In late 1978, Norwegian police cadet, Sven Ffolkes, on a year of overseas study at the University of York, is anticipating a pleasant Christmas vacation. He is staying in the staff apartment of Bramlington Grange, the isolated home of his friend Matt, in the Yorkshire Dales. Bramlington Grange is also the residence of the Foreign Secretary, Treddar Jones, who has called a briefing meeting on the deteriorating situation on Maratusse, an island in the Indian Ocean, which is one of Britain’s few remaining colonies. He accepts an invitation from Matt’s twin sister, Jenny, to take a walk in the Yorkshire Dales, while the briefing takes place, but rapidly deteriorating weather forces them to curtail it. Upon returning, amid a snowstorm, they discover that the fire alarms have been activated. With all roads blocked and the telephones not working, they find themselves isolated in the house, with a murderer. With no hope of anybody getting in or out of the house and no police presence, Treddar Jones asks Ffolkes to uncover the murderer from within the group comprising himself, Foreign Office Permanent Secretary, war hero, Sir David “Toby” Judd; Minister of State for Non-European Affairs, Angela Strong, a rising star with the Labour Party; his Parliamentary Private Secretary, ardent left winger, Nancy Anderson; his Principal Private Secretary, Kerry Bateman, who has a secret in her past; his researcher, glamorous socialite, Vikki Southgate and Matt’s parents Max and Jessica Flowers.
1 Pentonville prison 28th Feb 1951
Arthur Brent hugged his four-year-old daughter knowing it would be the last time he would ever see her. She could not possibly understand what was going to happen. It would be up to his wife to explain the unexplainable when little Ann was old enough to comprehend this travesty of justice. Meanwhile May Brent sat in the chair opposite desperately trying to keep her emotions under control.
‘It’s time’, Prison Officer Davis whispered, trying to be as considerate as he could. Although he felt little compassion for Arthur Brent, his professionalism would not allow him to show it. In any event he did not want to upset May Brent or her small daughter. They would learn that life for them was going to be hard enough without his adding to their pain. At least he could delay the inevitable for a few days. Brent put down his daughter and gave his wife a final hug.
‘One day they’ll know they got it wrong. Constable Harriman was my friend. I didn’t kill him. He saw something in me when the rest of them didn’t. I would have died to save him if I could have.
‘Now it must be you who shows them I told the truth. Believe me, if I was guilty I would tell you. Upon my solemn oath, I’m not. William Harman made his decision for political reasons and I’m sure he’ll get extra votes for it, but when you prove my innocence he should never sleep peacefully again. I curse him, may he too die an unjust death as I am about to’.
‘That’s enough now, Arthur.’
Brent felt Davis separating them as the door opened. Two female prison offices escorted May and Ann away for the final time. Ann looked back at him as she left, a big tear forming in her eye. She disappeared from view as a tall, thick set man wearing a long, dark brown cloak over a cassock entered the room.
‘I’ve come to stay with you until the end’, he declared in a booming voice more suited to the pulpit than a small prison cell.
Brent felt anger building inside him. He had no time for any form of religion. He saw it as an intrusion between individuals and their understanding of, and communication with, their maker. If he wanted to talk to God, then he would talk to him. He did not need this interfering busybody to intercede on his behalf. Who did this man think he was? By what right did he seek to invade the last hours of a condemned man who had not asked for him? He was not about to have any form of religion thrust upon him in his final hours.
‘Get out of here and take all your poison with you. Just leave me be to make my own peace in my own way.’
‘Now come on, Brent, Reverend Groves has come to be with you and comfort you until the end.’ Davis interjected.
‘Get him out of here before I throw him out. I don’t want him here.’
Brent moved to make good his threat but was grabbed and restrained by Davis and another officer, who sat him on the bunk and handcuffed him to it.
Groves had hardly started to speak before Brent yelled, ‘I may be about to die the death of a convicted murderer, but I still have rights. Go, or do I have to get my solicitor to make you go. I’m not your son, you pompous prick.’
Groves held his hands in front of his chest with his palms facing Brent. ‘Okay, I’m leaving, but I will pray for your soul.’
‘Pray for your own soul, you sanctimonious prat. You have far more evil on your conscience than I will ever have on mine.’
‘Well, that little display of pique has just cost you your choice of last meal, Brent’, the second officer said as both prison officers left him on his own.
‘I’ll come back when you’ve calmed down’, Davis said quietly.
‘Fine, come back when you like, I’ll be happy to see you. But keep that evil man away from me. Please tell the executioner not to bring him either. When it’s all over just say goodbye and bury me. I don’t want any of his evil utterances over me.’
‘Very well, Brent, that is your right. I’ll make sure it’s respected. I’ll tell the governor of your request. And I’ll make sure you get you last choice of meal. It’s a small act of decency and I will not have it taken from you, especially because you did nothing more than act within your rights. Now try and calm down, please. It’ll do you no good getting into a state.’
‘Yes, I could have a heart attack and cheat the executioner out of his fee, couldn’t I?’
Davis left without saying another word.
As dawn rose two days later May Brent was sitting watching her daughter sleeping peacefully. One day she would understand, but there was no point in her sharing the grief now. May had not slept all night or indeed much of any of the previous nights since William Harman, the Home Secretary, had rejected her husband’s final appeal for clemency. She silently cursed the real murderer of PC Harriman, put her head in her hands and thought about the suffering his family had gone through. Now it was her turn, and Ann’s when she was old enough to understand. She whispered, ‘goodbye’ and began crying again.