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About the Author
JEFFREY ARCHER was educated at Oxford University. He served five years as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons and has served twenty-six years as a Member of the House of Lords. Now published in 97 countries and more than 37 languages, all of his novels and short story collections—including Kane&Abel, Only Time Will Tell and This Was a Man—have been international bestsellers. Jeffrey is married with two sons and three grandchildren, and lives in London, Cambridge and Majorca.
Hometown:London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Date of Birth:April 15, 1940
Education:Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute
Read an Excerpt
It Can't Be October Already
By Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Jeffrey Archer
All rights reserved.
Patrick O'Flynn stood in front of H. Samuel, the jeweler's, holding a brick in his right hand. He was staring intently at the window. He smiled, raised his arm and hurled the brick at the glass pane. The window shattered like a spider's web, but remained firmly in place. An alarm was immediately set off, which in the still of a clear, cold October night could be heard half a mile away. More important to Pat, the alarm was directly connected to the local police station.
Pat didn't move as he continued to stare at his handiwork. He only had to wait ninety seconds before he heard the sound of a siren in the distance. He bent down and retrieved the brick from the pavement, as the whining noise grew louder and louder. When the police car came to a screeching halt by the curbside, Pat raised the brick above his head and leaned back, like an Olympic javelin thrower intent on a gold medal. Two policemen leaped out of the car. The older one ignored Pat, who remained poised, arm above his head with the brick in his hand, and walked across to the window to check the damage. Although the pane was shattered, it was still firmly in place. In any case, an iron security grille had descended behind the window, something Pat knew full well would happen. But when the sergeant returned to the station, he would still have to phone the manager, get him out of bed and ask him to come down to the shop and turn off the alarm.
The sergeant turned round to find Pat still standing with the brick high above his head.
"OK, Pat, hand it over and get in," said the sergeant, as he held open the back door of the police car.
Pat smiled, passed the brick to the fresh-faced constable and said, "You'll need this as evidence."
The young constable was speechless.
"Thank you, Sergeant," said Pat as he climbed into the back of the car, and, smiling at the young constable, who took his place behind the wheel, asked, "Have I ever told you about the time I tried to get a job on a building site in Liverpool?"
"Many times," interjected the sergeant, as he took his place next to Pat and pulled the back door closed.
"No handcuffs?" queried Pat.
"I don't want to be handcuffed to you," said the sergeant, "I want to be rid of you. Why don't you just go back to Ireland?"
"An altogether inferior class of prison," Pat explained, "and in any case, they don't treat me with the same degree of respect as you do, Sergeant," he added, as the car moved away from the curb and headed back toward the police station.
"Can you tell me your name?" Pat asked, leaning forward to address the young constable.
"Are you by any chance related to Chief Inspector Cooper?"
"He's my father."
"A gentleman," said Pat. "We've had many a cup of tea and biscuits together. I hope he's in fine fettle."
"He's just retired," said Constable Cooper.
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Pat. "Will you tell him that Pat O'Flynn asked after him? And please send him, and your dear mother, my best wishes."
"Stop taking the piss, Pat," said the sergeant. "The boy's only been out of Peel House for a few weeks," he added, as the car came to a halt outside the police station. The sergeant climbed out of the back and held the door open for Pat.
"Thank you, Sergeant," said Pat, as if he was addressing the doorman at the Ritz. The constable grinned as the sergeant accompanied Pat up the stairs and into the police station.
"Ah, and a very good evening to you, Mr. Baker," said Pat when he saw who it was standing behind the desk.
"Oh, Christ," said the duty sergeant. "It can't be October already."
"I'm afraid so, Sergeant," said Pat. "I was wondering if my usual cell is available. I'll only be staying overnight, you understand."
"I'm afraid not," said the desk sergeant, "it's already occupied by a real criminal. You'll have to be satisfied with cell number two."
"But I've always had cell number one in the past," protested Pat.
The desk sergeant looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"No, I'm to blame," admitted Pat, "I should have asked my secretary to call and book in advance. Do you need to take an imprint of my credit card?"
"No, I have all your details on file," the desk sergeant assured him.
"How about fingerprints?"
"Unless you've found a way of removing your old ones, Pat, I don't think we need another set. But I suppose you'd better sign the charge sheet."
Pat took the proffered biro and signed on the bottom line with a flourish.
"Take him down to cell number two, Constable."
"Thank you, Sergeant," said Pat as he was led away. He stopped, turned around and said, "I wonder, Sergeant, if you could give me a wake-up call around seven, a cup of tea, Earl Gray preferably, and a copy of the Irish Times."
"Piss off, Pat," said the desk sergeant, as the constable tried to stifle a laugh.
"Which reminds me," said Pat, "have I told you about the time I tried to get a job on a building site in Liverpool, and the foreman —"
"Get him out of my sight, Constable, if you don't want to spend the rest of the month on traffic duty."
The constable grabbed Pat by the elbow and hurried him downstairs.
"No need to come with me," said Pat. "I can find my own way." This time the constable did laugh as he placed a key in the lock of cell number two. The young policeman unlocked the cell and pulled open the heavy door, allowing Pat to stroll in.
"Thank you, Constable Cooper," said Pat. "I look forward to seeing you in the morning."
"I'll be off duty," said Constable Cooper.
"Then I'll see you this time next year," said Pat without explanation, "and don't forget to pass on my best wishes to your father," he added as the four-inch-thick iron door was slammed shut.
Pat studied the cell for a few moments: a steel washbasin, a bog and a bed, one sheet, one blanket and one pillow. Pat was reassured by the fact that nothing had changed since last year. He fell on the horsehair mattress, placed his head on the rock-hard pillow and slept all night — for the first time in weeks.
* * *
Pat was woken from a deep sleep at seven the following morning, when the cell-door flap was flicked open and two black eyes stared in.
"Good morning, Pat," said a friendly voice.
"Good morning, Wesley," said Pat, not even opening his eyes. "And how are you?"
"I'm well," replied Wesley, "but sorry to see you back." He paused. "I suppose it must be October."
"It certainly is," said Pat climbing off the bed, "and it's important that I look my best for this morning's show trial."
"Anything you need in particular?"
"A cup of tea would be most acceptable, but what I really require is a razor, a bar of soap, a toothbrush and some toothpaste. I don't have to remind you, Wesley, that a defendant is entitled to this simple request before he makes an appearance in court."
"I'll see you get them," said Wesley, "and would you like to read my copy of the Sun?"
"That's kind of you, Wesley, but if the chief superintendent has finished with yesterday's Times, I'd prefer that." A West Indian chuckle was followed by the closing of the shutter on the cell door.
Pat didn't have to wait long before he heard a key turn in the lock. The heavy door was pulled open to reveal the smiling face of Wesley Pickett, a tray in one hand, which he placed on the end of the bed.
"Thank you, Wesley," said Pat as he stared down at the bowl of cornflakes, small carton of skimmed milk, two slices of burned toast and a boiled egg. "I do hope Molly remembered," added Pat, "that I like my eggs lightly boiled, for two and a half minutes."
"Molly left last year," said Wesley. "I think you'll find the egg was boiled last night by the desk sergeant."
"You can't get the staff nowadays," said Pat. "I blame it on the Irish, myself. They're no longer committed to domestic service," he added as he tapped the top of his egg with a plastic spoon. "Wesley, have I told you about the time I tried to get a laboring job on a building site in Liverpool, and the foreman, a bloody Englishman —" Pat looked up and sighed as he heard the door slam and the key turn in the lock. "I suppose I must have told him the story before," he muttered to himself.
After Pat had finished breakfast, he cleaned his teeth with a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste that were even smaller than the ones they'd supplied on his only experience of an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. Next, he turned on the hot tap in the tiny steel washbasin. The slow trickle of water took some time to turn from cold to lukewarm. He rubbed the mean piece of soap between his fingers until he'd whipped up enough cream to produce a lather, which he then smeared all over his stubbled face. Next he picked up the plastic Bic razor, and began the slow process of removing a four-day-old stubble. He finally dabbed his face with a rough green hand towel, not much larger than a flannel.
Pat sat on the end of the bed and, while he waited, read Wesley's Sun from cover to cover in four minutes. Only an article by their political editor Trevor Kavanagh — he must surely be an Irishman, thought Pat — was worthy of his attention. Pat's thoughts were interrupted when the heavy metal door was pulled open once again.
"Let's be 'avin you, Pat," said Sergeant Webster. "You're first on this morning."
Pat accompanied the officer back up the stairs, and when he saw the desk sergeant, asked, "Could I have my valuables back, Mr. Baker? You'll find them in the safe."
"Like what?" said the desk sergeant, looking up.
"My pearl cufflinks, the Cartier Tank watch and a silver-topped cane engraved with my family crest."
"I flogged 'em all off last night, Pat," said the desk sergeant.
"Probably for the best," remarked Pat. "I won't be needing them where I'm going," he added, before following Sergeant Webster out of the front door and onto the pavement.
"Jump in the front," said the sergeant, as he climbed behind the wheel of a panda car.
"But I'm entitled to two officers to escort me to court," insisted Pat. "It's a Home Office regulation."
"It may well be a Home Office regulation," the sergeant replied, "but we're short-staffed this morning, two off sick, and one away on a training course."
"But what if I tried to escape?"
"A blessed release," said Sergeant Webster, as he pulled away from the curb, "because that would save us all a lot of trouble."
"And what would you do if I decided to punch you?"
"I'd punch you back," said an exasperated sergeant.
"That's not very friendly," suggested Pat.
"Sorry, Pat," said the sergeant. "It's just that I promised my wife that I'd be off duty by ten this morning, so we could go shopping." He paused. "So she won't be best pleased with me — or you for that matter."
"I apologize, Sergeant Webster," said Pat. "Next October I'll try to find out which shift you're on, so I can be sure to avoid it. Perhaps you'd pass on my apologies to Mrs. Webster."
The sergeant would have laughed, if it had been anyone else, but he knew Pat meant it.
"Any idea who I'll be up in front of this morning?" asked Pat as the car came to a halt at a set of traffic lights.
"Thursday," said the sergeant, as the lights turned green and he pushed the gear lever back into first. "It must be Perkins."
"Councillor Arnold Perkins OBE, oh good," said Pat. "He's got a very short fuse. So if he doesn't give me a long enough sentence, I'll just have to light it," he added as the car swung into the private carpark at the back of Marylebone Road Magistrates' Court. A court officer was heading toward the police car just as Pat stepped out.
"Good morning, Mr. Adams," said Pat.
"When I looked at the list of defendants this morning, Pat, and saw your name," said Mr. Adams, "I assumed it must be that time of the year when you make your annual appearance. Follow me, Pat, and let's get this over with as quickly as possible."
* * *
Pat accompanied Mr. Adams through the back door of the courthouse and on down the long corridor to a holding cell.
"Thank you, Mr. Adams," said Pat as he took a seat on a thin wooden bench that was cemented to a wall along one side of the large oblong room. "If you'd be kind enough to just leave me for a few moments," Pat added, "so that I can compose myself before the curtain goes up."
Mr. Adams smiled, and turned to leave.
"By the way," said Pat, as Mr. Adams touched the handle of the door, "did I tell you about the time I tried to get a laboring job on a building site in Liverpool, but the foreman, a bloody Englishman, had the nerve to ask me —"
"Sorry, Pat, some of us have got a job to do, and in any case, you told me that story last October." He paused. "And, come to think of it, the October before."
Pat sat silently on the bench and, as he had nothing else to read, considered the graffiti on the wall. Perkins is a prat. He felt able to agree with that sentiment. Man U are the champions. Someone had crossed out Man U and replaced it with Chelsea. Pat wondered if he should cross out Chelsea, and write in Cork, whom neither team had ever defeated. As there was no clock on the wall, Pat couldn't be sure how much time had passed before Mr. Adams finally returned to escort him up to the courtroom. Adams was now dressed in a long black gown, looking like Pat's old headmaster.
"Follow me," Mr. Adams intoned solemnly.
Pat remained unusually silent as they proceeded down the yellow brick road, as the old lags call the last few yards before you climb the steps and enter the back door of the court. Pat ended up standing in the dock, with a bailiff by his side.
Pat stared up at the bench and looked at the three magistrates who made up this morning's panel. Something was wrong. He had been expecting to see Mr. Perkins, who had been bald this time last year, almost Pickwickian. Now, suddenly, he seemed to have sprouted a head of fair hair. On his right was Councillor Steadman, a liberal, who was much too lenient for Pat's liking. On the chairman's left sat a middle-aged lady whom Pat had never seen before; her thin lips and piggy eyes gave Pat a little confidence that the liberal could be outvoted two to one, especially if he played his cards right. Miss Piggy looked as if she would have happily supported capital punishment for shoplifters.
Sergeant Webster stepped into the witness box and took the oath.
"What can you tell us about this case, Sergeant?" Mr. Perkins asked, once the oath had been administered.
"May I refer to my notes, your honor?" asked Sergeant Webster, turning to face the chairman of the panel. Mr. Perkins nodded, and the sergeant turned over the cover of his notepad.
"I apprehended the defendant at two o'clock this morning, after he had thrown a brick at the window of H. Samuel, the jeweler's, on Mason Street."
"Did you see him throw the brick, Sergeant?"
"No, I did not," admitted Webster, "but he was standing on the pavement with the brick in his hand when I apprehended him."
"And had he managed to gain entry?" asked Perkins.
"No, sir," said the sergeant, "but he was about to throw the brick again when I arrested him."
"The same brick?"
"I think so."
"And had he done any damage?"
"He had shattered the glass, but a security grille prevented him from removing anything."
"How valuable were the goods in the window?" asked Mr. Perkins.
"There were no goods in the window," replied the sergeant, "because the manager always locks them up in the safe, before going home at night."
Mr. Perkins looked puzzled and, glancing down at the charge sheet, said, "I see you have charged O'Flynn with attempting to break and enter."
"That is correct, sir," said Sergeant Webster, returning his notebook to a back pocket of his trousers.
Mr. Perkins turned his attention to Pat. "I note that you have entered a plea of guilty on the charge sheet, O'Flynn."
"Then I'll have to sentence you to three months, unless you can offer some explanation." He paused and looked down at Pat over the top of his half-moon spectacles. "Do you wish to make a statement?" he asked.
"Three months is not enough, m'lord."
"I am not a lord," said Mr. Perkins firmly.
"Oh, aren't you?" said Pat. "It's just that I thought as you were wearing a wig, which you didn't have this time last year, you must be a lord."
"Watch your tongue," said Mr. Perkins, "or I may have to consider putting your sentence up to six months."
"That's more like it, m'lord," said Pat.
"If that's more like it," said Mr. Perkins, barely able to control his temper, "then I sentence you to six months. Take the prisoner down."
"Thank you, m'lord," said Pat, and added under his breath, "see you this time next year."
The bailiff hustled Pat out of the dock and quickly down the stairs to the basement.
"Nice one, Pat," he said before locking him back up in a holding cell.
Pat remained in the holding cell while he waited for all the necessary forms to be filled in. Several hours passed before the cell door was finally opened and he was escorted out of the courthouse to his waiting transport; not on this occasion a panda car driven by Sergeant Webster, but a long blue-and-white van with a dozen tiny cubicles inside, known as the sweat box.
Excerpted from It Can't Be October Already by Jeffrey Archer. Copyright © 2017 Jeffrey Archer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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