I undid the buttons and stood up and slid the shirt off. The only pink bit of me was the plastic arm, the rest being mottled black with dark red criss-crossed streaks. It looked, by that time, with all the bruising coming out, a lot worse than it felt. It looked, as I knew, appalling. It also looked, on that day, the worst it would. It was because of that that I'd insisted on going to Portman Square on that day. I hadn't wanted to show them the damage, yet I'd known they would insist, and I would have to: and if I had to, that day was the most convincing. The human mind was deviously ambivalent, when it wanted to defeat its enemies.

In a week or so, most of the marks would have gone, and I doubted whether there would be a single permanent external scar. It had all been quite precisely a matter of outraging the sensitive nerves of the skin, transient, leaving no trace. With such a complete lack of lasting visible damage, the Scots would know that even if they were brought to trial, they would get off lightly. For a hand, all too visible, the sentence had been four years. The going rate for a few days' surface discomfort was probably three months. In long robbery-with-violence sentences it was always the robbery that stretched the time, not the violence.

'Turn round,' Sir Thomas said. I turned round, and after a while I turned back. No one said anything. Charles looked at his most unruffled. Sir Thomas stood up and walked over to me, and inspected the scenery more closely. Then he picked up my shirt from the chair, and held it for me to put on again.

I said 'Thank you,' and did up the buttons. Pushed the tails untidily into the top of my trousers. Sat down.

It seemed quite a long time before Sir Thomas lifted the inter-office telephone and said to his secretary, 'Would you ask Commander Wainwright to come here, please?'

If the administrators still had any doubts, Lucas himself dispelled them. He walked briskly and unsuspectingly into a roomful of silence, and when he saw me sitting there he stopped moving suddenly, as if his brain had given up transmitting to his muscles.

The blood drained from his face, leaving the grey-brown eyes staring from a barren landscape. I had an idea that I must have looked like that to Trevor Deansgate, in the Stewards' box at Chester. I thought that quite likely, at that moment, Lucas couldn't feel his feet on to the carpet.

'Lucas,' Sir Thomas said, pointing to a chair, 'sit down.'

Lucas fumbled his way into the chair with his gaze still fixedly on me, as if he couldn't believe I was there, as if by staring hard enough he could make me vanish.

Sir Thomas cleared his throat'. 'Lucas, Sid Halley, here, has been telling us certain things which require explanation.'

Lucas was hardly listening. Lucas said to me, 'You can't be here.'

'Why not?' I said. They waited for Lucas to answer, but he didn't.

Sir Thomas said eventually, 'Sid has made serious charges. I'll put them before you, Lucas, and you can answer as you will.' He repeated more or less everything I'd told them, without emphasis and without mistake. The judicial mind, I thought, taking the heat out of things, reducing passion to probabilities. Lucas appeared to be listening, but he looked at me all the time.

'So you see,' Sir Thomas said finally, 'we are waiting for you to deny – or admit – that Sid's theories are true.'

Lucas turned his head away from me and looked vaguely round the room. 'It's all rubbish, of course,' he said.

'Carry on,' said Sir Thomas. 'He's making it all up.' He was thinking again, fast. The briskness in some measure returned to his manner. 'I certainly didn't tell him to investigate any syndicates. I certainly didn't tell him I had doubts about Eddy. I never talked to him about this imaginary Mason. He's invented it all.' 'With what purpose?' I said. 'How should I know?' 'I didn't invent coming here twice to copy down notes of the syndicates,' I said. 'I didn't invent Eddy complaining because I'd seen those files. I didn't invent you telephoning Chico at my flat four times. I didn't invent you dropping us at the car park. I didn't invent Peter Rammileese, who might be persuaded to… er… talk. I could also find those two Scots, if I tried.'

'How?' he said.

I'd ask young Mark, I thought. He would have learnt a lot about the friends in all that time: little Mark and his accurate ears.

I said, 'Don't you mean, I invented the Scots?'

He glared at me.

'I could also,' I said slowly, 'start looking for the real reasons behind all this. Trace the rumours of corruption to their source. Find out who, besides Peter Rammileese, is keeping you in Mercedes.'

Lucas Wainwright was silent. I didn't know that I could do all I'd said, but he wouldn't want to bet I couldn't. If he hadn't thought me capable he'd have seen no need to get rid of me in the first place. It was his own judgement I was invoking, not mine.

'Would you be prepared for that, Lucas?' Sir Thomas said.

Lucas stared my way some more, and didn't answer.

'On the other hand,' I said, 'I think if you resigned, it would be the end of it.'

He turned his head away from me and stared at the Senior Steward instead.

Sir Thomas nodded. 'That's all, Lucas. Just your resignation, now, in writing. If we had that, I would see no reason to proceed any further.'

It was the easiest let-off anyone could have had, but to Lucas, at that moment, it must have seemed bad enough. His face looked strained and pale, and there were tremors round his mouth.

Sir Thomas produced from his desk a sheet of paper, and from his pocket a gold ball-point pen.

'Sit here, Lucas.'

He rose and gestured to Lucas to sit by the desk. Commander Wainwright walked over with stiff legs and shakily sat where he'd been told. He wrote a few words, which I read later. / resign from the post of Director of Security to the Jockey Club. Lucas Wainwright.

He looked around at the sober faces, at the people who had known him well, and trusted him, and had worked with him every day. He hadn't said a word, since he'd come into the office, of defence or appeal. I thought: how odd it must be for them all, facing such a shattering readjustment.

He stood up, the pepper and salt man, and walked towards the door.

As he came to where I sat he paused, and looked at me blankly, as if not understanding.

'What does it take,' he said, 'to stop you?'

I didn't answer.

What it took rested casually on my knee. Four strong fingers, and a thumb, and independence.


Charles drove us back to Aynsford.

'You'll get a bellyful of courtrooms anyway,' he said. 'With Nicholas Ashe, and Trevor Deansgate.'

'It's not so bad just being an ordinary witness.'

'You've done it a good few times, now.'

'Yes,' I said.

'What will Lucas Wainwright do after this, I wonder.'

'God knows.'

Charles glanced at me.

'Don't you feel the slightest desire to gloat?'

'Gloat?' I was astounded.

'Over the fallen enemy.'

'Oh yes?' I said. 'And in your war at sea, what did you do when you saw an enemy drowning? Gloat? Push him under?'

'Take him prisoner,' Charles said. After a bit I said, 'His life from now on will be prison enough.'

Charles smiled his secret smile, and ten minutes further on he said, 'And do you forgive him, as well?'

'Don't ask such difficult questions.'

Love thine enemy. Forgive. Forget. I was no sort of Christian, I thought. I could manage not to hate Lucas

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