‘About eighteen months, I suspect,’ he said. ‘Less if she plays her cards right. It will be up to Thames Valley and the Crown Prosecution Service.’

‘I thought that plea bargains didn’t happen in this country,’ I said.

‘Oh yeah,’ he said. ‘Like euthanasia? It’s just called something different. How about you?’

He pointed at my left arm, which I had in a sling.

‘I split the end of my ulna when I punched Peter Enstone,’ I said. ‘I haven’t been able to wear my false arm since. But it’s mending.’

In truth, I had been much more comfortable with my left arm these last three weeks than I had for ten years, since my racing disaster. I was aware that, in spite of its truncation, it was a part of me as a whole. It had saved my life. It was my friend again.

‘And your girlfriend?’ he asked, nodding towards Marina who was talking to Evan Walker.

‘My wife,’ I said smiling, ‘is just fine, thank you.’

Marina had found that she had thought about an engagement for long enough while she had waited outside the flat with the police. She had told both Charles and Jenny that if I came out alive she would marry me at once. ‘At once’ had actually been two weeks because her parents had been away on a safari through the African bush. They had remained blissfully unaware of their daughter’s fight for life until after the drama was over. We had waited for them to return and then had done the deed in a West Oxfordshire registry office followed by a small reception at Aynsford. Jenny had been there all smiles, her guilt forever purged.

‘Congratulations,’ said Carlisle. ‘So what’s next for you?’

‘I’m still working on the internet gambling investigation,’ I said.

As I’d predicted, make-a-wager.com had taken a nose-dive. The Jockey Club had initiated an enquiry into the running of the exchange and Chris Beecher had publicised the fact at full volume in the paper. George Lochs had so far avoided being charged with any actual crime but in the meantime he had been declared persona non grata on any racecourse. It was rumoured that all his assets had been held in his company’s name and he was now going down the tubes quicker than Enron.

Frank Snow at Harrow would be pleased.

Marina came over to me with Evan Walker in tow.

‘Mr Halley,’ he said, ‘thank you for what you’ve done for my Huw. I will expect to receive your bill in due course.’

‘There will be no bill,’ I said. ‘There’s nothing to pay.’

‘I can afford it, you know,’ he said, somewhat stiffly. ‘I don’t need your charity.’

‘Mr Walker,’ I said, ‘I wasn’t offering you charity. The costs of the investigation have been covered by The Pump.’

‘Conscience money.’ He chortled. ‘OK, I’ll take that.’ He went off to talk to a group near the buffet.

‘Are you going back to Cheltenham tonight?’ I asked Carlisle.

‘No, I’m taking the train to London,’ he said. ‘It looks like Peter Enstone will survive after all, thanks to you. I have to go and formally arrest him at St Thomas’s for the murder of Huw Walker.’

I’d heard that he had lost the use of his left hand.

He was crippled, just like me.

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