"And you say the press haven't followed this up?" said Payne once he'd finished reading the magazine's leader.
"Why should they?" said Danny.
"But once the site has been announced," said Payne, "dozens of developers will apply for the contract."
"I'm not interested in building the velodrome," said Danny. "I intend to have made my money long before the first excavator moves onto the site."
"And how do you expect to do that?"
"That, I admit, has cost me a little more than four ninety-nine, but if you look on the back of Cycling Monthly," said Danny, turning the magazine over, "you'll see the name of the publishers printed in the bottom right-hand corner. The next edition won't be on the stands for another ten days, but for a little more than the cover price I managed to get my hands on an early proof. There's an article on page seventeen by the president of the British Cycling Federation, in which he says that the minister has assured him that only two sites are being taken seriously. The minister will be making an announcement to that effect in the House of Commons the day before the magazine goes on sale. But he goes on to point out which of the two sites his committee will be backing."
"Brilliant," said Payne. "But surely the owners of that site must be aware that they may be sitting on a fortune?"
"Only if they can get their hands on next month's Cycling Monthly, because at the moment they still think they're on a shortlist of six."
"So what are you planning to do about it?" asked Payne.
"The site that is favored by the Cycling Federation changed hands quite recently for three million pounds, although I haven't been able to identify the buyer. However, once the minister has made her announcement, the site could be worth fifteen, perhaps even twenty million. While there are still six possible sites on the shortlist, if someone were to offer the present owner say four or five million, I suspect they might be tempted to take a quick turn rather than risk ending up with nothing. Our problem is that we have less than a fortnight before the shortlist of two is announced, and once the views of the Cycling Federation's president become public, there will be nothing left in it for us."
"Can I make a suggestion?" said Payne.
"Go ahead," said Danny.
"If you're so certain there are only two sites in contention, why not purchase both of them? Your profit may not be as large, but it would be impossible for you to lose."
Danny now realized why Payne had become the youngest partner in the firm's history.
"Good idea," said Danny, "but there's not much point in doing that until we've found out if the site we're really interested in can be purchased. That's where you come in. You'll find all the details you need in this file, apart from who owns the site; after all, you have to do something to earn your money."
Payne laughed. "I'll get straight on to it, Nick, and be back in touch with you as soon as I've tracked down the owner."
"Don't hang about," said Danny, standing up. "The rewards will only be high if we can move quickly."
Payne produced the same smile as he stood to shake hands with his new client. As Danny turned to leave, he spotted a familiar invitation on the mantelpiece. "Will you be at Charlie Duncan's drinks party this evening?" he asked, sounding surprised.
"Yes, I will. I occasionally invest in his shows."
"Then I may see you there," said Danny. "In which case you'll be able to bring me up to date."
"Will do," said Payne. "Can I just check on one thing before I get started?"
"Yes, of course," said Danny, trying not to sound anxious.
"When it comes to the investment, will you be putting up the full amount yourself?"
"Every penny," said Danny.
"And you wouldn't consider allowing anyone else to have a piece of the action?"
"No," said Danny firmly.
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned," said Beth. "It's been two weeks since my last confession."
Father Michael smiled the moment he recognized Beth's gentle voice. He was always moved by her confessions, because what she considered to be a sin, most of his parishioners would not have thought worthy of mention.
"I am ready to hear your confession, my child," he said, as if he had no idea who it was on the other side of the lattice window.
"I have thought unworthily of another, and wished them ill."
Father Michael stirred. "Are you able to tell me what caused you to have such evil thoughts, my child?"
"I wanted my daughter to have a better start in life than I did, and I felt that the headmistress of the school I had chosen did not give me a fair hearing."
"Is it possible that you were unable to see things from her point of view?" said Father Michael. "After all, you may have misjudged her motives." When Beth didn't respond, he added, "You must always remember, my child, that it is not for us to judge the Lord's will, as He might have other plans for your little girl."
"Then I must ask for the Lord's forgiveness," said Beth, "and wait to discover what is His will."
"I think that would be the wise course to take, my child. Meanwhile, you should pray and seek the Lord's guidance."
"And what penance should I perform, Father, for my sins?"
"You must learn to be contrite, and to forgive those who cannot hope to understand your problems," said Father Michael. "You will say one Our Father and two Hail Marys."
"Thank you, Father."
Father Michael waited until he heard the little door close and was sure that Beth had departed. He sat alone for some time while he gave Beth's problem considerable thought, only relieved that he was not interrupted by another parishioner. He then stepped out of the confessional box and headed for the vestry. He walked quickly past Beth who was on her knees, head bowed, a rosary in her hand.
Once he'd reached the vestry, Father Michael locked the door, went over to his desk and dialed a number. This was one of those rare occasions when he felt the Lord's will needed a little assistance.
Big Al dropped the boss outside the front door a few minutes after eight. Once Danny had entered the building, he didn't need to be told where Charlie Duncan's office was. The sound of laughter and exuberant chatter was coming from the first floor, and one or two of the guests had spilled out onto the landing.
Danny climbed the shabby, badly lit staircase, passing framed posters of previous shows Duncan had produced, not one of which Danny remembered being a hit. He made his way past an intertwined young couple who didn't give him as much as a glance. He walked into what was clearly Duncan 's office and quickly discovered why people were spilling out onto the landing. It was so crowded, the guests could hardly move. A young girl standing by the door offered him a drink and Danny asked for a glass of water-after all, he needed to concentrate if his investment was to show a dividend.
Danny glanced around the room looking for someone he knew, and spotted Katie. She turned away the moment she saw him. It only made him smile and think of Beth. She'd always teased him about how shy he was, especially when he entered a room full of strangers. If Beth had been there, by now she would have been chatting to a group of people she'd never met before. How he missed her. Someone touched his arm, interrupting his thoughts, and he turned to find Gerald Payne standing by his side.