Dead Cert - By Dick Francis Page 0,85

I changed quickly and went outside to join him. He steered me towards the bar next to the Tote building, and we stopped at the gap, looking in to where Joe had died. There was a shoulder-high wooden fence across the entrance now, to keep sensation seekers out. A rusty brown stain on the gravel was all that was left of Joe.

‘A terrible thing, that,’ Pete said, as we stepped into the bar. ‘What did he say to you before he died?’

‘I’ll tell you sometime,’ I said idly. ‘But just now I’m more interested in where Admiral runs next.’ And over our drinks we talked solely about horses.

Returning to the weighing-room we found two men in belted raincoats waiting for us near the door. They wore trilby hats and large shoes, and gave off that indefinable aura of solid menace which characterises many plain-clothes policemen.

One of them put his hand inside his coat, drew out a folded warrant and flipped it in my direction.

‘Mr York?’


‘Inspector Wakefield’s compliments, and will you come down to the police station to help his enquiries, please.’ The ‘please’ he tacked on as an afterthought.

‘Very well,’ I said, and asked Pete to see Clem about my kit.

‘Sure,’ he said.

I walked with the two men across to the gate and through the car park.

‘I’ll get my car and follow you to the station,’ I said.

‘There’s a police car waiting for us in the road, sir,’ said the larger of the two. ‘Inspector Wakefield did say to bring you in it, and if you don’t mind, sir, I’d rather do as the Inspector says.’

I grinned. If Inspector Wakefield were my boss I’d do as he said, too. ‘All right,’ I agreed.

Ahead of us the sleek black Wolseley was parked outside the gate, with a uniformed driver standing beside it and another man in a peaked cap in the front passenger’s seat.

Away towards my right, in front of the ranks of parked horseboxes, several of the runners from Admiral’s race were being led up and down to get the stiffness out of their limbs before they were loaded up for the journey home. Admiral was among them, with Victor, his lad, walking proudly at his head.

I was telling the man on my right, the smaller of the two, that there was my horse and wasn’t he a beauty, when I got a shock which knocked the breath out of me as thoroughly as a kick in the stomach.

To cover myself I dropped my race glasses on to the turf and bent slowly to pick them up, my escort stopping a pace ahead of me to wait. I grasped the strap and slung it over my shoulder, straightening and looking back at the same time to where we had come from. Forty yards of grass separated us from the last row of cars. There was no one about except some distant people going home. I looked at my watch. The last race was just about to begin.

I turned round unhurriedly, letting my eyes travel blankly past the man on my right and on towards Admiral, now going away from me. As usual after a race, he was belted into a rug to avoid cooling down too quickly, and he still wore his bridle. Victor would change that for a head collar when he put him in the horse-box.

Victor’s great drawback was his slow wits. Endowed with an instinctive feeling for horses and an inborn skill in looking after them, he had never risen above ‘doing his two’ in forty years of stable life, and never would. I would have to do without much help from him.

‘Victor,’ I shouted, and when he turned round I signalled to him to bring Admiral over.

‘I just want to make sure the horse’s legs are all right,’ I explained to the two men. They nodded and waited beside me, the larger one shifting from foot to foot.

I did not dare to take a third look, and in any case I knew I was not mistaken.

The man on my right was wearing the tie I had lost in the horsebox on Maidenhead Thicket.

It was made from a piece of silk which had been specially woven and given to me on my twenty-first birthday by a textile manufacturer who wanted to do business with my father. I had two other ties like it, and a scarf, and the pattern of small red and gold steamships interlaced with the letter Y on a dark green background was unique.