctor will appear before us to confirm this?"
"Unfortunately not, m'lord."
"Am I to understand that a doctor was not present when the tape recording was made?"
"I see. And where was the tape recording made?"
"In Belmarsh prison, m'lord."
"Were you present at the time?"
"Perhaps an officer of the prison was on hand to witness the circumstances in which this tape recording was made?"
"Then I am curious to know, Mr. Redmayne, exactly who was present on the occasion."
"A Mr. Albert Crann."
"And if he is not a doctor or a member of the prison staff, what was his position at the time?"
"He is a prisoner."
"Is he, indeed? I am bound to ask, Mr. Redmayne, if you have any proof that this recording was made without Mr. Mortimer being coerced or threatened."
Alex hesitated. "No, m'lord. But I'm confident that you will be able to make such a judgment concerning Mr. Mortimer's state of mind once you have listened to the tape."
"But how can we be sure that Mr. Crann wasn't holding a knife to his throat, Mr. Redmayne? Indeed, perhaps his very presence would have been enough to put the fear of God into Mr. Mortimer."
"As I have suggested, m'lord, you might feel better able to form an opinion once you have heard the tape."
"Allow me a moment to consult with my colleagues, Mr. Redmayne."
Once again the three judges whispered among themselves.
After a short time, Lord Justice Browne turned his attention back to defense counsel. "Mr. Redmayne, we are all of the opinion that we cannot allow you to play the tape, as it is clearly inadmissible."
"But, my lord, may I refer you to a recent European Commission directive-"
"European directives do not yet constitute law in my court," said Lord Justice Browne, but quickly corrected himself, "-in this country. Let me warn you that if the contents of this tape were ever to become public, I would be obliged to refer the matter to the CPS."
The one journalist on the press benches put down his pen. For a moment he had thought he had an exclusive, as Mr. Redmayne would surely pass over the tape at the conclusion of the hearing so that he could decide if his readers might be interested, even if their lordships were not. But that would no longer be possible. If the paper published one word of the tape following the judge's directive, it would be in contempt of court-something even the most robust editors draw the line at.
Alex shuffled some papers around, but he knew that he wouldn't be troubling Lord Justice Browne again.
"Please carry on with your submission, Mr. Redmayne," the judge offered helpfully. Alex continued defiantly with the little new evidence he had left at his disposal, but he could no longer call on anything that caused Lord Justice Browne even to raise an eyebrow. When Alex finally resumed his place, he cursed himself under his breath. He should have released the tape to the press the day before the appeal was due to be heard, and then the judge would have had no choice but to consider the conversation to be admissible as fresh evidence. But Lord Justice Browne proved too wily a customer to allow Alex even to press the play button.
His father had later pointed out that if their lordships had heard so much as one sentence, they would have had no choice but to listen to the whole tape. They hadn't heard one word, let alone a sentence.
The three judges retired at twelve thirty-seven, and it was only a short time before they returned with a unanimous verdict. Alex lowered his head when Lord Justice Browne uttered the words, "Appeal dismissed."
He looked across at Danny, who had just been condemned to spend the next twenty years of his life in jail for a crime Alex was now certain he did not commit.
SEVERAL OF THE guests were on their third or fourth glass of champagne by the time Lawrence Davenport appeared on the staircase of the crowded ballroom. He didn't move from the top step until he was satisfied that most of them had turned to gaze in his direction. A smattering of applause broke out. He smiled and waved a hand in acknowledgment. A glass of champagne was thrust into his other hand with the words, "You were magnificent, darling."