Dead Run Ch1

Dead Run

By Peter Edington


Tom Walton, divorced solicitor, takes the dangerous step of using money from his clients’ bank account to keep the taxman at bay. It might have worked if book-keeper, Dorothy Brown, had not been so efficient. Faced with her accusation, Walton sees prison looming, but his anarchic girlfriend, Jenny Lindt, proposes an alternative.

Resourceful, attractive and hard-up, young Jenny had hoped Walton was her stepping-stone out of the gutter. She is not about to let this new turn of events stand in her way. Scarred by the events of her adolescence, and by her sister's suicide, she finds relationships hard – except where they are relationships of a financial nature. “Take the money and run,” she says. “Empty the whole bloody lot into a suitcase and go. Free!"

Encouraged by her determination, Walton acts quickly to persuade Chi Deong Wu (known as Eddie Woo) - casino owner and gangland boss - to cash a bank draft for the rest of the money in the Client’s Account.

But before Walton and Lindt have even left the country, Woo discovers that, instead of having earned a healthy commission, he is nearly three hundred thousand pounds out of pocket. Woo joins Detective Sergeant Burbidge in a hunt for the two criminals. But where DS Burbidge's jurisdiction ends with the south coast of England, Woo's drug-dealing net spreads all the way to the Caribbean, where the fugitives are headed.

Walton, who grew up on the East Coast, and raced yachts at Law School, steals a sailing boat and he and Jenny slip quietly away from England’s shores, landing briefly in the Channel Isles to transfer their stolen money to an anonymous Caribbean tax haven. But the price that Jersey banker, Paul Davies, asks of Jenny is more than Tom Walton can stomach.

Affected by dramatic events that happen later in their voyage, Jenny puts another’s life before her own for once. From here the hunt takes the couple to the coral strewn ‘Caicos Bank’ where their yacht weaves and squirms amongst the reefs in a desperate attempt to avoid the implacable Eddie Woo.

The final action takes place on the barren, desert-island of Ambergris Cay, where Woo and Walton come face to face for the last time. And Jenny has to decide if she really wants to share her life with this criminal lawyer.

Chapter One

"Mr Walton, there's a policemen to see you," the receptionist announced over the intercom. “A Sergeant Burbidge.”

Tom Walton recapped the afternoon’s appointments in his mind. He couldn’t think of a reason why the detective sergeant should be calling on him, especially this late in the day. Burbidge was a very determined policeman and he’d almost got the conviction against a client in a recent embezzlement trial. But that had been weeks ago now. "Thank you, Polly,” he said, still puzzled. “Can you show him up?”

The detective sergeant, when he followed Polly into the solicitor’s office, was short and overweight and wore a beige mackintosh. He stood in front of Walton’s leather-topped desk and said, “I wonder if you could spare me a few minutes, Sir?"

Tom Walton screwed the top onto his fountain pen and laid it down beside his legal notebook. He looked up. "Of course, Sergeant.” He leaned back in his leather swivel-chair and said, "Please take a seat. Now, what can I do for you?"

DS Burbidge sat untidily in the chair and began. “We have been approached by a Mrs Dorothy Brown, an employee of yours, concerning alleged discrepancies in the accounts relating to clients' monies." And then Walton knew exactly what this visit was about.

"Really, Sergeant?” he said. “Well you'd better tell me about it."


Alone at last, the solicitor sat and thought about what the policeman had said. He levered himself up from his seat. It was late. He crossed to the Georgian windows of the office and looked down onto Birmingham's empty, rain-slick streets that glistened in the light of the neon shop signs and suddenly he felt very cold.

Of course, DS Burbidge had been the right track. Almost forty thousand pounds was missing from the firm’s accounts. Thirty-seven thousand, to be exact. Presumably, Dorothy Brown, that efficient, grey-haired book-keeper, had discovered that much. Hence, of course, the visit from the policeman. Walton lifted his gaze and stared at his reflection in the black rectangles of glass that rattled chillingly under the onslaught of an autumn gale. There were lines around his mouth and his hair was beginning to turn grey at the temples. He was now thirty-eight. How many years had he been practising law in Birmingham? Fifteen, or was it sixteen?

Well, now it was over.

For generations, the rules governing clients' accounts had been instilled into young articled clerks; the penalties carved on their hearts. He visualised a ritual where the name of Thomas James Walton, Solicitor, was being struck from the Law Society Roll and his reflection smiled grimly back at him as he remembered his old Law tutor's dry thin voice. "Half the buskers in London's Underground stations are solicitors who played fast and loose with clients' accounts!"

He turned from the window to look round the expensively finished office. Mechanically, he gathered the papers from his desk and put them in his briefcase. Pillar of society today, down-and-out tomorrow. He walked slowly down the stairs and let himself out into the cold blast of the night.

Walton pointed his BMW south, down the dual carriageway out of town, wipers hissing across the windscreen, headlights freezing jewels of rain in their brilliant path, streetlamps flashing rhythmically through the tinted sunroof.

He reached for the mobile phone and searched for a number, eyes flicking between the handset and the road ahead. A set of traffic lights turned red and he eased the car to a halt. The phone was ringing and ringing as he stared vacantly into the night. What choice had he had? The question went round and round. He looked to his right, as a car pulled up alongside him, and quickly hid the phone when he realised he was looking into the face of a policeman. The lights changed and the two cars moved off together. Walton allowed the police car to get ahead, then put the phone back to his ear. It had stopped ringing.

"Hullo?" he said tentatively into it.

"Hullo," echoed a sleepy voice.

"Jenny, it's me."

"Are you at home?"

"No, I'm in the car. Look, can I come over? I need to talk."

"It's nearly midnight, Tom," Jenny said. "Won't it keep?"

"It's important," he said and the habitual English understatement rang ironically in his ears. Hell, important was seriously short of the mark.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"By the Blues grounds. I can be at your place in ten minutes."

"OK," she sighed. "I'll put the kettle on."

As he negotiated the lights and roundabouts of Birmingham, Walton's mind went back over the last few weeks - the phrases the collector of taxes had used in his final letters … Appeal has been dismissed … payment in full within seven days … warrant to seize property … bankruptcy proceedings.

Surely it hadn't been too much to hope, a few days grace before bloody Dorothy picked it up. Good old Dorothy Brown, the human bloodhound. Damn! He banged the steering wheel. Why had he employed such a straight-laced book-keeper? Could he stall the police for a while, tell them he was asking for copies of documents, make out there had been some big mistake? How many days could he gain, two, maybe three - and then what? Arrest? Indictment? A trial? God, the police would pillory him if they got him into court. How many times had he made them look stupid in front of a jury?

In sixteen years of law, Tom Walton had defended hundreds of criminals but only now, did he fully understand the shock of being caught. Only now, could he taste the fear of watching the pulsing blue light of a police car sweep across the ceiling and knowing there was no way out.

He swung onto the ill-lit car park of a block of flats in South Birmingham. The fat tyres of the BMW crunched over broken glass as he slotted it between a Dodge van with tinted windows and a burnt-out Ford with no windows. A black cat stared implacably at him from the roof of the van while he closed the car door. Was the cat a good omen, or a curse, he wondered as he carefully set the alarm.

The wired-glass door banged shut in the wind when he entered the dark, concrete stairwell of Jenny's block of flats. Much of his working life, Walton had spent talking to men and women in the interview rooms of prisons, trying to understand why they did the sad, desperate things that led them there. Well now, he knew. As he mounted the steps, his thoughts went back to those cells. The ringing of his feet on the stairs echoed about him. Prisons echoed. The bare stone walls echoed so loudly you had to open the grilled windows in order to dampen the noise. He turned the corner onto another flight of stairs. The wire-guarded lights that glowed yellow at each landing emphasised the inhumanity of the building and his pace slowed as he passed increasingly grotesque aerosolled messages, wondering what crimes had been plotted from such brutish surroundings.


Jenny Lindt opened the door of her two-room flat. The short, tousled fair hair made her face seem younger than her twenty-two years. The long T-shirt, which was all she wore, hung off one shoulder, exposing a tattoo above her right breast. She had been in bed when he phoned.

Jenny had spent enough years on the streets to know fear when she saw it. She had seen it on the eyes of addicts overdosing in tower-block squats and on the swollen faces of her girlfriends, beaten by their pimps on the back-streets of Birmingham. But she had not expected to see it in Tom's eyes that night.

"Christ, what's happened?" she asked.

He pushed past her into the small, surprisingly tidy sitting-room.

Jenny glared across the corridor at an inquisitive neighbour and shut the door. She turned to face him.

Walton looked at the small tattoo. It was less than two months since he had seen it first. She had worked in a pub near the football ground, where he met other respectable businessmen to discuss fund-raising schemes for youngsters involved in football, like his sons.

Her anarchic dress-sense had been the first thing he noticed, that and the body piercing. And her build. She wasn't tall, perhaps only five foot three or four, but she was athletic with well-muscled shoulders under the spaghetti-strap T-shirt she was wearing. He had learned later that she made a religion, almost, of going to her Jujitsu training every free night of the week – which explained the curious purple bruising he had noticed on her forearms.

This, and the penchant for spiked hair and black clothing, had all seemed so much at odds with that delicately crafted tattoo of a butterfly landing on the leaf of a tropical plant.

But it was aggression not delicacy that had attracted him to her. Self-confidence, her contempt for the values of a world that was, even now, coming apart for him. That's what it was - the excitement of her challenge: I make my own rules, who makes yours?

At first it had been difficult to get to know the private girl behind the façade: The girl who'd chosen to live on the streets when she was fifteen, the age at which her younger sister had died; the men she'd lived with - slept with - some more seriously than others; Gary, the one who'd got her hooked on the drugs he dealt, and her time in drug rehabilitation.

More recently, he had seen the sketches she made when she was alone. They were good. She'd be happy at art school, he thought, if she could be happy anywhere.

"Tom, for God's sake, what's happened?" She spoke again and dragged him back to the present.

He looked round the small sitting room, with its strong colours and the sketch she had done of him, propped up on the television, against a black candle.

Where should he begin? How could he tell her that everything she had imagined about him was a lie?

He sat down. “I had a visit form the police, this evening. I’m about to go down for theft."

“Jesus, Tom,” she cried. “How?”

“I used someone else’s money to pay my tax bill.”

Jenny looked at him in disbelief. Eventually, she asked the obvious question, “Why?”

Why indeed. “Because I had no choice?” he said. “Because I’d run out of better ideas?” He raised a smile at the old cliché. “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time?”

The girl still watched him incredulously and he sighed. “Angela owes me a load of money from the divorce. She was supposed to have sold the house by now and I was going to get half the equity, what was left after she’d paid off the mortgage,” he elaborated. “There was a bid on it months ago and she told me it had all gone through. I should have got the money last month. If I had, I’d have been laughing, but she wasn’t telling me the truth.” He shrugged. “She's always been good at lying to me.” He shook his head. “And so I used someone else’s money and now I’ve got the police all over my back.”

“Whose money have you used?” Jenny asked.

“A client’s.”

“Christ, Tom! Couldn’t you have just told the taxman to hang on?”

“What, tell him I was waiting on some cash from my wife?”

“Well, yes,” Jenny said and she nodded.

“I did but I think he’d heard that one before. He told me to raise the money or see him in court.”

“And couldn’t you raise the money?”

“Forty grand?”

Jenny considered what forty thousand pounds might look like and said, “Shit. Did you tell Angela you needed the settlement?”

“Oh, yes. She said she was very sorry to hear I was having difficulties and put me on to her solicitor.”

“Who said?”

“That when the house was sold, he’d make sure I got my share.”

“Well, surely if you’d told the taxman that, he’d have given you time to pay.”

“He’s already done that,” Walton sighed. “This all started months ago.” He took a breath. “To be fair, he’s been trying to help, but can only go o far. I got a letter last week saying pay up or face bankruptcy. He was going to pull the plug next week, Jenny. What more could I do?” He swore, quietly. “I should have let him get on with it, just close me down. It would have been better than this.” He lifted his hands in despair. “But I thought I could keep the firm going till Angela came through with the cash. If I ended up bankrupt, I’d lose the practice. Everyone would be out on the streets. Jesus, Jenny, I couldn’t just let it all collapse, so I wrote a cheque on the Client Account.”

“Which is…?”

“The Client Account? It’s a separate bank account where Solicitors keep other people’s money. You know, stuff we’re holding on their behalf. Proceeds of house sales,” he smiled grimly at that, “deposits, settlements, that sort of thing.”

Jenny nodded and was silent for a while. “You’ll get Angela’s money in the end, though?” she asked and Walton laughed unkindly.

“Oh, sure. In the end, but it’s a bit late, now, isn’t it?” God, he was tired. He rubbed his eyes and stood up. "So now I’ve done the deed. Technically, it’s theft and a short, balding detective from Digbeth Police Station wants to know what I’ve done with the money. Dorothy Brown invited him in to look at my accounts, bloody woman!”

“He came today?”

“This evening.”

“Why didn’t he arrest you?” Jenny asked suddenly.

“It’s a big thing, nicking a solicitor,” Walton said. “He’d need to be sure he’d got his facts right. No, tonight was more of a fishing trip; see how I’d react. But next time…” Walton shook his head. “Next time it’ll be the thumb screws down at Digbeth Nick.” He’d spent enough time representing prisoners on remand to know that you could spend months inside, waiting for a trial date.

"Can't you just pay it back?" she asked. "Carry on as though nothing has happened. Say it was all a mistake."

“If I could, I would. But then, if I had the money to pay it back,” he argued logically, “I wouldn't have needed to use the Client Account money in the first place, would I? Anyway, paying it back won’t change PC Plod’s opinion. Theft is theft. You can’t undo it just by handing back the cash. Even if you could,” he added, “the Law Society would never forgive and forget. They get quite shirty with Solicitors who help themselves to client’s money, even if it is in a good cause.”

It had taken less than ten minutes to tell Jenny all that had been keeping him awake every night for a week, since he’d got that letter. Ten minutes to explain something so simple, and yet so utterly cataclysmic. He was bankrupt and he would go to jail, despite the fifty thousand his ex-wife owed him.

If only he hadn’t made that one, irrevocable, decision to write that cheque. He was finished now, whatever way you looked at it. By Friday the firm would be locked up, the staff would be looking for jobs and he’d quite likely be on remand in Winson Green prison, awaiting the trial.

“You must have some money, Tom!” she said but he just shrugged.

“You tell me where. I’d like to know. I’ve been trying to think where I’d find forty thousand. The bank won’t play, my credit card doesn’t go anywhere near that sum.” He poured himself a drink. “If you think of anything, let me know. I’m going to bed. It’s been a long day.”

Jenny combed her fingers through her hair. She watched him walk through to the bedroom. She thought she'd found the man to take her away from the squalid world she inhabited, a man who cared. Tom Walton had been that man. Tom Walton, whose easy self-assurance made the dreams he dreamed for her seem so plausible. But no. She'd been wrong. He was as hollow as the rest and suddenly it all seemed so bone-weary pointless. Too much even for her anger. "Why you, Tom?" she asked the empty room. "Why you!"


Later - much later - they lay in the darkness of her tiny, freezing bedroom. Jenny watched the shadows made by the city's street lights on the wall and thought of all those things he'd half promised her and that she had allowed herself to believe in. She rolled on to her back and brought her knees up under the quilt.

"Couldn’t you sell the BMW?” She asked. She knew he was awake.

"Not mine. It's owned by a finance company.”

"The flat," she tried again. "That'd sell for a hundred grand, easy."

"Jenny," he cried, “you think I haven't thought of that? If I could have raised some money against the flat, I would have done it, wouldn’t I? It's mortgaged. There's no equity in it. A ninety-five percent mortgage, just like when I bought my first house at twenty-five." He laughed harshly. "Only this time, the building society thought I was a better risk!"

"Come on, Tom," she said. "I know you’ve got money."

"Oh yeah?" he snorted. "Tell me about it."

She looked at him incredulously in the half-light. "What about the theatre in London? Those tickets were over fifty quid, and the dinner in that restaurant in Soho and the hotel. How did you pay for all that?"

"With plastic,” he explained. “That's what I'm telling you. I might have some cash in the bank, but if I do, it’s only because it's the beginning of the month. I run out, just like you do." He threw back the quilt and pulled on some clothes. Her flat, with its threadbare carpets and draughty metal-framed windows, was icy cold. He started pacing the small bedroom, tracing her line of thought. Was she right? Was there something he’d overlooked?

She pulled the bedclothes round her shoulders.

"For God's sake, Tom, your place stinks of money! There's the stereo, the antiques. God, the furniture alone must be worth thousands!"

"Not mine! It all belongs to the banks or Visa. That’s how you do it these days. You don't really own any thing. God forbid!” He turned to face her. "Come on, what do you actually own, here in this flat?"

She looked around the darkened room, visualising her possessions. "Not a lot. The TV, the stereo, some CDs. And I bought the car last year."

Walton laughed for the first time. "You do? Well that's better than me. Here am I, Tom Walton of Walton and Co, Solicitors; with the grand office in the middle of town, all chrome and tinted glass; and the latest DVD system in my flat; seen in all the best circles and I don't even own my own car! Damn it, Jenny, I couldn't put my hands on enough money to pay the lease on the BMW for three months if I lost the practice." He stopped. "Which I will. Even if I could pay the money back, the Law Society will close me down. I'm finished as a lawyer. And the police will have a field day. The courts get really excited about bent solicitors," he turned from her, "like to make an example of us. I’m facing two years at least and a job as a shoeshine boy, when I get out.” He thought for a moment. “The maximum for theft is five years, actually."

"And what you did really is theft?" she asked.

"Yes. But what difference does it make? The taxman was going to close me down next week anyway if I didn't pay him. I was stupid to think I could get away with it. It was the wrong decision, I know that, but I didn’t expect Dorothy to pick it up this quickly." He sat heavily on the edge of the bed and sank his head in his hands. "Damn her!" He looked up into Jenny’s eyes. "You know what really makes me angry? I'm actually quite a good lawyer. I've spent years building up a practice with a good reputation all over the West Midlands and now Angela and the taxman and Dorothy Brown have done for me. Jesus, if I had been a bad solicitor, I wouldn't have had such a ridiculous tax bill. Thirty-seven thousand pounds, it's madness!"

Jenny watched him. "Poor Tom. What will happen to these clients, the people whose money you used, will they just lose it?" she asked.

"God no," he cried. "The Law Society takes money off us every year as an indemnity, a sort of slush fund against bent lawyers! The clients will get their money back - in the end."

The girl asked, "So there'll be no little old ladies, taking to the streets to earn a living then?"

"No, of course not."

She slipped from the bed and pulled a candlewick dressing gown over her T-shirt. It reached to her feet, which she quickly slid into a pair of slippers.

"What are you going to do?" She spoke as she moved through to the kitchen and filled the kettle. "Will you go in to work tomorrow?”

Walton propped himself against the kitchen door-frame and watched her move around her flat. It was nearly five o'clock. Three hours and he would have to be back in the office. If he didn't show, alarm bells would ring in Sergeant Burbidge’s head, and he’d be collected and banged up without his feet touching the ground

"I’ll have to go in, in the morning,” he said. “I thought I’d get Dorothy to dig out all sorts of records, pretend there's been a mistake somewhere. I told Burbidge I’d see him again on Wednesday and explain everything."

“But you can’t explain it, can you?” Jenny asked desperately. “You’re just going to hold your hands up and say it’s a fair cop, aren’t you?”

Tom Walton looked down into the face of the girl who embodied so many of the changes that had taken place in his life over the last couple of months: meals he no longer ate by himself in the flat while his wife and sons lorded it in the Victorian mansion he used to own; smoky jazz clubs and fringe-theatres that were way below Angela's dizzying intellectual heights. And there was the unceasing delight in her company ‑ like the feeling he'd thought would last throughout his marriage, but which had evaporated so utterly and in so short a time. And now it would all end. He’d lose her.

“You can’t just let them lock you away, Tom!” she said.

“What choice do I have?” He was past caring. He was tired. The nightmare had come to life and he just wanted the roller-coaster to stop.

“You can fight it!” Jenny insisted.

“Too late. The cheque’s there, in the cheque book. Thirty-seven thousand quid.”

Jenny Lindt rounded on him. “So that’s it? You’re just going to give up?”

“Find me an alternative.”

Suddenly she was standing in front of him. "All right, I’ve got an alternative. Leave the country. Grab what you can and go. Disappear just like that…" she searched her memory for a moment, “like that Lord Lucan did. Never be seen again."

"Hell, Jenny," Tom whispered in disbelief. "I can't do that."

She held her arms out wide, surprised that should he have trouble with the idea. "Why not!” It was so obvious to her. "Your clients get their money back from your Law Society, you said that. The taxman has got his money, so I say screw them. Screw the lot of them."

"Nice idea, Jenny but I can’t do that."

"Why not?”

“For one thing, Lord Lucan had some heavy friends. It’s easy to disappear when you’ve people like that putting up a smoke screen for you.”

“Well what's the option? Prison? You go to prison, you go to Brazil. Come on! Surely that’s a no-brainer, Tom. Take the money and run!"

"There is no money," he replied angrily. "And anyway I can’t.” She cocked her head on one side. “What about my sons; the people at the office; the creditors.” She waited. “I can't just walk away from a thing like this – I can't just run off and hope it will go away."

"That's bollocks," she declared. "The boys will just have to live with it. It's too late to think about them, now. Whether you're in jail or in South America, Angela will marry someone with money and the boys will forget about you. They won't want a thief for a father when they could have an accountant or an estate agent!"

The truth hurt but she waved aside his argument.

"Face it, Tom, it’s true. If your dad robbed little old ladies, you’d do the same thing.”

“I didn’t rob any little old ladies!” he cried.

“Whatever,” she said. “They won’t want their friends at school giving them a hard time any longer than they have to. And as for those poor sods at the office that you're so worried about, how many years do you have to pay their wages before you don't owe them anything? You worked till ten and eleven every night, they didn't. You're the one who made the running. You've looked after them, Tom. History. Now they'll just have to look after themselves. They'll get over it. Life's like that. Some days it's good other days it sucks. Think of yourself, now Tom. Everybody else does!"

"No, Jenny!” Walton cried. “I can't just walk away from it, I have to face it. I broke the law and I have to face the consequences. This isn't television, Jenny, this is the real world!"

"And that’s what people do in the real world, is it?” she cried. “That’s bollocks! And what am I supposed to do while you’re in prison? Am I supposed to wait for you? What about all that stuff you promised me?” She was in front of him, driven by the anger of her dreams betrayed. “You’re full of bullshit, Tom! You don’t know anything about the real world. I've been living in it since I was fifteen! I've begged on the streets till I couldn't beg any more, then I took the easy option. I’ve stolen bags, I’ve stolen food, I’ve stolen money for the drugs that bastard Gary got me on to. Christ, I've even screwed guys for the money to pay the rent on this rotten, cold, stinking flat. I know about the real world, Tom! You don’t."

She sank back against the table, shaking, and pointed a hand at him. "Jesus, I thought you were different, Tom. You were the lawyer. You were going to take me away from all this, remember? And I was stupid enough to believe you. To believe that - just for once - somebody would keep their promise to me. But it was all crap, wasn't it? Like this I can't walk away from it stuff. It’s what I've been fed all my life. Except yours was twenty-four carat gold-plated fucking crap, wasn’t it?" Tears welled up but she thrust them back. "That's what made it so believable, you bastard!"

No man had seen her cry since she left home and she was damn sure he wasn't going to be the first. "Give your self up," she ended suddenly and pushed past him to the bedroom. "I don’t care what you do, it’s not my fucking problem, is it?"

Tom Walton was shocked. He tried to remember what these promises were she spoke of and, all too easily, the glib sentences came back to him, things he'd whispered as they made love, extravagant offers he'd made out of the blue: to travel; to go to Greece; to see the renaissance art of Italy; to send her to art school. To get married? Had he ever suggested marriage? He didn't think so.

And she'd taken it all at face value, hadn't recognised any of it as idle dreaming. And why shouldn’t she? Hadn't he already made some dreams come true with opera tickets and London hotels? To her, he was some kind of knight in shining armour who could carry her away from the life she'd lived in Birmingham - an image he had basked in - until reality struck.

Carefully, Tom Walton picked up his watch and squinted at it in the half-light. Half past five. He had let her down. "Perhaps I should just go?" he asked quietly from the hall and she said, yeah, perhaps he should.


Jenny was asleep when the phone rang. Morning light filled her bedroom

She stumbled through to the sitting room and dragged the telephone back into bed with her. "Yes?"

"Jenny, it's me, Tom. Look, I'm sorry. I’m down at the Botanical Gardens. I’ve been thinking."

The girl looked at her alarm clock. It was nearly eight.

“I’m sorry Jenny. I didn’t mean to lead you on. I really meant those things I said about travelling and seeing Italy and all that.” There was a long silence and she felt he expected her to say she was sorry too, but she wasn't.


"And?" she said.

"And there is money."

"Good, you’ll be able to pay the forty thousand back, then won’t you?”

"No, not exactly."

"Tom, last night you said there wasn't any money and today there is. What’s going on?"

“I’ve realised there is a way.”

“A way to do what?”

“To stay out of prison.”

She waited.

“Jenny, if I do nothing, I’m going to jail. I don’t want that. God knows, I’ve been foolish, but locking me up doesn’t change anything. If I had to make the choice over writing that cheque again, I’d choose differently. But that’s history, now. I’m outside the law and that’s an end of the matter.”

In her flat, Jenny shook her head and Walton went on, “Look, if I’m going to go to prison, I’m going to make it worth my while.”

“Tom, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said in the silence that followed.

"Jenny, listen, if we're going to go to Brazil, we'll need cash."


"Well yes, we, a couple. Two people doing things together - you know. From what you said last night I thought that's what you had wanted."

"Until last night, it was,” she said. “But till last night, I didn't know you were skint."

"And that makes a difference?” he asked. “Is that what you're saying – you're only interested in me if I have money?"

She sighed. "No, Tom."

"That’s what it sounded like to me, Jenny."

"That’s not fair! I like you a lot, you know that. We get on well and you're fun to be with."

Walton added the unspoken but. "But I've suddenly got no money."

"It's not that. You're one of the nicest men I've been with. You took me off to London and did crazy things just for the hell of it. You make me laugh. But crazy things don't pay the bills, you can see that. You ask me if the money's important and I have to say Yes. Without money, tomorrow will just be the same as today.” She took a long breath. “Tom, I can get men without money any day of the week. I've been there."

"Yes. I know that, but listen, last night when I said there wasn’t any more money, I meant I didn’t have any, me personally. That's not to say that there isn't money to be had. There is, quite a lot of it, but it's not mine." She was silent and he said in a rush, "There's probably three hundred thousand left in the Client Account. Now would that make a difference?"

She took a long breath. "Are you serious?"

"Never more so," he said. "Look. I’ve already broken the law. I’m going down if they catch me. Where’s the difference? Forty thousand, three hundred thousand? It’s only a question of scale." He waited for some encouragement but none was forthcoming. "Jenny, are you on for this?"

"You could do this on your own,” she said. “You don't need me."

"I do, Jenny. I’ve lost everything. I’ve spent fifteen incredibly straight, boring years chasing success. And what have I found? It’s a chimera. It’s as unreal as the morning mist. I’ve wasted half my life, Jenny. I don’t want to waste the rest. Come with me. I love you. I need you."

"Tom, you don’t love me.”

“I do!”

“Jesus, we hardly know each other."

“We do. I know lots about you.”

“No you don’t.”

“I do, Jenny. Yes, you’ve broken some rules, but so have I now! The system let you down, so you said screw it. Fair enough, who wouldn’t? But you’re a damn-sight more honest than most of those so-called decent people I mix with. At least you give a straight answer to a straight question, like me needing money to be of interest to you. Well, I can get the money. So, will you come with me?”

“Tom, God knows, there's nothing for me to stay here for and you’re lovely, but what if it doesn't work out? What if you decide you don’t like me after all, that I’m not sophisticated enough for you, or you don’t like the way I live my life. I wouldn’t be able to just hop on a plane and come back to England, would I?”

“Well, no, I suppose not.”

She waited and at last Walton said, "Come on, Jenny, what do you want me to say? That we’ll be together forever?”

“It’d be a start.”

“Well, maybe we will but I thought Angela and I would be forever and look what happened there. I'm older, now and a bit wiser. No-one can talk about 'forever' … "

“Tom!” She stopped him. "Think about what you've just said. Would you run away to Brazil with someone under those terms? Come with me, I've got all this money but if we split up, there’ll be no hard feelings. Just what am I supposed to say to that? What do I do when we do split up? Go work on the streets of some South American city or something? You’re still dreaming.”

Walton thought very hard. Was he? What had he offered her? He went back over the conversation. "OK," he agreed slowly. "That's fair. Then we split it fifty-fifty.”

“Like that’s going to happen!” she cried.

“No. If it’s what you want, take it. Have your own money, a hundred odd thousand. You can be free to come and go as you please, live with me or leave me. I can deal with that. Just let’s give it a try. Come with me Jenny, please."

There was a nervous laugh, “Half and half?”


“You’re mad.”


There was a long pause. “When do you need to know by?”

He thought about that. How long did he have before the ceiling came crashing in on him? Half a day? Three days? He didn’t know.

“Now would be good,” he ventured.

“And you can you really get hold of this money?"

"Yes, I think I can."



There was another silence during which he could hear her whistling through her teeth. "Oh, fuck it,” she said at last.

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

"Thank you," Walton sighed. "Thank you Jenny.” He laughed briefly, “And I thought leaving the country was going to be hard!”

She laughed too.

“We should use your mini Metro, if we can,” he said. “My BMW's too ostentatious for a quiet exit."

"OK," she agreed.

"You remember, I got a new front number plate for my car after that shunt on the motorway? Can you just buy number plates over the counter somewhere?"

"No sweat.”

“Can you get me some?”

“What for?”

“I’ll tell you. Where do you get them from?"

“A motor factors, silly.”

“Right.” He should have known that. “Look, I thought you could take a look at that Rover dealership round the corner from you, find a car like yours and get some plates made up with the same registration number."

She sounded perplexed but said "Yeah, whatever you want."

Now that it was time to act, he wanted to get on with it. "Have you still got your key to my flat?" She said she had and he continued, "Good. Can you go round there and pack me some things."

"God, Tom, what do you want?"

"Oh I don't know, Jenny. You decide. Everything I shall need for the rest of my life, but no more than I can carry on one shoulder? Clothes, wash things, whatever looks important.” He paused. “You're sure you'll be able to get those number plates?"

"Tom, I can get the plates."

"Won’t you need some kind of paperwork?" he asked. “Registration documents or something?”

"Depends how tight my jeans are," she teased.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah!" she replied. "You'd be amazed what my arse can get me!"

Tom had to laugh. "You are shameless, do you know that? But I love you. Now, I've got to go. Best be at my desk when Dorothy arrives. I'll speak to you around lunchtime. Wish me luck!" He rang off.

She looked at the dead phone. "Uh, yeah," she said. "Bye Tom," and dropped it on its cradle.


Jenny sat for a long time at the kitchen table. Was she really going to be rich? She dressed and began to look around the flat trying to decide what she ought to pack for herself. There was nothing she needed from this flat. She could walk away. Leave it - all of it.

She had taken over the rent book, the furniture, and even the right to say who slept in the bed, the morning Gary had not come back from the hospital. Of the rest, there was little that she owned and less that she valued, especially today. What did she need from here? Tom had said fifty percent of two hundred thousand pounds. A hundred grand! In the bathroom, she threw toothbrush, toothpaste and assorted bottles and packets into a wash-bag,

She levered off a panel at the end of the bath and, kneeling down, reached into the damp, cobwebbed space, to recover an old coffee jar. Unscrewing the lid, Jenny pulled out a small roll of banknotes - her savings, a hundred and ten pounds. She knelt, holding the open jar, at the corner of the bath, remembering how, as a little girl, her father had scattered cornflakes in a space like this to tempt back her missing hamster and she had sat for hours in her night-dress, waiting for it to come back. Eventually they had discovered an empty nest of shredded paper, just out of her reach.

Jenny thought of those lost days as she put the lid back on the empty jar and placed it back under the bath.

More slowly now, she went back through the flat, picking things up and weighing them in her mind. Perhaps there were one or two she would like to take with her; a photograph of her parents, a picture she had been given by a girlfriend the day she left school. She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her clothes seemed all wrong, so hard, and so callous. What had happened to the little girl? Where had she been all these years? She sat silently on the edge of the bed. She missed her sister. Why had she left Becky alone like that, when she needed her so badly? How could she have been so blind she didn't see what was going to happen?

With a burning anger, Jenny remembered the face of another man - the one who had pretended to be a friend but who had destroyed her sister's life.

She thought of her mother who she hadn't seen for so long. She tried to picture Tom's mother and father, who she had never met. They would learn what he had done, why he had run away and they might be angry or ashamed, but at least they would know why he had disappeared. Her mother would never know. She had never known about Tom. She wouldn't be able to put two and two together, when she heard of the disappearance of a bent solicitor on Central Television News. She wouldn't be able to guess why her daughter had suddenly gone missing. God knows what she would think had happened to her. She would have visions of Jenny lying, buried under some freak's floorboards. The girl stopped and stared through the kitchen window at a plane full of holidaymakers that rumbled into the clouds from Birmingham Airport. If her mother ever did see her again, it would probably be under camera lights at Heathrow, handcuffed to a Policewoman. Either way, vanished or re-appeared, she would never see her daughter again as she did now.

Jenny searched for her address book, but could not find it. She called directory enquiries, for her mother's number and was just replacing the phone when it burst into life under her hand.

She jumped.

Cautiously she lifted the receiver. "Hullo?" she said.

"Hi, it's me."

"Tom, you scared me to death. Is something wrong?"

"No." There was the briefest pause. "I forgot to mention my passport. It's in the desk drawer in my sitting-room. Can you bring it too?"

"OK,” she said. "Desk drawer. Anything else?"

"Don't forget yours."

Jenny hesitated. Passport? When had she ever needed a passport? She decided not to tell him and simply answered, "Sure," before adding, "Have you thought how we're going to do this yet?"

"I'm working on it," he said. "Got to go."

Before he could hang up she said, "I'll be in at lunchtime. Call me?"

"Of course. Bye."


"Get Lewis for me at the bank," Walton called to his secretary when she came in at nine. "I want to see him this morning, can you arrange it?"

She brought him his coffee a few minutes later and placed it carefully on the desk, by his elbow.

"Mr Lewis says he can see you at 11.30. He's busy, but can fit you in for a few minutes."

I should bloody well think he can, Walton thought, after all the business I've given him.

"Thanks, Mary," he said. "Ask Dorothy to come in, will you?"

While waiting for the accounts clerk to arrive, Walton made a couple of phone calls; one to a businessman named Eddie Woo, the other call was to Enoch Hickman an ex-con, with whom Walton had a long standing relationship, having been responsible, variously, for keeping him out of prison or arranging for his sojourns at Her Majesty's pleasure to be as short as possible.

When Dorothy Brown arrived, he gestured to the seat opposite. "I expect you know I had a visit from the police, last night,” he said.

The accounts clerk studied her fingernails.

“I must say, I think you might have shared your concerns with me first,” he said and she looked into his face. He thought he saw doubt in her eyes for a moment but it passed. “It’s all a mistake, you know,” he continued. “I’ve asked Sergeant Burbidge to come back tomorrow afternoon so I can explain what’s happened. He paused. She was looking at her hands again. “I’ll need you to get some stuff together, if you’d be so kind,” he said with exaggerated indifference. “I'll want a list of all the transactions made through the bank since, say, last June. . File references, dates, amounts. Who from, who to. You know the sort of thing. I must have them first thing tomorrow."

As she left the room he called, "Better make it since last April, the tax year end, just to be safe."

"That'll keep you busy, you interfering old bat!” he said to himself as he shrugged on his jacket. He pressed the button on his intercom. "I'm going out now, Mary. Back after lunch. Tell Gerald to hold the fort. He'll have to see Appleby for me at 11.45."


Chapter 2