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Edward Markson’s annual poker evening was not an event to be missed – not at least if you valued his respect.  Invariably held at his Highgate home on the 18th December, exactly a week before Christmas, the same guests had made up the numbers for the last eight years. Even the production of a certified death certificate was unlikely to justify a player’s absence.

His wife, Jennifer, told her friends that his whole persona seemed to change in the days leading up to the “big game” as he called it.  He used to dig out his old card books, study the odds, and spend at least a couple of hours each night playing out hands against imaginary, yet formidable opponents, whilst boring his wife and children at length with great poker hands of the past, which involved him either as a bold winner or the most unfortunate of losers.

Rubber Bridge was his normal game and he was well known at the high stake table in the West End clubs as a very strong player, who could possibly have made it to international level if he had had the inclination.  But “Teddy” (as his friends called him), had neither the inclination nor the time.  Rubber Bridge he played for money - poker he played for blood.

Mr. Justice Markson had been a High Court Judge for twelve years, but he was no mere academic.  He swore that without his footballing skills he never would have seen the inside of Oxford University, where he studied history before transferring to law, on account of the fact that his tutor had told him he was a natural Raconteur, and that all the best stories were told in the Courts of Justice.  Qualifying as a barrister at 23; having spent his entire pupillage in a civil set of chambers of no real renown, he was immediately offered a tenancy; if only on the basis that the head of chambers (who had never seen him in Court) could tell at a glance that he had the bearing of a winner, and also (from the summary he had prepared for him of a ten year dispute between two petrol giants) that he could see the wood for the trees. (“a rare gift at the Bar”, as his head of chambers cynically put it).

On his third outing in the High Court, his opponent, already a leading junior, was so impressed that he was soon poached by one of the most respected sets of civil chambers.   Within two years he was in such demand he had to return more work than he took.  He was adored by the clerks, respected by solicitors and clients, as well as being greatly envied by most, if not all, of the tenants of his chambers.  On his feet in Court he had warmth, pace and always a keen grasp of the crucial points.  But it was his boyish charm that was by far his greatest asset.

Continued  below:

Continued … By the age of 32 it was patently obvious to any Judge that he was a rare breed.  Even his paperwork had none of the pomposity or length that appeared to have brought the civil system of justice to its very knees.   With all the cases thrown his way he soon realised that it was time to “up the stakes”.   However, such was his reputation that there were few solicitors who considered his charges to be excessive.   He took silk at the age of 37 at “the first attempt”, and, as his clerk put it, “without sitting on any toffee nosed committee either”.   He was, in short, his own man, but with none of the arrogance or conceit that is too often seen as a partner to success.

He married comparatively late at 38.  He had sworn to himself that he would never marry anyone involved in the law, and this promise he had kept as his wife was the daughter of a rich American art dealer.  He had met her whilst on holiday in Boston.  Within three months she had moved into his flat in Belsize Park.  From there, three years later, with the additional luggage of two children, they had moved to a rambling old house in Highgate.  She dedicated herself to restoring and renovating the home and looking after the children, he to reaching the very top of his profession.   In the school holidays they would usually join up with her family at her father’s holiday home in Naples, Florida.  Christmas would find them on the slopes of Arosa – but never before the 20th December.

By the age of 48 he had twice been approached to become a High Court Judge.  He had refused both requests out of hand, claiming he was enjoying life and the income at the Bar far too much.   At 50 he finally succumbed, having just concluded an out of Court settlement in a civil case, which he had undertaken for an enormous “all in” fee.   The case had originally been due to last eight months, so besides the preparation for the case, he had, in reality, earned an eight-month fee in one day.  This, together with the considerable wealth he had already amassed at the Bar would leave him and his family comfortably off if he lived to be 100.

In all, he had been at the Bar some 27 years and throughout this time he had never taken on a criminal case, not even as a pupil in his early days.   However, in the two months before his promotion to the Bench was to be officially announced, he found himself at a loose end.  As luck would have it, he was offered a two-week defence brief at the Old Bailey in a fraud case for a very fat fee.  His reputation was such that the solicitor though that instructing Edward Markson was the best insurance a Defendant could have, even if his only experience of criminal trials was sitting very occasionally as a part time Judge at Wood Green Crown Court trying mostly small time cases.

The mention of his appointment to the Bench in The Times was greeted with all round approval.  He was still considered to be “one of the lads” and still retained his boyish twinkle.  “If Markson was your Judge you could be sure of a fair hearing” was the general consensus.

But now at the age of 62, he had three years to go before his well-earned retirement, and who knows perhaps a monthly game of poker interwoven in amongst his weekly games of bridge.

Preparation for the annual pre Christmas poker game regularly saw his wife and him on an early morning visit to the food hall at Fortnum and Mason.  This, itself, had become part of the annual ritual.   His wife, invariably, managed to persuade him to visit the dress department as well, justifying it on the basis that “she was killing two birds with one stone!”     As for the poker game itself, the guests would arrive by 6 pm.  His wife, who was a superb cook, would arrange a tip top meal and the game itself would begin no later than 7.20 pm.   All the other five players were rich men, to them money meant very little – but winning meant everything.  Accordingly, the stakes had kept pace with inflation over the years.  Nicos Grivas, the Greek shipping magnate, and Teddy’s next-door neighbour had, the previous year, hired a private plane from Athens, when the regular flight had been delayed to ensure that he was knocking on Teddy’s door at 6 pm. prompt.

Charles Stephens – a West End litigation lawyer – refused to entertain any appointments or telephone calls throughout the afternoon prior to the Big Game for fear that he might be waylaid.

The other three players were David Creswell, (Teddy’s oldest school friend and retired merchant banker), Richard North, QC, (a defamation specialist) and Jonathan Pearson who had been Teddy’s stockbroker since his first fee note 39 years earlier.

The “Highgate Rules” meant that no winning player could leave the table before 3am without the approval of all of the losers.  In eight years this had never been obtained, which meant that the game usually rolled on until breakfast.

Poker allowed Edward Markson the freedom he never had at the Bar or at bridge.  At the Bar he had to suffer a client and a solicitor; and at bridge he was weighed down with a partner; but at poker he only had himself to thank or to blame and he loved it.  If his time in law and at the bridge table had taught him anything, it was to be a good Judge of character.

This attribute he used to maximum effect at the poker table.  The hesitation of a fellow player or a careless word, were immediately acted upon.  He liked noting better than to win a high pot on a bluff, “the Maestro’s done you again”, was often heard over an evening’s play, as Teddy pulled towards him a mountain of chips.

This particular pre Christmas game was no exception and by 10 o’clock “the Maestro” was well up.  His old pupil master had taught him years earlier “never to gloat in public”, but at this friendly event, gloating was par for the course and “Western style” bravado encouraged.

Two rounds of dealer’s choice was the name of the game.   Teddy favoured “draw poker” as this provided the greatest leeway for his bluffing style of play.  The Maestro had just lost a comparatively small pot.  He had changed one card trying to draw a flush unsuccessfully.  He had then tried to bluff for too small a bet and had been called.  As it transpired, this set up the scene nicely for him in the following hand.  Holding five unrelated cards, he was sitting in pole position, being last to bet.  He knew well that the best time to bluff was immediately after you had lost a pot by a revealed bluff.  The five other players called the opening bet and now Markson made a sizeable raise.  Two called and three folded. Nicos, his Greek neighbour changed one card and showed a trace of disappointment in the form of the slightest of grimaces on seeing his replacement card.  This indicated to Markson that he had probably missed his flush.  Richard changed three cards, which meant that he had bet originally on no more than a high pair.  Too many years in the High Court had made his face a complete giveaway but, in any event, he had a “tell”.   When he had a good hand he used to reach for a fresh cigarette even if he was smoking one already.  On this occasion he continued with his old one.

Teddy changed no cards at all.  Two checks followed and Teddy bet the pot without a moment’s hesitation.  His fellow Judge with the supposed high pair hesitated and Teddy could almost see him thinking that either the Greek had pulled his flush or Teddy had a pat hand.  Either way, according to his courtroom logic, he saw no point in calling and stacked what Teddy knew to be the best hand.

The Greek was aware of Teddy’s style of play and was less convinced, but was damned if he was going to call Teddy on an ace high bust flush and look ridiculous.  Reluctantly he too stacked.  After being nagged by all the others to show his hand, and partly because of his warm boyish nature, he turned his miserable five cards face up, to the indignation of all the others.

“Teddy, you should be in Las Vegas, not wasting your time for a pittance in a wig and gown,” said Nicos good-humouredly.

“In three years time maybe I will boys” he answered with a perfectly affected Western drawl.

A tea break was called and all the players ambled around the large lounge eating a selection of Fortnum and Mason delicacies.  His old school mate flopped into a welcoming armchair and started to gaze haphazardly at The Times that he had picked up from below the coffee table.  All of a sudden, his formerly lowered eyebrows pricked up in surprise.

“Hello”, he said staring intently at the newspaper, “Teddy, didn’t you once act for Charlie Daniels?”    

“Yes, I did”, Teddy replied, “and it was the biggest mistake I ever made, I got him seven years, why?”

“Well, he’s just died” was the reply.   The fellow Judge proceeded to read out the article, which was headed:

“British Underworld Boss Dies”.

“Charlie Daniels, known in the underworld as “The Elephant” as much for his size (he weighed over 20 stone) as his unforgiving nature, died yesterday of heart failure.   His quote on a TV chat show (but basically stolen from an old John Wayne movie), ‘no one will ever accuse me of being in the forgive and forget business’ has become part of British criminal folklore.  During his career he appeared no less than five times in major trials at the Old Bailey.  He was only convicted once, namely at his last trial twelve years ago when he was sentenced to seven years for fraud, ultimately reduced to five years on appeal.  On his release from prison he is said to have mellowed somewhat and claimed to have retired from what he called on the chat show ‘a life of lawlessness’.  In recent years he has taken up virtual full time residency in the south of France.  Despite his notoriety, he was said to have had a fine mind and could easily have been successful on the right side of the law, had he so chosen.  Barry Slater, his solicitor of twenty years standing said yesterday “I recall waiting with him at an identification parade 18 years ago when the police were having real difficulty in finding suitable volunteers to stand on the line up with him due to his size and unusual appearance.  He borrowed my Daily Telegraph and proceeded to knock off the crossword puzzle with consummate ease.  Even the Station Inspector was impressed”.

“It’s all true” Teddy said finally, “I was the only barrister to lose a case for him and I really blew it as well”.  The six friends had now returned to the card table and the cards were being shuffled by Jonathan in preparation for the second round of the evening’s play.

“Speaking for myself”, said Jonathan “I’d very much like to hear this story, even if it delays the game by a little bit, and there’s not many story tellers better than you Teddy”.  The curiosity of everyone had been aroused and such was the pressure put on him that in the end, if somewhat reluctantly, Teddy agreed to tell his tale.

“Well, alright, if you really insist.  I suppose there is no real harm after all these years now that he has passed on.  Now, let me see, it was just over twelve years ago and I’d just finished an out of court settlement in an insurance case and, fool that I was, I had finally agreed to become a Judge.  I had two months to kill before my official appointment.  Some of my friends at the Bar had for years teased me about my refusal to set foot in the Old Bailey, to put my advocacy to the acid test.  They’d badgered me saying things like “Teddy, it’s all very well pontificating before some senile Judge in the High Court, but how about testing your skills on twelve good men and true?” or “Let’s see how you get on when your client’s fingerprints are all over the murder weapon and he’s made a signed confession”.  But, I’d stood my ground, I knew my limitations.  I’d seen too many Old Bailey hacks try to dance on ice in the High Court only to end up looking like donkeys.

But now, with my career as a barrister virtually over, I finally succumbed. I remember it as if it were yesterday.  I was in my room at chambers, enjoying throwing out 27 years of case papers and files when Robert, my Clerk, came in and told me he had a solicitor by the name of Barry Slater on the phone asking for me and no one else to act fore his client in a ten day fraud case at the Old Bailey to begin two weeks later.

Apparently, his QC of four previous victories, the late great Victor Drummond, could not get released from his last case, which was running way over estimate.  The Court had refused to postpone the fraud trial until he was available.  Try as they might, the solicitors could not find a top criminal replacement so near the trial date.  Of course, at first I declined, but then the next day the solicitor was back on the phone, doubling the brief fee and saying I could choose any junior I liked.  I was flattered.  Enter one conceited and greedy barrister – yours truly.

Being loyal to chambers, and knowing that some of our younger tenants had recently acquired a mixed civil and criminal practice, I took as my junior Dorothy Braithwaite.  That was my second mistake.  When we went for our conference at Wormwood Scrubs, Charlie Daniels took one look at her and gasped. “A woman, I’ve never had a woman as part of my team before!”  He gave me a quizzical stare as if he was wondering whether I was “playing with a full pack” to use one of his favourite expressions.

It was blatantly apparent from our first meeting that I was dealing with no ordinary criminal.  He was not only very streetwise, but also highly intelligent and a first class judge of character.  Worse still, he had an excellent grasp of the criminal legal system and constantly referred to Victor Drummond, his previous QC in revered tones.  I kid you not, he made me feel quite a beginner.

I won’t bore you with all the minor details of the case, but in short, he was charged with conspiracy to defraud with two missing Italians and some additional counts of fraudulent trading.  The losses were just over one million pounds. He did not need me to tell him that the case against him was not particularly strong, but he was concerned that his reputation might bring him down because if his notoriety was known by even one of the jurors, it would certainly become known by all by the end of the trial.  With this point in mind, he wanted me to try and strike a deal with the Judge that if he pleaded guilty to one of the lesser charges against him, he would not go to prison, bearing in mind that he had already spent seven months in custody awaiting trial.

The Prosecution, who were well aware of his successful track record, readily agreed to drop the conspiracy charge on this basis. This left the major problem of persuading the trial judge to set him free. Of course, with a big name like Charlie Daniels on trial, the list officer made sure we didn’t have some pushover as our tribunal, but drawing Maxwell Fyffe (known to all and sundry as “Mack the Knife” because of his severity of sentence) was not a good omen.

My client, Daniels, told me Fyffe had been his trial judge some years before, and when Daniels was acquitted of arranging an underworld hit, the judge had stormed off the bench, saying in a loud aside to the clerk ‘ Daniels is the best reason for the abolition of the jury system I have ever heard of!’

In I went to the judge’s room with the prosecutor. Fyffe was sitting there looking, if anything meaner than his reputation. I asked him if he had had a chance to read the Prosecution papers, and he answered that he had got as far as reading the Defendant’s name – ‘ did he need to go any further?’ He quizzed the Prosecution, as the amount of losses and that was the end of any deal as far as Fyffe was concerned. The wily Judge, I’m sure, was confident that Daniels partnered by Markson was not the same doubles team as the deadly duo of Daniels ad Victor Drummond.

“ Well things went from bad to worse. On the first afternoon in open court I called the Prosecution  “the Plaintiff” by mistake. In jumped Fyffe explaining that I was an import from the Queens Bench Division and a mistake like that could happen to any QC on his debut at the Old Bailey. I could feel Daniel’s eyes burning into the back of my head but he never said a word. On day three of the trial, an important decision had to be taken as to whether to suggest that the arresting officer was a liar regarding his evidence that certain incriminating documents had been found in Daniel’s home, connecting him with two of the fraudulent companies. Daniel’s was in favour of dealing with it lightly because they had only been found on the second search. He wanted me to hint at the reasons why this might have been so in my closing speech. My junior, Dorothy Braithwaite, who was a walking criminal law textbook (but unfortunately had no idea of tactics) said it could not be left “ in the air”. I ended up telling the client I had to put in no uncertain terms that these documents had been planted at his home, and in I steamed to the detective Inspector who claimed to have found them.  The result was that several pages were submitted to Scotland Yard’s forensic laboratory overnight for emergency fingerprinting. I was greeted the after the weekend with the news that six of Daniels fingerprints had been found on them. The case had now swung from a probable winner to virtually a certain loser, but still not a word of complaint from the client.

It seemed to me that the state of affairs was so appalling that the only hope of saving himself was to call Daniels to give evidence in his defence. After all he was intelligent and well presented. Perhaps the jury would take a liking to him. He was obviously surprised by my decision. ‘Give evidence! I never had to give evidence when Mr Drummond defended me,’ he said. ‘And perhaps you can explain how I’m going to overcome the little fingerprint problem you’ve created. But you are running the show Mr Markson, you give the orders.’

“The rest is history. In he went to bat. He was attacked by the prosecutor, and then the judge who, all could see, was having the time of his life. His account was so feeble in the light of the fingerprint evidence, that the jury could hardly keep straight faces.

I desperately tried to save what I could in my closing speech, which had the added misfortune of being on semi final afternoon at Wimbledon. I suggested to the judge that I should make my speech first thing on the following Monday. The judge, fully aware that I was bound to alienate the jury (if I had any supporters left by this stage) by speaking at length on a hot Friday afternoon during Wimbledon, said he could not allow such a gross waste of court time at public expense. The following Monday afternoon the jury retired and frankly there was more chance of a British player winning Wimbledon than of Daniels being acquitted. After two hours they were back, and down he went.

Judge Fyffe adjourned the sentence until the following morning to make sure the press were present. The sophistication of the crime and the extent of the losses warranted, in his view, a minimum of seven years”. Teddy paused to ensure that the sentence sank in.

“ Well,” he continued, “ you might have thought that was the end of my troubles but it was only the beginning. At the appeal hearing, Daniels, not surprisingly reverted to the superior services of Victor Drummond. In the light of the fingerprint evidence which I had created, even Drummond could not help him against conviction, although he managed to have his sentence reduced to five years, on the basis that the judge might have given him two extra years for having the audacity to be acquitted four times previously.

A few days after the appeal I received a message that Drummond wanted to see me. I could not imagine why, bearing in mind the appeal was over but of course I agreed. He came to see me in my room at the High Court and in his delicate but forthright way he told me that he was, most unhappy about certain remarks Daniels had made to him both before and after his appeal. Daniels had told Drummond that he was absolutely livid with me for the following reasons; -

a)     I should never have taken the case. It was my ego that led me blindly into it;

b)    I had been paid an enormous fee and he would have been better off defended by a novice pupil;

c)    I should never have chosen an academic kid girl as my junior, I should have taken a top criminal junior even thought it meant being disloyal to chambers;

d)    My cock up leading to the discovery of the fingerprint evidence, was all because no one in the defence team had asked in general terms of the Prosecution before the trial, what had, and what had not been submitted to the police laboratory.

Finally, I had by no means, heard the last of this and that he had not been given the nickname ‘ The Elephant’ for nothing.

Drummond didn’t press the point too hard but he made it clear that he had acted for Daniels for years and heard stories of revenge. These were, no doubt, exaggerated, but again, there might be some truth in them. Anyway, he said he thought I should be on my guard, and there he left it.

About three months later, I heard that Daniels elder son, Charlie junior, had been shot dead in a police ambush just outside “The Mint” during an armed robbery. My old chambers clerk had spoken to Daniels solicitor, Slater, who said that Daniels was inconsolable, and that his client was telling all and sundry that it would never have happened if he had been free, and that a certain High Court Judge was to blame.

The prison Authorities moved him to a high security prison because they had heard about these outbursts. He even blamed me for this as well, suggesting that I must have been behind this move, and that my Day of Judgment was fast approaching.

What with the time that Daniels had spent on remand before the trial and the time since his conviction, it wouldn’t be too long before his release. What were my options?

a)     To return my fee with interest? – that would make good reading in the tabloids;

b)    To call in the police? – that would end up being leaked to the press and I might have to retire as a judge;

c)    To write him a letter – saying what? “Terribly sorry old fellow that you’re serving seven years because my vanity fancied a run out in the Old Bailey before I retired, but never mind, you’ve probably lost a fair bit of weight in prison and the whole fiasco was really a blessing in disguise for you!”

In the weeks before his release I considered my options very carefully. Doing nothing was simply not one of them. I was damned if I was going to live in continual fear of some terrible retribution. Anyway it wouldn’t be fair on my family.

Finally I decided. I would wait until he was out of prison for a week or two then pay him a surprise visit at his home. I would tell him I was aware of his feelings and that, through the grapevine, I had been left in no doubt as to the nature of his intentions. I would admit to him that I never should have taken the case, and that any half decent criminal barrister might have secured his acquittal. I would go on to add that my ‘cock up’ causing the fingerprint evidence to come to light filled me with shame (as it did). But there was nothing I could do about it and I was not prepared to live in fear, for my family or myself. I would tell him that, to this end, if anything happened to my family or me, the same fate or worse would befall him. I would go into graphic detail that I had used my father in laws connections in Miami, making it abundantly clear as to what action would be taken in retaliation. I would specifically state that I had already paid $50,000 in cash to obtain a certain “specialist” in America, with a further $100,000, which was already in the hands of my father in law, to be paid over if required.”

For the first time during his story Teddy suffered an interruption.

“Arrogant nonsense” said Richard North. “ Did you expect an old pro like Daniels to fall for that?”

Teddy hesitated for a moment as if intending to answer the question then changed his mind and continued.

“ Finally he was released. I tell you no lie, if I say that I practised for about an hour each day in front of my bathroom mirror as to what I was going to say to him, whilst trying to prepare for every eventuality. The only problem was that I knew that he would sniff out any falsities in my story instantly, and that made my preparation infinitely more difficult.

I decided to pay my visit relatively early upon a Sunday morning on the basis that this would be a time when he would be most likely to be home. He lived in a large house in Stanmore and I looked up the exact address from my old case papers. I drove round there alone, and no one knew my intentions. Oddly enough I felt quite calm. Little did I know what I was in for.

His wife answered the door she did not appear to recognise me at first, even though she had sat loyally in the public gallery throughout the entire trial.

“ My name’s Edward Markson madam, and I’ve come to speak to your husband”

She was quite taken aback but finally found her feet and showed me into a large and expensively decorated lounge where a portrait of two boys hung over the fireplace. I could hear her whispering in the kitchen nearby and about 30 seconds later, the lounge door opened and in walked in Charlie Daniels. It was over two years since I had seen him and, if anything he looked better. Her certainly had lost a couple of stone or more but his hair was almost snow white. The first thing he said to me was,

“ Mr Markson – you see the older of the two boys in that painting? That was my boy, Charlie. The police shot him dead whilst I was away. It would never have happened if you had won my case for me. He’d never had gone on that robbery if I had been found not guilty. You never should have taken my case” He stared at me with anger blazing from his walrus- like face. I was most uneasy in front of him and could not maintain eye contact. He added that he had to attend his son’s funeral in handcuffs and the cemetery had been surrounded by armed police, and that I would never know how that felt.

Things were not going at all as I had planned, but I finally gathered my courage and found my voice.

“You haven’t asked me why I’ve come to see you”.

He replied that he knew why, and that it was because I had heard of his criticisms of me and how he was burning for revenge. I had come to admit to him at long last that I never should have taken the case, but the fact was that there was nothing I could do about it now to turn the clock back. When he said these words, it was as if he had been hiding in my bathroom when I had been practising my lines in front of the mirror. I had indeed underestimated how highly intelligent he was.

I decided that it was now or never, and I had to bite the bullet or my journey would surely have been a miserable failure. I cast aside any feelings of sympathy for his prison sentence and his son’s death, and told him in as firm a voice as I could muster, that I was not prepared to live in fear of revenge, and I was sick of receiving snippets of information regarding his intentions. He just stared at me. In fact it looked as though he was staring right through me.

Undaunted I continued. I told him of the $150,000 I had taken out of my bank account and that with the assistance of my father in law and his connections I had placed a third of that sum as a retainer in Miami, with the balance to be paid without hesitation if required. I even went into some detail of the personal discussions I had in Miami in a famous French restaurant known to be frequented by the rich and infamous. I brought my trip to Miami to life for all I was worth.

When I finished, Daniels remained silent. He just stared at his son’s painting above the fireplace as if he had forgotten I was still in the room. Finally he said, “ You’re Lying Mr Markson – you’re surely bluffing”. Then without a further glance in my direction he walked briskly out of the room, calling for his wife to show me out.

For five days afterwards I had no idea where I stood. However on the morning of the following Saturday, I heard something being pushed thought my letterbox and the sound of a motorbike departing at speed. I have kept the letter to this day”

At this stage of his story Teddy left the poker table and went over to his private desk at the other side of the room. Using a small key from his pocket, he removed an old ivory coloured envelope from one of the locked drawers and returned to the card table. Taking out the one sheet of paper from within, he passed it round the table for his friends to read.

The Old Coach House

Riverdale Road

Stanmore, Middlesex

14th March

To Mr Justice Markson

I have decided not to call your bluff

Charlie Daniels

The letter was passed round in silence and finally returned to the storyteller.

“Since that day I have neither heard from him or of him until you read me the news of his death tonight”.

Throughout the story, Teddy had seen his Greek neighbour, Nicos, puffing and sighing. It was evident to Teddy that he wanted to ask a question. Finally, he could not contain himself any longer.

“ That’s some story, but I doubt that it would have fooled me. What would you have done if Daniels had asked for proof of withdrawal of $150,000 cash out of your bank?”

“ I had that eventuality covered,” said Teddy “ I would have shown him a copy of my bank statement which I had taken along with me.”

“ And what if he said he was familiar with all the major crime families in Florida, and tested you on details?” asked his old school mate.

“ Well besides omitting the name of the actual hit man and the organiser, perhaps I would have been able to give him those as well,” replied Teddy.

“And supposing he had asked you to prove that you had been in Miami for this purpose?” Posed Nicos his Greek neighbour.

“ I would have shown him the ticket which I kept of my journey.”

“Good Lord, you made sure you set up your bluff perfectly - I’ll give you that Teddy,” Nicos replied.

Teddy Paused but he could not resist replying. He regretted his next words as soon as he spoke them

“What bluff? – I only bluff at the poker table”

. Ten eyes stared at him intently. It was left to his old school mate David Creswell to try and draw him out.

“Do you mean to say that not only did you draw $150,000 out of your bank in cash, but then you took the money with you to Miami, and there entered into a nefarious deal with a mafia connection of your father in law, handing over some sort of completely illegal advance life assurance payment?”

Teddy delayed answering again, and surveyed his audience. They hung on his every word, having difficulty believing what Teddy was implying. It was clear now to Teddy that he would have to choose his words with some care.

“However much I practised my “lines” in the bathroom mirror, I was never really satisfied as to my ability to pull it off as a bluff on the day, if you understand my meaning”.

“ No, I am afraid I don’t,” retorted Richard North. “I’m sorry but you’re going to have to spell it out for us simpletons – were you bluffing him or not?”

“May I borrow your lighter and ashtray Richard?” The flick of the lighter broke the uneasy silence as Teddy set flame to the faded letter from Daniels, consigning its contents to oblivion. “This Insurance Policy has now well and truly expired”

Richard repeated his question “Well were you bluffing Daniels or not?”

Teddy looked around the table at each of his friends, pausing briefly before replying.

“Let me put it this way, and you can read into it what you will. Was it not Conan Doyle who said that the best way of successfully acting a part is to be it? I made the mistake after the last deal of showing you all my cards…. the remainder of this ‘hand’ I intend to play very close to my chest”.

“Your deal I believe Jonathan”.

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