CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE



"GOOD MORNING, GEORGE," said Danny as the doorman opened the back door of the car for him.



"Good morning, Sir Nicholas."



Danny strolled into the hotel and waved at Walter as he passed through the reception area. Mario's face lit up the moment he spotted his favorite customer.



"A hot chocolate and The Times, Sir Nicholas?" he asked once Danny had settled into his alcove seat.



"Thank you, Mario. I'd also like a table for lunch tomorrow at one o'clock, somewhere I can't be overheard?"



"That won't be a problem, Sir Nicholas."



Danny leaned back and thought about the meeting that was about to take place. His advisers from de Coubertin's property department had called three times during the past week: no names, no small talk, just facts and considered advice. Not only had they come up with a realistic price for the pawnshop and the carpet warehouse, but they had also drawn his attention to a barren plot of land that ran behind the three properties and was owned by the local council. Danny didn't tell them he knew every inch of that land, because when he was a kid he'd played striker while Bernie was in goal in their private cup final.



They had also been able to inform him that for some years the council's planning committee had wanted to build "affordable housing" on that particular site, but that with a garage so close to the site, the health and safety committee had vetoed the idea. The minutes of the relevant committee meetings had arrived in a brown envelope the following morning. Danny had plans to solve their problems.



"Good morning, Sir Nicholas."



Danny looked up from his newspaper. "Good morning, Mr. Hall," he said as the young man took the seat opposite him. Hall opened his briefcase and took out a thick file marked Moncrieff, then removed a document and handed it to Danny.



"These are the deeds for Wilson 's garage," he explained. "Contracts were exchanged when I met up with Miss Wilson this morning." Danny thought his heart would stop beating. "A charming young woman who seemed relieved to have the problem off her hands."



Danny smiled. Beth would deposit the £200,000 with her local branch of the HSBC, content to see it earning 4.5 percent per annum, although he knew exactly who would benefit most from the windfall.



"And the two buildings on either side?" asked Danny. "Have you made any progress with them?"



"To my surprise," said Hall, "I think we can close a deal on both sites." This came as no surprise to Danny. "Mr. Isaacs says he'd let the pawnshop go for two hundred and fifty thousand, while Mr. Kamal is asking three hundred and twenty thousand for the carpet warehouse. Together they would just about double the size of your holding, and our investment people estimate that the marriage value alone would almost double your original outlay."



"Pay Mr. Isaacs his asking price. Offer Mr. Kamal three hundred thousand and settle for three hundred and twenty."



"But I still think I can get you a better deal," said Hall.



"Don't even think about it," said Danny. "I want you to close both deals on the same day, because if Mr. Kamal were to find out what we're up to, he'd know he's got a ransom strip."



"Understood," said Hall, as he continued to write down Danny's instructions.



"Once you've closed both deals, let me know immediately so I can open negotiations with the council about the strip of land behind the three sites."



"We could even draw you up some outline plans before we approach them," said Hall. "It might be an ideal site for a small office block, even a supermarket."



"No it would not, Mr. Hall," said Danny firmly. "If you did that, you'd be wasting your time and my money." Hall looked embarrassed. "There's a branch of Sainsbury's only a hundred yards away, and if you study the council's ten-year development plan for the area, you'll see that the only projects they're giving planning permission for are affordable dwellings. My experience tells me that if you make a council think something is their idea in the first place, you have a far better chance of closing a deal. Don't get greedy, Mr. Hall. Remember, that was another mistake my last agent made."



"I'll remember," said Hall.



Danny's advisers had done their homework so well that he had no difficulty in running circles around Hall.



"Meanwhile, I'll deposit five hundred and seventy thousand pounds in your client account today, so that you can close both deals as soon as possible-but don't forget, on the same day, and without either side finding out about the other sale and certainly without them becoming aware of my involvement."



"I won't let you down," said Hall.



"I hope not," said Danny. "Because if you succeed in this little enterprise, I've been working on something far more interesting. But as there is an element of risk involved, it will need the backing of one of your partners, preferably someone young, who's got balls and imagination."



"I know exactly the right man," said Hall.



Danny didn't bother to say, "And so do I."



***



"How are you, Beth?" asked Alex Redmayne as he rose from behind his desk and ushered her toward a comfortable chair by the fire.



"I'm well, thank you, Mr. Redmayne."



Alex smiled as he took a seat by her side. "I never could get Danny to call me Alex," he said, "even though I like to think that towards the end we became friends. Perhaps I'll be more successful with you."



"The truth, Mr. Redmayne, is that Danny was even shyer than I am; shy and stubborn. You mustn't think that because he didn't call you by your first name he didn't consider you a friend."



"I wish he was sitting there now telling me that," said Alex, "although I was delighted when you wrote asking to see me."



"I wanted to seek your advice," said Beth, "but until recently, I haven't been in a position to do so."



Alex leaned across and took her hand. He smiled when he saw the engagement ring, which she hadn't worn on the previous occasion. "How can I help?"



"It's just that I thought I should let you know that something strange took place when I went to Belmarsh to pick up Danny's personal belongings."



"That must have been a dreadful experience," said Alex.



"In some ways it was worse than the funeral," replied Beth. "But as I left, I bumped into Mr. Pascoe."



"Bumped into," said Alex, "or had he been hanging around hoping to see you?"



"Possibly he had, but I couldn't be sure. Does it make any difference?"



"A world of difference," said Alex. "Ray Pascoe is a decent, fair-minded man, who never doubted Danny was innocent. He once told me that he had met a thousand murderers in his time, and Danny wasn't one of them. So what did he have to say?"



"That's the strange thing," said Beth. "He told me he had a feeling Danny would like his name cleared, not would have liked. Don't you find that odd?"



"A slip of the tongue, perhaps," said Alex. "Did you press him on the point?"



"No," said Beth. "By the time I'd thought about it he was gone."