"Thank you," said Danny. "I may well be in touch." He left Sotheby's without another word-he couldn't risk asking Mr. Blundell questions to which he himself would be expected to know the answers. But how else was he going to find out about Sir Alexander's magnificent collection?
No sooner was Danny back out on Bond Street than he wished he had accepted Prendergast's original offer, because even if the envelope raised as much as six thousand, it still wouldn't be nearly enough to cover the costs of a prolonged legal battle with Hugo Moncrieff, and if he were to settle the writ before the expenses ran out of control, he'd still have enough money to survive on for a few more weeks while he looked for a job. But unfortunately, Sir Nicholas Moncrieff was not qualified to work as an East End garage mechanic; in fact, Danny was beginning to wonder what he was qualified to do.
Danny strolled on up Bond Street and into Piccadilly. He thought about the significance, if any, of Blundell's words "your grandfather's magnificent collection." He didn't notice that someone was following him. But then, the man was a professional.
Hugo picked up the phone.
"He's just left Sotheby's and he's standing at a bus stop in Piccadilly."
"So he must be running out of funds," said Hugo. "Why did he go to Sotheby's?"
"He left an envelope with a Mr. Blundell, the head of the philatelic department. It will come up for auction in six weeks' time."
"What was on the envelope?" asked Hugo.
"A stamp issued to mark the first modern Olympics, which Blundell estimated to be worth between two and two and a half thousand."
"When's the sale?"
"Then I'll have to be there," said Hugo, putting down the phone.
"How unlike your father to allow one of his stamps to be put up for sale. Unless..." said Margaret as she folded her napkin.
"I'm not following you, old gal. Unless what?" said Hugo.
"Your father devotes his life to putting together one of the world's finest stamp collections, which not only disappears on the day he dies, but isn't even mentioned in his will. But what is mentioned are a key and an envelope, which he leaves to Nick."
"I'm still not sure what you're getting at, old gal?"
"The key and the envelope are clearly connected in some way," said Margaret.
"What makes you think that?"
"Because I don't believe the stamp is of any importance."
"But two thousand pounds would be a great deal of money to Nick at the present time."
"But not to your father. I suspect that the name and address on the envelope are far more important, because they will lead us to the collection."
"But we still won't have the key," said Hugo.
"The key will be of little importance if you can prove that you are the rightful heir to the Moncrieff fortune."
Danny jumped on a bus for Notting Hill Gate, hoping he'd be in time for the monthly meeting with his probation officer. Another ten minutes and he would have had to take a cab. Ms. Bennett had written to say that something of importance had come up. Those words made him nervous, though Danny knew that if they had found out who he really was, he wouldn't have been informed by a letter from his probation officer, but would have woken in the middle of the night to find the house surrounded by police.
Although he was becoming more and more confident with his new persona, not a day passed when he wasn't reminded that he was an escaped prisoner. Anything could give him away: a second glance, a misunderstood remark, a casual question to which he didn't know the answer. Who was your housemaster at Loretto? Which college were you in at Sandhurst? Which rugby team do you support?
Two men stepped off the bus when it came to a halt in Notting Hill Gate. One of them began to jog toward the local probation office; the other followed close behind, but didn't enter the building. Although Danny checked in at reception with a couple of minutes to spare, he still had to wait for another twenty minutes before Ms. Bennett was free to see him.
Danny entered a small, sparse office that contained only one table and two chairs, no curtains, and a threadbare carpet that would have been left orphaned at a car-boot sale. It wasn't much of an improvement on his cell at Belmarsh.
"How are you, Moncrieff?" asked Ms. Bennett as he sat down in the plastic chair opposite her. No "Sir Nicholas," no "sir," just "Moncrieff."
Behave like Nick, think like Danny. "I'm well, thank you, Ms. Bennett. And you?" She didn't reply, simply opened a file in front of her that revealed a list of questions that had to be answered by all former prisoners once a month while they are on probation. "I just want to bring myself up to date," she began. "Have you had any success finding a job as a teacher?"
Danny had forgotten that Nick intended to return to Scotland and teach once he was released from prison.
"No," Danny replied. "Sorting out my family problems is taking a little longer than I had originally anticipated."
"Family problems?" repeated Ms. Bennett sharply. That wasn't the reply she had expected. Family problems spelled trouble. "Do you wish to discuss these problems?"
"No, thank you, Ms. Bennett," said Danny. "I'm just trying to sort out my grandfather's will. There's nothing for you to worry about."
"I will be the judge of that," responded Ms Bennett. "Does this mean you are facing financial difficulties?"
"No, Ms. Bennett."
"Have you found any employment yet?" she asked, returning to her list of questions.
"No, but I expect to be looking for a job in the near future."
"Presumably as a teacher."
"Let's hope so," said Danny.
"Well, if that proves difficult, perhaps you should consider other employment."
"Well, I see that you were a librarian in prison."
"I'd certainly be willing to consider that," said Danny, confident that would achieve another tick in another box.
"Do you have somewhere to live at the present time, or are you staying in a prison hostel?"
"I have somewhere to live."
"With your family?"
"No, I have no family."
One tick, one cross and one question mark. She continued. "Are you in rented accommodation, or staying with a friend?"
"I live in my own house."
Ms. Bennett looked perplexed. No one had ever given that reply to the question before. She decided on a tick. "I have just one more question for you. Have you, during the past month, been tempted to commit the same crime as the one you were sent to prison for?"
Yes, I've been tempted to kill Lawrence Davenport, Danny wanted to tell her, but Nick replied, "No, Ms. Bennett, I have not."
"That will be all for now, Moncrieff. I'll see you again in a month's time. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you feel I can be of any assistance in the meantime."
"Thank you," said Danny, "but you mentioned in your letter that there was something of importance..."
"Did I?" said Ms. Bennett as she closed the file on her desk to reveal an envelope. "Ah, yes, you're quite right." She handed him a letter addressed to N.A. Moncrieff, Education Department, HMP Belmarsh. Danny began to read a letter to Nick from the UK Matriculation Board to discover what Ms. Bennett considered important.