himself. I didn't think I could forgive: and I would never forget.

We rolled on to Aynsford, where Mrs Cross, carrying a tray upstairs to her private sitting room, told me that Chico was up, and feeling better, and in the kitchen. I went along there and found him sitting alone at the table, looking at a mug of tea.

'Hullo,' I said.


There was no need, with him, to pretend anything. I filled a mug from the pot and sat opposite him.

'Bloody awful,' he said. 'Wasn't it?'


'And I was dazed, like.'


'You weren't. Made it worse.'

We sat for a while without talking. There was a sort of stark dullness in his eyes, and none of it, any longer, was concussion.

'Do you reckon,' he said, 'they let your head alone, for that?'

'Don't know.'

'They could've.'

I nodded.

We drank the tea, bit by bit.

'What did they say, today?' he said. 'The brass.'

'They listened. Lucas resigned. End of story.'

'Not for us.'

'No.' I moved stiffly on the chair.

'What'll we do?' he said.

'Have to see.'

'I couldn't…' He stopped. He looked tired and sore, and dispirited.

'No,' I said. 'Nor could I.'

'Sid… I reckon… I've had enough.'

'What, then?'

'Teach judo.'

And I could make a living, I supposed, from equities, commodities, insurance, and capital gains. Some sort of living… not much of a life. In depression we finished the tea, feeling battered and weak and sorry for ourselves. I couldn't go on if he didn't, I thought. He'd made the job seem worthwhile. His naturalness, his good nature, his cheerfulness: I needed them around me. In many ways I couldn't function without him. In many ways, I wouldn't bother to function, if I didn't have him to consider.

After a while I said, 'You'd be bored.'

'What, with Wembley and not hurting, and the little bleeders?'

I rubbed my forehead, where the stray cut itched.

'Anyway,' he said, 'it was you, last week, who was going to give up.'

'Well… I don't like being…' I stopped.

'Beaten,' he said.

I took my hand away and looked at his eyes. There was the same thing there that had suddenly been in his voice. An awareness of the two meanings of the word. A glimmer of sardonic amusement. Life on its way back.

'Yeah.' I smiled twistedly. 'I don't like being beaten. Never did.'

'Sod the buggers, then?' he said.

I nodded. 'Sod 'em.'

'All right.'

We went on sitting there, but it was a lot better, after that.

Three days later, on Monday evening, we went back to London, and Chico, humouring the fears he didn't take seriously, came with me to the flat.

The hot weather had gone back to normal, or in other words, warm-front drizzle. Road surfaces were slippery with the oily patina left by hot dry tyres, and in west London every front garden was soggy with roses. Two weeks to the Derby… and perhaps Tri-Nitro would run in it, if the infection cleared up. He was fit enough, apart from that.

The flat was empty and quiet.

'Told you,' Chico said, dumping my suitcase in the bedroom. 'Want me to look in the cupboards?'

'As you're here.' He raised his eyebrows to heaven and did an inch by inch search.

'Only spiders,' he said. 'They've caught all the flies.'

We went down to where I'd parked at the front and I drove him to his place.

'Friday,' I said. 'I'm going away for a few days.'

'Oh yes? Dirty weekend?'

'You never know. I'll call you, when I get back.'

'Just the nice gentle crooks from now on, right?'

'Throw all the big ones back,' I said.

He grinned, waved, and went in, and I drove away with lights going on everywhere in the dusk. Back at the flats I went round to the lock-up garages to leave the car in the one I rented there, out of sight.

Unlocked the roll-up door, and pushed it high. Switched the light on. Drove the car in. Got out. Locked the car door. Put the keys in my pocket.

'Sid Halley,' a voice said.

A voice. His voice.

Trevor Deansgate.

I stood facing the door I'd just locked, as still as stone.

'Sid Halley.'

I had known it would happen, I supposed. Sometime, somewhere, like he'd said. He had made a serious threat. He had expected to be believed. I had believed him.

Oh God, I thought. It's too soon. It's always too soon. Let him not see the terror I feel. Let him not know. Dear God… give me courage.

I turned slowly towards him. He stood a step inside the garage, in the light, the thin drizzle like a dark grey- silver sheet behind him.

He held the shotgun, with the barrels pointing my way.

I had a brick wall on my left and another behind me, and the car on my right; and there were never many people about at the back of the flats, by the garages. If anyone came, they'd hardly dawdle around, in the rain.

'I've been waiting for you,' he said.

He was dressed, as ever, in city pinstripes. He brought, as always, the aura of power.

With eyes and gun facing unwaveringly my way, he stretched up behind him quickly with his left hand and found the bottom edge of the roll-up door. He gave it a sharp downward tug, and it rolled down nearly to the ground behind him, closing us in. Both hands, clean, manicured, surrounded by white cuffs, were back on the gun.

'I've been waiting for you, on and off, for days. Since last Thursday.'

I didn't say anything.

'Last Thursday two policemen came to see me. George Caspar telephoned. The Jockey Club warned me they were going to take proceedings. My solicitor told me I'd lose my bookmaking licence. I would be warned off from racing, and might well go to jail. Since last Thursday, I've been waiting for you.'

His voice, as before, was a threat in itself, heavy with the raw realities of the urban jungle.

'The police have been to the lab. My brother is losing his job. His career. He worked hard for it.'

'Let's all cry,' I said. 'You both gambled. You've lost. Too bloody bad.'

His eyes narrowed and the gun barrels moved an inch or two as his body reacted.

'I came here to do what I said I would.'

Gambled… lost… so had I.

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