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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Nothing Ventured

William Warwick Novels (Volume 1)

Jeffrey Archer

St. Martin's Press



July 14, 1979

“You can’t be serious.”

“I couldn’t be more serious, Father, as you’d realize if you’d ever listened to anything I’ve been saying for the past ten years.”

“But you’ve been offered a place at my old college at Oxford to read law, and after you graduate, you’ll be able to join me in chambers. What more could a young man ask for?”

“To be allowed to pursue a career of his own choosing, and not just be expected to follow in his father’s footsteps.”

“Would that be such a bad thing? After all, I’ve enjoyed a fascinating and worthwhile career, and, dare I suggest, been moderately successful.”

“Brilliantly successful, Father, but it isn’t your career we’re discussing, it’s mine. And perhaps I don’t want to be a leading criminal barrister who spends his whole life defending a bunch of villains he’d never consider inviting to lunch at his club.”

“You seem to have forgotten that those same villains paid for your education, and the lifestyle you presently enjoy.”

“I’m never allowed to forget it, Father, which is the reason I intend to spend my life making sure those same villains are locked up for long periods of time, and not allowed to go free and continue a life of crime thanks to your skillful advocacy.”

William thought he’d finally silenced his father, but he was wrong.

“Perhaps we could agree on a compromise, dear boy?”

“Not a chance, Father,” said William firmly. “You’re sounding like a barrister who’s pleading for a reduced sentence, when he knows he’s defending a weak case. But for once, your eloquent words are falling on deaf ears.”

“Won’t you even allow me to put my case before you dismiss it out of hand?” responded his father.

“No, because I’m not guilty, and I don’t have to prove to a jury that I’m innocent, just to please you.”

“But would you be willing to do something to please me, my dear?”

In the heat of battle William had quite forgotten that his mother had been sitting silently at the other end of the table, closely following the jousting between her husband and son. William was well prepared to take on his father but knew he was no match for his mother. He fell silent once again. A silence that his father took advantage of.

“What do you have in mind, m’lud?” said Sir Julian, tugging at the lapels of his jacket, and addressing his wife as if she were a high court judge.

“William will be allowed to go to the university of his choice,” said Marjorie, “select the subject he wishes to study, and once he’s graduated, follow the career he wants to pursue. And more important, when he does, you will give in gracefully and never raise the subject again.”

“I confess,” said Sir Julian, “that while accepting your wise judgment, I might find the last part difficult.”

Mother and son burst out laughing.

“Am I allowed a plea in mitigation?” asked Sir Julian innocently.

“No,” said William, “because I will only agree to Mother’s terms if in three years’ time you unreservedly support my decision to join the Metropolitan Police Force.”

Sir Julian Warwick QC rose from his place at the head of the table, gave his wife a slight bow, and reluctantly said, “If it so please Your Lordship.”

* * *

William Warwick had wanted to be a detective from the age of eight, when he’d solved “the case of the missing Mars bars.” It was a simple paper trail, he explained to his housemaster, that didn’t require a magnifying glass.

The evidence—sweet papers—had been found in the wastepaper basket of the guilty party’s study, and the culprit wasn’t able to prove he’d spent any of his pocket money in the tuck shop that term. And what made it worse for William was that Adrian Heath was one of his closest pals, and he’d assumed it would be a lifelong friendship. When he discussed it with his father at half term, the old man said, “We must hope that Adrian has learned from the experience, otherwise who knows what will became of the boy.”

Despite William being mocked by his fellow pupils, who dreamed of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, even accountants, the careers master showed no surprise when William informed him that he was going to be a detective. After all, the other boys had nicknamed him Sherlock before the end of his first term.

William’s father, Sir Julian Warwick Bt, had wanted his son to go up to Oxford and read law, just as he’d done thirty years before. But despite his father’s best efforts, William had remained determined to join the police force the day he left school. The two stubborn men finally reached a compromise approved of by his mother. William would go to London University and read art history—a subject his father refused to take seriously—and if, after three years, his son still wanted to be a policeman, Sir Julian agreed to give in gracefully. William knew that would never happen.

William enjoyed every moment of his three years at King’s College London, where he fell in love several times. First with Hannah and Rembrandt, followed by Judy and Turner, and finally Rachel and Hockney, before settling down with Caravaggio: an affair that would last a lifetime, even though his father had pointed out that the great Italian artist had been a murderer and should have been hanged. A good enough reason to abolish the death penalty, William suggested. Once again, father and son didn’t agree.

During the summer holidays after he’d left school, William backpacked his way across Europe to Rome, Paris, Berlin, and on to St. Petersburg, to join long queues of other devotees who wished to worship the past masters. When he finally graduated, his professor suggested that he should consider a PhD on the darker side of Caravaggio. The darker side, replied William, was exactly what he intended to research, but he wanted to learn more about criminals in the twentieth century, rather than the sixteenth.

* * *

At five minutes to three on the afternoon of Sunday, September 5, 1982, William reported to Hendon Police College in north London. He enjoyed almost every minute of the training course from the moment he swore allegiance to the Queen to his passing-out parade sixteen weeks later.

The following day, he was issued with a navy-blue serge uniform, helmet, and truncheon, and couldn’t resist glancing at his reflection whenever he passed a window. A police uniform, he was warned by the commander on his first day on parade, could change a person’s personality, and not always for the better.

Lessons at Hendon had begun on the second day and were divided between the classroom and the gym. William learned whole sections of the law until he could repeat them verbatim. He reveled in forensic and crime scene analysis, even though he quickly discovered when he was introduced to the skid pad that his driving skills were fairly rudimentary.

Having endured years of cut and thrust with his father across the breakfast table, William felt at ease in the mock courtroom, where instructing officers cross-examined him in the witness box, and he even held his own during self-defense classes, where he learned how to disarm, handcuff, and restrain someone who was far bigger than him. He was also taught about a constable’s powers of arrest, search and entry, the use of reasonable force, and, most important of all, discretion. “Don’t always stick to the rule book,” his instructor advised him. “Sometimes you have to use common sense, which, when you’re dealing with the public, you’ll find isn’t that common.”

Exams were as regular as clockwork, compared to his days at university, and he wasn’t surprised that several candidates fell by the wayside long before the course had ended.

After what felt like an interminable two-week break following his passing-out parade, William finally received a letter instructing him to report to Lambeth police station at 8 a.m. the following Monday. An area of London he had never visited before.

Copyright © 2019 by Jeffrey Archer