Unlike Rolf Schumann, George it seemed had remained loyal to Komarov, at least until he had been arrested and charged with murder.

As a result of the information George was giving to the police, several big-time drug barons had received a dawn visit from one of Her Majesty’s constabularies, and they were now languishing in one of Her prisons awaiting trial. A number of other leads he had provided were also being investigated by various police forces around the world. I reckoned that the horse-breeding business in South America was about to suffer a major downturn.

Kurt and Walter, meanwhile, had been cornered by the Delafield sheriff’s department, who had wanted to question them concerning criminal damage and a vicious assault at the home of Mrs. Dorothy Schumann. Walter, the impetuous boy, had apparently tried to brain one of the sheriff’s men with a polo mallet and had been shot dead for his trouble. It was not a great loss.

I stood by the bar and surveyed my new domain. Mark Winsome had been as good as his word, but I think he’d had to write a check rather larger than he had originally intended. But the money had been well spent, with acres of glass and a forest of beech wood visible to the customers, and a further mass of stainless steel out of sight in the well-equipped kitchen. There were more than twice the number of tables than at the Hay Net, and I was confident that, with the longer dinner service in the big city, we could serve at least three times as many covers on a busy night.

In spite of opening the London venture, I had decided not to close down in Newmarket. Carl and I had worked together on his people management skills, and then I had appointed him as chef de cuisine at the Hay Net, with three new assistants, one of whom was Oscar, who had accepted our profuse apologies, a substantial one-off cash payment, and a permanent position as Carl’s number two. Ray and Jean had decided to go elsewhere, but there had been no shortage of capable staff to fill their shoes and breathe new life into the freshly recarpeted dining room. Jacek, however, also didn’t stay.

I had been right about him, at least in one respect. There was, indeed, much more to my kitchen porter than had first met the eye. When he had arrived from his native Czech Republic, his English had been so limited that he had been categorized by the local job center as suitable only for unskilled restaurant work. But Jacek proved to be highly skilled. At home, he had been not a scrubber of cooking pots but a user of them. He did not remain at the Hay Net because, now joined by his wife and daughter, he came with me to Maximilian’s as an assistant chef. After all, one never knew when a bodyguard might come in useful.

I felt a hand on my arm and turned to find Sally standing there. She and Toby had eagerly accepted my invitation to the opening, and they had brought my mother with them in their car.

“It’s lovely, Max,” said Sally with a genuine smile. “Absolutely lovely.”

“Thank you,” I said, and I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.

I had seen more of Sally and Toby over the past six months than I had during the previous six years. Caroline and I had been invited to stay with them on several occasions, which was great since their house still felt like home to me, and was, for the moment, my only home. I had, by now, become quite accustomed to my nomadic existence, living constantly out of a suitcase. My cottage had been completely bulldozed, the heat of the fire having rendered the walls unsafe to reuse. The plot of land on which it had stood, complete with permits to build a new dwelling, was currently on the market at a price that I thought was unreasonably high but one that my real estate agent was confident of obtaining.

Over the past months, when in Newmarket, I regularly stayed with Carl, except when his wife and children were there, which was increasingly often. On those occasions, I took a room at the Bedford Lodge Hotel, where I had finally managed to entertain Caroline the night after she was released from the hospital.

My temporary London address was a certain ground-floor flat in Tamworth Street, in Fulham, where two miniature listening devices had eventually been discovered, one in the cupboard under the kitchen sink and the other hidden among the packages in the dark recesses of the medicine cabinet.

Caroline hadn’t made it to the Cadogan Hall for her solo, and neither had Viola, whose remains had been lovingly borne to a top violin restorer. He had tut-tutted over her condition for some time and had declared that she was beyond reasonable repair. I had asked him what he meant by “reasonable repair,” and he had replied that he could easily make Viola look all right but was highly doubtful that she would ever again sound as she should. The belly and the back had been split right through, he had explained, and bits of the ribs were missing altogether, as was the sound post-no doubt rolled up and thrown away with the bloodied Hay Net dining room carpet. He would have to replace the missing ribs and to add reinforcing materials to the inside of the body that would permanently and adversely affect the tone. So we had taken her home as she was and had laid her on a shelf as a constant reminder to us of her sacrifice.

Caroline, meanwhile, had quickly been restored to perfection, and she had even wooed the orchestra directors into adding the Benjamin Britten Concerto for Violin and Viola, the piece she had missed at Cadogan Hall, into a Summer Soiree concert in St. James’s Park. It had been a wonderful, warm late-June evening, and I had been spellbound by her talent.

I looked again across the restaurant at her and smiled. She smiled back. Miss Caroline Aston, violist and proud of it, my fiancee and my savior.

Between them, Jacek and Caroline had given me back my life. I had been reborn after I had fully expected to die. That fateful night, as I had sat waiting for the bomb squad to remove the explosives from the Hay Net, I had resolved to grab life by the horns and hang on.

I was going to live my second life at full throttle.

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