After the case had come to its premature end, Hunsacker had slapped the judge on the back and offered him a cigar. Mr. Justice Sanderson was briefly lost for words, but he did manage a smile before politely refusing.
Danny pointed out to Hunsacker that if he had stayed in Geneva, he would still have ended up with Sir Alexander's collection, because Hugo would have been happy to sell it to him and probably for a lower price.
"But I wouldn't have kept my pact with your grand-daddy," Hunsacker replied. "Now I've done something to repay his kindness and shrewd advice over so many years."
An hour later Gene took off for Texas in his private jet, accompanied by 173 leather-bound albums, which Danny knew would keep him engrossed for the entire journey, and probably the rest of his life.
As Danny climbed aboard the Heathrow Express, his thoughts turned to Beth. He desperately wanted to see her again. Maupassant summed up his feelings so well: "What's the point of triumph if you've no one to share it with?" But he could hear Beth asking, "What's the point of revenge now you have so much to live for?" He would have reminded her first of Bernie and then of Nick, who had also had so much to live for. She would realize that the money meant nothing to him. He would have happily exchanged every penny for...
If only he could turn the clock back...
If only they had gone up to the West End the following night...
If only they hadn't gone to that particular pub...
If only they had left by the front door...
The Heathrow Express pulled into Paddington station seventeen minutes later. Danny checked his watch; he still had a couple of hours before his meeting with Ms. Bennett. This time he'd go by taxi, and would be waiting in reception long before his appointment. The judge's words were still ringing in his ears: "I intend to sign an order today which will ensure that you will be returned to prison for a further four years should you break any of your license conditions in the future."
Although settling scores with the three Musketeers remained Danny's first priority, he would have to put aside enough time to work on his degree, and honor his promise to Nick. He was even beginning to wonder if Spencer Craig might have played some role in Nick's death. Had Leach, as Big Al suggested, murdered the wrong man?
The taxi drew up outside his house in The Boltons. For the first time Danny really felt as if it was his home. He paid the fare, and opened the gate to find a tramp lounging on his doorstep.
"This is going to be your lucky day," Danny said as he took out his wallet. The dozing figure was dressed in an open-neck blue and white striped shirt, a pair of well-worn jeans and a pair of black shoes that must have been polished that morning. He stirred and raised his head.
Danny threw his arms around him, just as Molly opened the door. She put her hands on her hips. "He said he was a friend of yours," she said, "but I still told him to wait outside."
"He is my friend," said Danny. "Molly, meet Big Al."
Molly had already prepared an Irish stew for Nick, and as her portions were always too large, there was more than enough for both of them.
"So tell me everything," Danny said once they were seated at the kitchen table.
"No a lot tae tell, Nick," said Big Al between mouthfuls. "Like you, they released me after I'd served half my sentence. Thank God they shipped me oot, otherwise I might 've been there fur the rest of ma life." He reluctantly put down his spoon and added with a smile, "An we know who wis responsible fur that."
"So what have you got planned?" asked Danny.
"Nothing at the moment, but ye did say tae come and see you wance I got oot. "He paused." I hoped ye'd let me stay fur a night."
"Stay as long as you like," said Danny. "My housekeeper will prepare the guest bedroom," he added with a grin.
"I'm not your housekeeper," said Molly sharply. "I'm your cleaner what occasionally cooks."
"Not any longer, Molly, you're now the housekeeper, as well as cook, on ten pounds an hour." Molly was speechless. Danny took advantage of this unusual state of affairs to add, "And what's more, you'll need to hire a cleaner to help you now that Big Al's joining us."
"No, no," said Big Al. "I'll be out of here just as soon as I find a job."
"You were a driver in the army, weren't you?" asked Danny.
"I wis your driver fur five years," whispered Big Al, nodding his head in the direction of Molly.
"Then you've got your old job back," said Danny.
"But you haven't got a car," Molly reminded him.
"Then I shall have to get one," said Danny. "And who better to advise me?" he added, winking at Big Al. "I've always wanted a BMW," he said. "Having worked in a garage, I know the exact model..."
Big Al put a finger up to his lips.
Danny knew Big Al was right. Yesterday's triumph must have gone to his head, and he'd slipped back to behaving like Danny-a mistake he couldn't afford to make too often. Think like Danny, act like Nick. He snapped back into his unreal world.
"But first you'd better go and buy some clothes," he said to Big Al, "before you even think about a car."
"And some soap," said Molly, filling Big Al's plate for a third time.
"Then Molly can scrub your back."
"I will do no such thing," said Molly. "But I'd better go and make up one of the guest bedrooms if Mr. Big Al is going to be with us-for a few days." Danny and Big Al laughed as she took off her apron and left the kitchen.
Once the door was closed, Big Al leaned across the table. "Are ye still planning tae get they bastards that-"
"Yes, I am," said Danny quietly, "and you couldn't have turned up at a better time."
"So when dae we start?"
"You start by having a bath, and then go and buy yourself some clothes," Danny said, taking out his wallet for a second time. "Meanwhile, I've got an appointment with my probation officer."
"And how have you spent the past month, Nicholas?" was Ms. Bennett's first question.
Danny tried to keep a straight face. "I've been busy sorting out those family problems I mentioned at our last meeting," he replied.
"And has everything worked out as planned?"
"Yes, thank you, Ms. Bennett."
"Have you found a job yet?"
"No, Ms. Bennett. I'm currently concentrating on my business studies degree at London University."
"Ah, yes, I remember. But surely the grant isn't sufficient to live on?"
"I can just about get by," said Danny.
Ms. Bennett returned to her list of questions. "Are you still living in the same house?"
"I see. I think perhaps I should come and inspect the property at some time, just to make sure it meets with the minimum Home Office standards."
"You would be most welcome to visit any time that suits you," said Danny.
She read out the next question. "Have you been associating with any former prisoners you were in jail with?"
"Yes," said Danny, aware that concealing anything from his probation officer would be regarded as a breach of his parole conditions. "My former driver has just been released on bail, and is currently staying with me."