windows trying to help him. And, in the distance, I could hear the sirens coming closer.

Another James Bond-style car chase was over, and, this time, I thought M might have been fairly proud of me. I was only shaken, not stirred.

But I suddenly felt quite ill. This was reality, not a spy movie.

Sophie and I sat side by side on the grass verge for quite some time while a team of firemen, police and ambulance staff did their best to remove Kipper from the twisted wreckage of his car.

It seemed remarkable that he was still alive, but apparently he was only just. The efforts of the emergency crews were trying to keep him that way.

I rather wished that they wouldn’t bother.

Sophie and I had been assessed by a paramedic as being physically unharmed before being wrapped in red ambulance blankets and asked to wait.

We waited.

After a while, a bright-yellow-and-black helicopter landed in the cornfield alongside the road, and soon a doctor in a bright orange flight suit came over and asked us if we were both OK. “Yes,” we said in unison. He went over to join the team working on the hatchback.

Sophie took my hand. “We are OK, aren’t we, Ned?” she said.

“Yes,” I said with certainty. “We are definitely OK.”


Six months later, Sophie and I went to Australia to look for my sisters, while Luca, my new, fully documented, legal business partner, and his young full-time assistant, Douglas Masters, carried on our flourishing business at home without me.

“Don’t hurry back,” Luca had said the day before I left. “Duggie and I will do just fine. And Millie will help us when she can.” Millie, it seemed, had moved in with Luca, and she hadn’t yet been murdered for doing so by her sister, Betsy.

Since that glorious Monday in July at the Bangor-on-Dee races, I had discovered renewed energy and enthusiasm for my work. Bookmaking had become fun again, not least because Sophie had often stood with me, paying out winning tickets and bantering with the crowds as she’d never done before. She had clearly been taking lessons from Duggie.

It had actually been Sophie’s idea to go to Australia, but I’d jumped at it.

Understandably, she had had one or two problems after the events involving Kipper and the car crash. At the time, I’d been amazed at her calmness, but, according to the psychiatrists, this had been due to her brain bottling up the stress and literally switching off some of her emotions. Only afterwards did the fear and the panic manifest themselves with a physical reaction. I had found her four days later in the middle of the night, lying awake in our bed, shaking uncontrollably and soaked in sweat. It had been a very frightening experience for us both, and she had been returned immediately by ambulance to the hospital in Hemel Hempstead for further treatment.

Fortunately, the panic attack had been short-lived, and she was soon able to return home, but not before yet another full assessment of her condition. Since then, she had been doing really well, with only a couple of minor setbacks. On one occasion, when she had a particularly nasty cold, some of her cough medicine had reacted badly to the antidepressants, and she’d had a bit of a wobble. I had come home, stone-cold sober, from the races, and she accused me of being drunk. That was always the first sign to arrive and the last to leave. I had sat up all that night waiting for the expected decline into full mania, but in the morning she had been fine. The new drugs really were working, and both of us had begun to hope and to make plans for a future.

Slowly, over the months, I had recounted to her the complete story of those three weeks in late June and early July. I told her the full details of my father’s murder, about finding his rucksack and its hidden contents. I told her about Mr. John Smith and the microcoder, about finding him in our house and breaking his wrist. I even told her about Luca and Larry’s little games with the phones and Internet at Ascot, and how I had extracted revenge for the attack on me at Kempton by the big-firm bullyboys.

Once or twice, she told me off for not having contacted the police straightaway, and she was justifiably really quite cross that I had placed myself and her in such danger from a known murderer.

I had tried to explain to her that I didn’t like the policeman in charge of the case, but she, quite rightly, had said that personalities shouldn’t have made any difference. But of course they did. Detective Chief Inspector Llewellyn’s poor opinion of bookmakers in general, and of me in particular, had clouded his judgment in the same way that my antipathy towards him had clouded mine. Even when it was all over, he had still been reluctant to admit that I’d had nothing to do with my father’s murder.

I had been to see him the day following the car crash, at the Thames Valley Police headquarters near Oxford. He’d told me that the driver of the silver hatchback, known to me as Kipper but now properly identified as a Mr. Mervyn Williams, had indeed survived, but he was still in a critical condition and had been transferred to the special head-injury unit at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. Apparently, according to the police who had attended the scene, he hadn’t been wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident.

“It wasn’t an accident,” I’d said flatly. “The man was trying to shunt me off the road at the time, and I was just lucky that the truck hit him and not me.” I had decided against telling the chief inspector about me making an emergency stop in order to precipitate the crash in the first place.

“But why?” he had asked me.

“Because I think he’s the man who murdered my father. I presumed that he was trying to do the same to me, to eliminate me as a witness.”

“What makes you think it’s the man who murdered your father?” he’d asked.

“I think I recognized him at one point, when he tried to pass me.”

“How very interesting,” the chief inspector had said, and he’d lifted the telephone on his desk.

Mervyn Williams, I discovered at a second meeting with the chief inspector just a week later, was a qualified veterinary surgeon, originally from Chepstow in South Wales, but he had been living in Newbury for the past ten years as some sort of veterinary investigator for the RSPCA. A police search of his house had uncovered a black- and-red rucksack still with an airline baggage tag attached with GRADY printed on it. Results were eagerly awaited for a DNA test of blood spots discovered on the sleeve of a charcoal-gray hoodie from Mr. Williams’s wardrobe and consistent with my description of the Ascot attacker’s clothes. And a further search of the mangled remains of his silver hatchback had also uncovered a kitchen knife of the correct proportions to have inflicted the fatal wounds to my father’s abdomen.

I chose not to ask the chief inspector if they had also found the remote control to my kitchen television, although I could really have done with it back.

“So what happens now?” I’d asked instead.

“That depends on if, and how well, Mr. Williams recovers,” the chief inspector had said. “He’s been formally arrested on suspicion of murder, but the doctors are saying he has massive brain damage, so he’ll probably never be fit to plead even if he survives.”

“What does that mean?” I’d asked.

“If he’s unfit to plead, there would be no criminal trial as such. But there would be what is called a ‘trial of the facts,’ when the evidence is placed before a jury and they would effectively decide if he had done it or not. But, of course, there would be no actual declaration of guilt or innocence and no sentence.”

“So what would then happen to Mervyn Williams?”

“If he’s unfit to plead, he’d technically be a free man, but if he recovers enough so that he becomes fit he could still be tried for murder. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that he was the man responsible, and the DNA should prove it. Your e-fit was remarkably accurate considering you saw him for only a second or two in the Ascot parking lot, and with his hood up too.”

I hadn’t enlightened him that the fleeting glimpse in the Ascot parking lot hadn’t been, in fact, the only occasion I’d seen the man.

The chief inspector had shown me a photograph of Mr. Mervyn Williams that the police had taken from his

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