Big Al froze as a car drove onto the site and parked about fifty yards away. He couldn't be sure if whoever was in the car had seen him. He fell onto his stomach and began to crawl toward the enemy. A cloud moved to reveal the moon, just a sliver of light-even the moon was on their side. The car's headlights had been turned off, but an inside light remained on.
Danny thought he saw a car's lights, and immediately fell flat on the ground. They had arranged that Big Al would flash his torch three times to warn him if there was any danger. Danny waited for over a minute, but there was no flashing beam, so he stood up and headed toward the next pebble.
Big Al was now only a few yards from the parked car, and although the windows were steamed up, he could see that the inside light was still on. He pushed himself up onto his knees and peered through the rear window. It took all his discipline not to burst out laughing when he saw a woman stretched out on the back seat, her legs wide apart, moaning. Big Al couldn't see the face of the man who was on top of her, but felt a throbbing in his pants. He fell back down on his stomach and began the long crawl back to base.
When Danny reached pebble number sixty-seven, he cursed. He'd covered the entire area, and somehow missed four. As he walked slowly back toward the car, each pace became more cumbersome than the last. One thing he hadn't anticipated was the sheer weight of the pebbles.
Once Big Al was back at base, he still kept a wary eye on the car. He wondered if the boss had even been aware of its presence. Suddenly he heard the sound of an engine revving up, and the headlights were turned full on before the car swung around, back onto the gravel path and disappeared into the night.
When Big Al saw Danny coming toward him, he removed the empty box from the boot and put it on the ground in front of him. Danny began to take the pebbles out of his pockets and place them in the box; a painstaking exercise when the slightest sound might attract attention. Once the task had been completed, he took off the mask, the gloves, the boots and the jumpsuit. He handed them to Big Al, who put them in the box on top of the pebbles. The last things to be deposited were the torch and an empty plastic container.
Big Al closed the boot and climbed into the front of the car as the boss fastened his seatbelt. He turned on the ignition, swung the car around and drove slowly back toward the gravel track. Neither of them spoke, even when they reached the main road. The job wasn't finished yet.
During the week, Big Al had identified various skips and building sites where they could dispose of any evidence of their nocturnal enterprise. Big Al stopped seven times during a journey that took just over an hour instead of the usual forty minutes. By the time they drove into The Boltons, it was half past seven. Danny smiled when he saw a few drops of rain land on the windscreen and the automatic wipers switch themselves on. Danny stepped out of the car, walked up the path and unlocked the front door. He picked up a letter that was lying on the mat and tore it open as he climbed the staircase. When he saw the signature on the bottom of the page he went straight to his study and locked the door.
Once he had read the letter, he wasn't quite sure how he should reply. Think like Danny. Behave like Nick.
"NICK, HOW LOVELY to see you," said Sarah. She leaned across and whispered, "Now tell me you've been a good boy."
"Depends what you mean by good," said Danny as he took the seat next to her.
"You haven't missed a meeting with your favorite lady?"
Danny thought about Beth, even though he knew Sarah was referring to Ms. Bennett. "Not one," he said. "In fact, she recently visited me at home and passed my accommodation as suitable, putting ticks in all the relevant boxes."
"And you haven't even thought about going abroad?"
"Not unless you count traveling up to Scotland to visit Mr. Munro."
"Good. So what else have you been up to that's safe to tell your other solicitor?"
"Not a lot," said Danny. "How's Lawrence?" he asked, wondering if he had told her about the loan.
"Never better. He's doing a screen test for Holby City next Thursday-a new part that's been written especially for him."
"So what's it called? Witness to murder?" asked Danny, regretting his words the moment he'd said them.
"No, no," said Sarah, laughing. "You're thinking of the part he played in Witness for the Prosecution, but that was years ago."
"It certainly was," said Danny. "And it was a performance I'm unlikely to forget."
"I didn't realize you'd known Larry that long."
"Only from a distance," said Danny. He was relieved to be rescued by a familiar voice saying, "Hello, Sarah." Charlie Duncan bent down and kissed her on the cheek.
"Good to see you, Nick," said Duncan. "You two know each other, of course."
"Of course," said Sarah.
Duncan whispered, "Be careful what you say, you're sitting behind a critic. Enjoy the show," he added in a loud voice.
Danny had read the script of Bling Bling, but hadn't been able to follow it, so he was curious to see how the piece would work on stage, and what he had spent ten thousand pounds on. He opened the program to find that the play was billed as "a hilarious look at Britain during the Blair era." He turned the page and began reading about the playwright, a dissident Czech who had escaped from... The lights went down and the curtain rose.
No one laughed for the first fifteen minutes of the performance, which surprised Danny, as the play had been billed as a light-hearted comedy. When the star finally made his entrance, a few laughs followed in his wake, but Danny wasn't altogether sure that they were intended by the playwright. By the time the curtain for the interval came down, Danny found himself stifling a yawn.
"What do you think?" he asked Sarah, wondering if he had missed something.
Sarah put a finger to her lips and pointed to the critic in front of them, who was writing furiously. "Let's go and have a drink," she said.
Sarah touched his arm as they walked slowly up the aisle. "Nick, it's my turn to seek your advice."
"On what?" said Danny. "Because I must warn you, I know nothing about the theater."
She smiled. "No, I'm talking about the real world. Gerald Payne has recommended that I put some money in a property deal he's involved in. He mentioned your name, so I wondered if you thought it was a safe investment."
Danny wasn't sure how to reply, because however much he loathed her brother, he had no quarrel with this charming woman, who had prevented him being sent back to jail.
"I never advise friends to put money in anything," said Danny. "It's a no-win situation-if they make a profit they forget that it was you who recommended it, and if they make a loss they never stop reminding you. My only advice would be not to gamble what you can't afford, and never to risk an amount that might cause you to lose a night's sleep."
"Good advice," said Sarah. "I'm grateful."
Danny followed her into the stalls bar. As they entered the crowded room, Danny spotted Gerald Payne standing by a table, pouring a glass of champagne for Spencer Craig. He wondered if Craig had been tempted to invest any money in his Olympic site, and hoped to find out later at the opening-night party.