but he minimised the risk by specifically directing my attention to Eddy Keith. It was safe to set me investigating Eddy's involvement with the shady side of the syndicates, because of course he wasn't involved. I could look for ever, and find nothing.' I paused. 'I don't think I was supposed to have much time to find out anything at all. I think that catching us took much longer than was intended in the original plan.'

Catching us… catching me. They'd have taken me alone, but both had been better for them… and far worse for me…

'Took much longer? How do you mean?' Sir Thomas said.

Concentrate, I thought. Get on with it.

'From Lucas's point of view, I was very slow,' I said. 'I was working on the Gleaner thing, and I didn't do anything at all about the syndicates for a week after he asked me. Then directly I'd been told about Peter Rammileese and Mason, and could have been expected to go down to Tunbridge Wells, I went away somewhere else entirely, for another week; during which time Lucas rang Chico four times to ask him where I was.'

Silent attention, as before. 'When I came back, I'd lost the notes, so I did them again in Lucas's office, and I told him Chico and I would go down to Peter Rammileese's place the following day, Saturday. I think it's likely that if we had done so the… er… deterring… would have been done then, but in fact we went the same afternoon that I'd been talking to Lucas, on the Friday, and Peter Rammileese wasn't there.'

Weren't they all thirsty, I wondered? Where was the coffee? My mouth was dry, and a good deal of me hurt.

'It was on that Friday morning that I asked Lucas to write to Henry Thrace. I also asked him- entreated him, really- not to mention my name at all in connection with Gleaner, as it might get me killed.'

A lot of frowns awaited an explanation.

'Well… Trevor Deansgate had warned me in those sort of terms to stop investigating those horses.'

Sir Thomas managed to raise his eyebrows and imply a frown at one and the same time. 'Are those the threats you mentioned before?' he said.

'Yes, and he repeated them when you… er… introduced us, in your box at Chester.'

'Good God.'

'I wanted to get the investigation of Gleaner done by the Jockey Club so that Trevor Deansgate wouldn't know it had anything to do with me.'

'You did take those threats seriously,' Sir Thomas said thoughtfully.

I swallowed. 'They were… seriously given.

'I see,' said Sir Thomas, although he didn't. 'Go on.'

'I didn't actually tell Lucas about the threats themselves,' I said. 'I just begged him not to tie me in with Gleaner. And within days, he had told Henry Thrace that it was I, not the Jockey Club, who really wanted to know if Gleaner died. At the time I reckoned that he had just been careless or forgetful, but now I think he did it on purpose. Anything which might get me killed was to him a bonus, even if he didn't see how it could do.'

They looked doubtful. Doubts were possible.

'So then Peter Rammileese – or Lucas – traced me to my father-in-law's house, and on the Monday Peter Rammileese and the two Scots followed me from there to a horse show, where they had a shot at abduction, which didn't come off. After that I kept out of their way for eight more days, which must have frustrated them no end.'

The faces waited attentively.

'During that time I learned that Peter Rammileese was manipulating not four, but nearer twenty syndicates, bribing trainers and jockeys wholesale. It was then also that I learned about the bribable top man in the Security Service who was turning a blind eye to the goings on, and I regret to say I thought it must be Eddy Keith.'

'I suppose,' Sir Thomas said, 'that that was understandable.'

'So, anyway, on Tuesday Chico and I came here, and Lucas at last knew where I was. He asked to come to Newmarket with us on Wednesday, and he took us there in his own super four litre air conditioned highly expensive Mercedes, and although he's usually so keen to get on with the next thing, he wasted hours doing nothing in Newmarket, during which time I now think he was in fact arranging and waiting for the ambush to be properly set up, so that this time there should be no mistakes. Then he drove us to where the Scots were waiting for us, and we walked straight into it. The Scots did the special job they had been imported for, which was deterring Chico and me, and I heard one of them tell Peter Rammileese that now that they had done what was ordered they were going north straight away, they'd been in the south too long.'

Sir Thomas was looking slightly strained. 'Is that all, Sid?'

'No. There's the matter of Mason.' Charles stirred beside me, uncrossing and recrossing his legs.

'I asked my father-in-law to go to Tunbridge Wells yesterday, to ask about Mason.'

Charles said, in his most impressive drawl, 'Sid asked me to see if Mason existed. I saw the police fellows in Tunbridge Wells. Very helpful, all of them. No one called Mason, or anything else for that matter, has been found kicked near to death and blinded in their streets, ever.'

'Lucas told me about Mason's case in great detail,' I said. 'He was very convincing, and of course I believed him. But have any of you ever heard of anyone called Mason who was employed by the Security Service, that was so badly injured?'

They silently, bleakly, shook their heads. I didn't tell them that I'd finally had doubts about Mason because there was no file for him in 'Personnel'. Even in a good cause, our breaking and entering wouldn't please them. A certain amount of gloom had settled on their faces, but there were also questions they wanted to ask. Sir Thomas put their doubts into words.

'There's one obvious flaw in your reverse view of things, Sid, and that is that this deterrent… hasn't deterred you.'

After a pause I said, 'I don't know that it hasn't. Neither Chico nor I could go on, if it meant… if we thought… anything like that would happen again.'

'Like exactly what, Sid?'

I didn't reply. I could feel Charles glancing my way in his best noncommittal manner, and it was he, eventually, who got quietly to his feet, and walked across the room, and gave Sir Thomas the envelope which contained the pictures of Chico.

'It was a chain,' I said matter-of-factly.

They passed the photographs round in silence. I didn't particularly look to see what they were thinking, I was just hoping they wouldn't ask what I knew they would: and Sir Thomas said it baldly. 'Was this done to you as well?'

I reluctantly nodded.

'Will you take your shirt off, then, Sid?'

'Look,' I said. 'What does it matter? I'm not laying any charges of assault or grievous bodily harm, or anything like that. There's going to be no police, no court case, nothing. I've been through all that once, as you know, and I'm not, absolutely not, doing it again. This time there's to be no noise. All that's necessary is to tell Lucas I know what's been happening, and if you think it right, to get him to resign. There's nothing to be gained by anything else. You don't want any public scandal. It would be harmful to racing as a whole.'

'Yes, but…' 'There's Peter Rammileese,' I said. 'Perhaps Eddy Keith might really sort out those syndicates, now. It would only get Rammileese deeper in if he boasted that he'd bribed Lucas, so I shouldn't think he would. I doubt if he'd talk about Chico and me, either.'

Except perhaps, I thought sardonically, to complain that I'd hit him very hard. 'What about the two men from Glasgow?' Sir Thomas said. 'Are they just to get away with it?'

'I'd rather that than go to court again as a victim,' I said. I half smiled. 'You might say that the business over my hand successfully deterred me from that sort of thing for the rest of my life.'

A certain amount of urbane relief crept into both the faces and the general proceedings.

'However,' Sir Thomas said. 'The resignation of the Director of Security cannot be undertaken lightly. We must judge for ourselves whether or not what you have said is justified. The photographs of Mr Barnes aren't enough. So please… take off your shirt.'

Bugger it, I thought. I didn't want to. And from the distaste in their faces, they didn't want to see. I hated the whole damn thing. Hated what had happened to us. Detested it. I wished I hadn't come to Portman Square.

'Sid,' Sir Thomas said seriously. 'You must.'

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