FOR SEVERAL WEEKS, Danny had been avoiding Professor Mori. He feared his effort for the essay competition would not have impressed the garrulous professor.
But after he left the morning lecture, Danny saw Mori standing by the door of his office. There was no escaping the beckoning finger. Like a schoolboy who knows he's about to be given a flogging, Danny meekly followed him into his study. He waited for the stinging remarks, the barbed witticisms, the poisoned arrows aimed at a static target.
"I'm disappointed," began Professor Mori as Danny lowered his head. How was it possible that he could handle Swiss bankers, West End impresarios, senior partners and seasoned solicitors, but was a quivering wreck in the presence of this man? "So now you know," continued the professor, "how it must feel to be an Olympic finalist who fails to step onto the podium."
Danny looked up, puzzled.
"Congratulations," said a beaming Professor Mori. "You came fourth in the prize essay competition. As it counts towards your degree, I'm expecting great things from you when you sit your final exams." He rose, still smiling. "Congratulations," he repeated, shaking Danny warmly by the hand.
"Thank you, professor," said Danny, trying to take in the news. He could hear Nick saying, Damn good show, old chap, and he only wished he could share the news with Beth. She would be so proud. How much longer could he survive without seeing her?
He left the professor and ran along the corridor, out of the door and down the steps, to see Big Al standing by the back door of the car looking anxiously at his watch. Danny inhabited three different worlds, and in the next one he couldn't afford to be late for his probation officer.
Danny had decided not to tell Ms. Bennett how he would be spending the rest of his afternoon, as he had no doubt that she would dismiss the very idea as frivolous. However, she did appear pleased to learn how he'd fared in the essay competition.
Molly had already served Monsieur Segat with a second cup of tea by the time Danny arrived back from his meeting with Ms. Bennett. The Swiss banker rose from his place as Danny entered the room. He apologized for being a few minutes late, without offering an explanation.
Segat gave a slight nod before sitting back down. "You are now the owner of both sites, which are in serious contention for the Olympic velodrome," he said. "Although you can no longer expect to make quite such a large profit, you should still have a more than satisfactory return on your original investment."
"Has Payne called back?" was all Danny wanted to know.
"Yes. He phoned again this morning, and made a bid of four million pounds for the site most likely to be selected. I presume you want me to turn the offer down?"
"Yes. But tell him that you would accept six million, on the understanding that the contract is signed before the minister announces her decision."
"But that site will be worth at least twelve million if everything goes to plan."
"Be assured, everything is going to plan," said Danny. "Has Payne shown any interest in the other site?"
"No. Why should he," said Segat, "when everyone seems to know which site is going to be selected?"
Having gained all the information he needed, Danny switched subjects. "Who came up with the highest offer for our site on Mile End Road?"
"The highest bidder turned out to be Fairfax Homes, a first-class company, which the council has worked with in the past. I've studied their proposal," said Segat, handing Danny a glossy brochure, "and have no doubt that subject to a few modifications from the planning committee, the scheme should get the green light within the next few weeks."
"How much?" asked Danny, trying not to sound impatient.
"Ah, yes," said Segat, checking his figures, "remembering that your outlay was a little over a million pounds, I think you can be well satisfied that Fairfax Homes came in at £1,801,156, giving you a profit of over half a million pounds. Not a bad return on your capital, remembering that the money's been in play for less than a year."
"How do you explain the figure of £1,801,156?" asked Danny.
"I would guess that Mr. Fairfax expected that there would be several bids around the one point eight million mark and just stuck his date of birth on the end."
Danny laughed as he began to study Fairfax 's plans for a magnificent new block of luxury flats on the site where he had once worked as a garage mechanic.
"Do I have your authority to call Mr. Fairfax and let him know his was the successful bid?"
"Yes, do," said Danny. "And once you've spoken to him, I'd like a word."
While Segat made the call, Danny continued to study Fairfax Homes' impressive plans for the new apartment block. He only had one query.
"I'll just pass you over to Sir Nicholas, Mr. Fairfax," said Segat. "He would like to have a word with you."
"I've just been studying your plans, Mr. Fairfax," said Danny, "and I see you have a penthouse on the top floor."
"That's right," said Fairfax. "Four beds, four baths, all ensuite, just over three thousand square feet."
"Overlooking a garage on the other side of Mile End Road."
"Less than a mile from the City," retorted Fairfax. Both of them laughed.
"And you're putting the penthouse on the market at six hundred and fifty thousand, Mr. Fairfax?"
"Yes, that's the asking price," Fairfax confirmed.
"I'll close the deal at a million three," said Danny, "if you'll throw in the penthouse."
"A million two and you've got yourself a deal," said Fairfax.
"On one condition."
"And what's that?"
Danny told Mr. Fairfax the one change he wanted, and the developer agreed without hesitation.
Danny had chosen the hour carefully: 11 A.M. Big Al drove around Redcliffe Square twice before stopping outside number 25.
Danny walked up a path that hadn't seen a trowel recently. When he reached the front door he rang the bell and waited for some time, but there was no reply. He banged the brass knocker twice, and could hear the sound echoing inside, but still no one answered the door. He rang the bell one more time before finally giving up and deciding to try again in the afternoon. He had almost reached the gate when the door suddenly swung open and a voice demanded, "Who the hell are you?"
"Nick Moncrieff," said Danny, turning around and walking back up the path. "You asked me to give you a call, but you're ex-directory, and as I just happened to be passing... "
Davenport was wearing a silk dressing gown and slippers. He clearly hadn't shaved for several days and began blinking in the morning sunlight like an animal that had come out of hibernation on the first day of spring. "You told me you had an investment you thought I might be interested in," Danny reminded him.
"Oh, yes, I remember now," said Lawrence Davenport, sounding a little more receptive. "Yes, come in."
Danny entered an unlit corridor that brought back memories of what the house in The Boltons had been like before Molly had taken charge.
"Do have a seat while I get changed," said Davenport. "I'll only be a moment."