Alex didn't speak for some time while he considered the implications of Pascoe's words. "There's only one course of action open to you if you still hope to clear Danny's name, and that's to make an application to the Queen for a royal pardon."



"A royal pardon?"



"Yes. If the Law Lords can be convinced that an injustice has been done, the Lord Chancellor can recommend to the Queen that the appeal court's decision be overturned. It was quite common in the days of capital punishment, although it's far rarer now."



"And what would be the chances of Danny's case even being considered?" asked Beth.



"It's rare for an application for pardon to be granted, although there are many people, some in high places, who consider Danny suffered an injustice-myself included."



"You seem to forget, Mr. Redmayne, that I was in the pub when Craig provoked the row, I was in the alley when he attacked Danny and I held Bernie in my arms when he told me that it was Craig who had stabbed him. My story has never wavered-not because, as Mr. Pearson suggested, I'd prepared it every word before the trial, but because I was telling the truth. There are three other people who know that I was telling the truth, and a fourth-Toby Mortimer-who confirmed my story only days before he took his own life, but despite your efforts at the appeal hearing, the judge wouldn't even listen to the tape. Why should it be any different this time?"



Alex didn't reply immediately, as it took him a moment to recover from Beth's rebuke. "If you were able to rekindle a campaign among Danny's friends," he eventually managed, "like the one you mounted when he was alive, there would be an outcry if the Law Lords didn't reopen the case. But," he continued, "if you do decide to go down that particular road, Beth, it will be a long and arduous journey, and although I would be happy to offer my services pro bono, it still wouldn't come cheap."



"Money is no longer a problem," said Beth confidently. "I recently managed to sell the garage for far more than I would have thought possible. I've put half the money aside for Christy's education, because Danny wanted her to have a better start in life than he did, and I'd be happy to spend the other half trying to have the case reopened if you believe there's the slightest chance of clearing his name."



Alex once again leaned across and took her hand. "Beth, can I ask you a personal question?"



"Anything. Whenever Danny spoke about you, he always used to say, 'He's a diamond, you can tell him anything.' "



"I consider that a great compliment, Beth. It gives me the confidence to ask you something that's been preying on my mind for some time." Beth looked up, the fire bringing a warm glow to her cheeks. "You are a young and beautiful woman, Beth, with rare qualities that Danny recognized. But don't you think the time has come to move on? It's six months since Danny's death."



"Seven months, two weeks and five days," said Beth, lowering her head.



"Surely he wouldn't want you to mourn him for the rest of your life."



"No, he wouldn't," said Beth. "He even tried to break off our relationship after his appeal had failed, but he didn't mean it, Mr. Redmayne."



"How can you be sure?" asked Alex.



She opened her handbag, took out the last letter Danny had ever sent her and handed it over to Alex.



"It's almost impossible to read," he said.



"And why's that?"



"You know the answer only too well, Beth. Your tears..."



"No, Mr. Redmayne, not my tears. Although I've read that letter every day for the past eight months, those tears were not shed by me, but by the man who wrote them. He knew how much I loved him. We would have made a life together even if we could only spend one day a month with each other. I'd have been happy to wait twenty years, more, in the hope that I would eventually be allowed to spend the rest of my life with the only man I'll ever love. I adored Danny from the day I met him, and no one will ever take his place. I know I can't bring him back, but if I could prove his innocence to the rest of the world, that would be enough, quite enough."



Alex stood up, walked over to his desk and picked up a file. He didn't want Beth to see the tears streaming down his cheeks. He looked out of the window at a statue of a blindfolded woman perched on top of a building, holding up a pair of scales for the world to see. He said quietly, "I'll write to the Lord Chancellor today."



"Thank you, Alex."



CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX



DANNY WAS SEATED at a corner table fifteen minutes before Charlie Duncan was due to appear. Mario had chosen the ideal spot to ensure that they could not be overheard. There were so many questions that Danny needed to ask, all filed away in his memory.



Danny studied the menu so that he would be familiar with it before his guest arrived. He expected that Duncan would be on time; after all, he was desperate for Danny to invest in his latest show. Perhaps at some time in the future he might even work out the real reason he'd been invited to lunch...



At two minutes to one, Charlie Duncan entered the Palm Court restaurant wearing an open-necked shirt and smoking a cigarette-a walking H. M. Bateman cartoon. The headwaiter had a discreet word with him before offering him an ashtray. Duncan stubbed out his cigarette while the maitre d' rummaged around in a drawer in his desk and produced three striped ties, all of which clashed with Duncan 's salmon-pink shirt. Danny suppressed a smile. If it had been a tennis match, he would have started the first set five-love up. The headwaiter accompanied Duncan across the room to Danny's table. Danny made a mental note to double his tip.



Danny rose from his place to shake hands with Duncan, whose cheeks were now the same color as his shirt.



"You're obviously a regular here," said Duncan, taking his seat. "Everyone seems to know you."



"My father and grandfather always used to stay here whenever they came down from Scotland," said Danny. "It's a bit of a family tradition."



"So, what do you do, Nick?" asked Duncan while he glanced at the menu. "I don't recall seeing you at the theater before."



"I used to be in the army," Danny replied, "so I've been abroad a lot of the time. But since my father's death, I've taken over responsibility for the family trust."



"And you've never invested in the theater before?" asked Duncan as the sommelier showed Danny a bottle of wine. Danny studied the label for a moment, then nodded.



"And what will you have today, Sir Nicholas?" asked Mario.



"I'll have my usual," said Danny. "And keep it on the rare side," he added, remembering Nick once delivering those words to the servers behind the hotplate at Belmarsh. It had caused so much laughter that Nick had nearly ended up on report. The sommelier poured a little wine into Danny's glass. He sniffed the bouquet before sipping it, then nodded again-something else Nick had taught him, using Ribena, water and a plastic mug to swill the liquid in.



"I'll have the same," said Duncan, closing his menu and handing it back to the maitre d'. "But make mine medium."



"The answer to your question," said Danny, "is no, I've never invested in a play before. So I'd be fascinated to learn how your world operates."