Danny had come across customers like Hugo when he worked at the garage-loan sharks, property dealers and barrow boys who thought they could get the better of him, but they never did, and none of them ever discovered that he couldn't read a contract. He found his mind drifting to the A levels he'd taken only days before being released. He wondered if Nick had passed with flying colors-another Nick expression. He had promised his cellmate that if he won his appeal, the first thing he would do was study for a degree. He intended to keep that promise and take the degree in Nick's name. Think like Nick, forget Danny, he reminded himself. You are Nick, you are Nick. He went over the letters once again as if he was revising for an exam; an exam he couldn't afford to fail.
The train arrived at Waverley station at three-thirty, ten minutes late. Danny joined the crowd as they walked along the platform. He checked the departure board for the time of the next train to Dunbroath. Another twenty minutes. He bought a copy of the Edinburgh Evening News and satisfied himself with a bacon baguette from Upper Crust. Would Mr. Munro realize that he wasn't upper crust? He went in search of his platform, then sat down on a bench. The paper was full of names and places he had never heard of: problems with the planning committee in Duddlingston, the cost of the unfinished Scottish Parliament building and a supplement giving details of something called the Edinburgh Festival, which was taking place the following month. Hearts' and Hibs's prospects in the forthcoming season dominated the back pages, rudely replacing Arsenal and West Ham.
Ten minutes later Danny climbed on board the cross-country train to Dunbroath, a journey that took forty minutes, stopping at several stations whose names he couldn't even pronounce. At four-forty, the little train trundled into Dunbroath station. Danny lugged his case along the platform and out onto the pavement, relieved to see a single taxi waiting on the stand. Nick climbed into the front seat while the driver put his case in the boot.
"Where to?" asked the driver once he was back behind the wheel.
"Perhaps you can recommend a hotel?"
"There is only one," said the taxi driver.
"Well, that solves the problem," said Danny, as the car moved off.
Three pounds fifty later, plus a tip, and Danny was dropped outside the Moncrieff Arms. He walked up the steps, through the swing doors and dumped his suitcase by the reception desk.
"I need a room for the night," he told the woman behind the counter.
"Just a single?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Would you please sign the booking form, sir?" Danny could now sign Nick's name almost without thinking. "And can I take an imprint of your credit card?"
"But I don't..." began Danny. "I'll be paying cash," said Nick.
"Of course, sir." She swiveled the form around, checked the name and tried to hide her surprise. She then disappeared into a back room without another word. A few moments later a middle-aged man wearing a plaid sweater and brown corduroys emerged from the office.
"Welcome home, Sir Nicholas. I'm Robert Kilbride, the hotel manager, and I do apologize, but we weren't expecting you. I'll transfer you to the Walter Scott suite."
Transfer is a word every prisoner dreads. "But-" began Danny, recalling how little cash was left in his wallet.
"At no extra cost," added the manager.
"Thank you," said Nick.
"Will you be joining us for dinner?"
Yes, said Nick. "No," said Danny, remembering his diminishing reserves. "I've already eaten."
"Of course, Sir Nicholas. I'll have a porter take your case up to the room."
A young man accompanied Danny to the Walter Scott suite.
"My name's Andrew," he said as he unlocked the door. "If you need anything, just pick up the phone and let me know."
"I need a suit pressed and a shirt washed in time for a ten o'clock meeting tomorrow morning," said Danny.
"Of course, sir. You'll have them back well in time for your meeting."
"Thank you," said Danny. Another tip.
Danny sat on the end of the bed and turned on the television. He watched the local news, delivered in an accent that reminded him of Big Al. It wasn't until he switched channels to BBC2 that he was able to follow every word, but within a few minutes he had fallen asleep.
DANNY WOKE TO find he was fully dressed and the credits were running at the end of a black and white film starring someone called Jack Hawkins. He switched it off, undressed and decided to take a shower before going to bed.
He stepped into a shower which sent down a steady stream of warm water that didn't turn itself off every few seconds. He washed himself with a bar of soap the size of a bread roll, and dried himself with a large fluffy towel. He felt clean for the first time in years.
He climbed into a bed with a thick comfortable mattress, clean sheets and more than one blanket before resting his head on a feather pillow. He fell into a deep sleep. He woke. The bed was too comfortable. It even changed shape when he moved. He peeled off one of the blankets and dumped it on the floor. He turned over and fell asleep again. He woke. The pillow was too soft, so it joined the blanket on the floor. He fell asleep again, and when the sun rose accompanied by a cacophony of unrecognizable bird tunes, he woke again. He looked around, expecting to see Mr. Pascoe standing in the doorway, but this door was different: it was wooden, not steel, and it had a handle on the inside that he could open whenever he pleased.
Danny climbed out of bed and walked across the soft carpet to the bathroom-a separate room-to take another shower. This time he washed his hair, and shaved with the aid of a circular glass mirror that magnified his image.
There was a polite tap on the door, which remained closed, instead of being heaved open. Danny put on a hotel dressing gown and opened the door to find the porter standing there holding a neat package.
"Your clothes, sir."
"Thank you," said Danny.
"Breakfast will be served until ten o'clock in the dining room."
Danny put on a clean shirt and a striped tie before trying on his freshly pressed suit. He looked at himself in the mirror. Surely no one would doubt that he was Sir Nicholas Moncrieff. Never again would he have to wear the same shirt for six days in a row, the same jeans for a month, the same shoes for a year-that was assuming Mr. Munro was about to solve all his financial problems. That was also assuming Mr. Munro...
Danny checked the wallet that had felt so thick only yesterday. He cursed; he wouldn't have much left once he had settled the hotel bill. He opened the door, and once he'd closed it he immediately realized that he'd left the key inside. He would have to ask Pascoe to open the door for him. Would he end up on report? He cursed again. Damn. A Nick curse. He went off in search of the dining room.
A large table in the center of the room was brimming over with a choice of cereals and juices, and the hotplate offered porridge, eggs, bacon, black pudding and even kippers to order. Danny was shown to a table by the window and offered a morning paper, The Scotsman. He turned to the financial pages to find that the Royal Bank of Scotland was expanding its property portfolio. While he was in prison, Danny had watched with admiration the RBS's takeover of the NatWest Bank; a minnow swallowing a whale, and not even burping.