Son of Perdition, p.18Wendy Alec
‘Have you shared this with Jason?’
Nick shrugged. ‘You know Jason. He hasn’t returned my calls for years.’
‘Get some fresh air, Nicky.’ Adrian gestured towards the terrace doors. ‘Give me thirty minutes.’
The buzzer started again. Adrian hit the button. He pressed a remote and twelve enormous flat-panel monitors slid down the far wall. Two tiers of state-of-the-art computer terminals and leather seating ascended from the floor.
Immediately, the head of Adrian’s International Security Agency entered, followed by the European Secretary of Defence.
Adrian settled back into one of the custom-made grey leather seats.
Nick walked out just as the Iranian Premier’s face materialized on the huge screens.
He wandered onto the huge overhanging terrace that surrounded the Abbey and gazed out at the smooth grey expanse of ocean, then slowly walked towards the northern wing. He took his sunglasses out of his jacket pocket and put them on. Some fifty feet below him military police sprawled across the lawns of a square courtyard.
Standing in the centre of the courtyard was a tall lean man with severe features and badly dyed jet-black cropped hair. Nick would have known that haircut anywhere.
It was Kurt Guber.
Guber disliked Nick intensely. Nick knew that he had reason enough.
Nine years ago, at the age of twenty-four, playboy Nick De Vere’s prime occupation had been to dissipate the first tranche of his massive trust fund in every exclusive private club from London to Monte Carlo. Unluckily for Nick, he was not only a De Vere but the new Prime Minister’s youngest brother, and his antics had been splashed across the gossip pages of UK newspapers by the tireless London celebrity spin doctors.
Nick’s antics had fast become detrimental to Adrian’s meteoric political career and it had fallen to Guber, as Adrian’s head of security, to clean up Nick’s dirt. For months, Guber had warded off the savage London paparazzi, buried Nick’s cocaine habit in a slew of lies and false witnesses, and salvaged what little was left of Nick’s reputation. All in the interest of Adrian’s glittering career.
Guber despised Nick almost as much as Nick despised Guber and his thugs.
Guber had been with Adrian for years, first as head of security at Downing Street, and now as Director of EU Special Service operations. Exotic Weapons Specialist.
Guber’s grandfather had been in charge of one of the Nazis’ most advanced covert weapons programmes. Who knew what Guber was concocting in his sprawling underground city?
Nick stared at Guber lazily. He looked pallid. Too much time in the bunker. Nick grinned.
Guber walked across the lawn And looked up towards the balconies. Nick waved in his direction.
Guber’s expression hardenedand he continued walking, deep in conversation with a second man, whose face was hidden by Guber’s head.
Nick continued staring lazily at the Atlantic, then looked back down at Guber again. The man had vanished. There was just his companion, gazing up at the palace.
Nick stared at the man, then reached inside his pocket. He took out the photograph of Julius and his four companions, then looked back through the doors at Adrian, seated at his desk in intense conversation. Nick moved swiftly towards the grand arched steps.
He hurried down one flight, then the next until he was on a balcony just ten feet above where the man stood.
He had a high, domed forehead, silver hair cropped to half an inch from his scalp, a hawk-like nose – but it was the eyes . . . eyes so pale they seemed to be almost colourless.
The man below him was the very man standing on Julius De Vere’s left in the photograph. And he was connected with Guber.
He needed to tell Adrian immediately.
Nick stiffened as Guber walked back towards Kester Von Slagel.
Von Slagel surveyed the helipad.
‘The preparations are in order?’
‘All everyday staff are declassified, your Excellency. By 6 p.m., only our private army will be within the grounds.’
‘My Master’s orders must be adhered to,’ Von Slagel said.
Guber nodded again.
‘A no-fly zone from 4 p.m. Airspace surveillance. The Hawks land at 8 p.m. The Eagle will land at 8.20 precisely. Delivery of the Ark to De Vere will be complete by 9 p.m.’
Nick aimed his digital camera directly at Von Slagel’s face.
‘His Excellency’s orders are my command. As always.’
‘He is comfortable?’
‘The West Wing is entirely at his disposal. He lacks for nothing.’
Von Slagel smiled. “My discussion with De Vere last night clarified the remaining details.’
Nick gaped in disbelief. Adrian did know the hawk-faced stranger with cropped white hair. He had lied to Nick about the photograph. He had not only seen Von Slagel before: he knew him. Nick’s heart sank. He raised the camera, looked through the lens and clicked the switch.
Von Slagel looked up, directly at Nick. He frowned. Guber followed his gaze.
‘Lost your way, Mr De Vere?’ Guber stared in irritation at the camera clasped in Nick’s hand. Unsmiling.
‘Gorgeous view, Guber.’ Nick grinned deliberately. ‘Don’t you think?’
Guber scowled, then ignored him.
‘You know, you really should get some more sun, Guber,’ Nick shouted over the balcony, his heart racing. ‘You’re looking a little pasty. You know what they say – all work and no play makes Kurt a dull boy.’
Nick retraced his steps up the first flight of stairs, his hands trembling.
Von Slagel turned to the scowling Guber. ‘What is De Vere doing here? I want no interference before our plans are complete.’
‘Last-minute decision. It wasn’t in the schedule. He’s a low-lying parasite. Perfectly harmless.’
‘Get rid of him,’ Von Slagel muttered. ‘Off the property. Now.’
Kester Von Slagel limped across the lawn and disappeared.
Nick stood outside the cherrywood doors. His hands still shaking, he replaced the brown envelope in the satchel then walked back into the drawing room.
Adrian was immersed in conversation with the Iranian Premier. Nick looked around, then headed to the men’s room. On his way he picked up a blank compliments slip.
He locked himself in the bathroom, safely out of sight of the surveillance cameras.
He swung round. There was no one there but he was sure someone was in the room with him. Nick hesitated, as a strange euphoria infused his senses. He recognized it. It was the same presence that he had sensed in the lower crypt of the monastery. He smiled.
Someone was watching over him.
With trembling fingers, he took the photograph of De Molay, Von Slagel and Julius out of the brown envelope and replaced it with a blank Mont St Michel compliments slip. Then with a glance at the photograph, he stashed it in his satchel.
He washed his hands, hesitated, loath to leave the mysterious presence. He shook his head, then walked back into the drawing room just as the TV screens disappeared into the ceiling.
Adrian clicked off the remote and stood up. Weary.
‘Sorry, bro, bad day for a social visit.’ His voice rose above the ear-splitting whine of helicopter turbines. ‘That’s my lunch appointment arriving – the British Foreign Secretary.’
He put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. ‘Look leave me the photograph. I’ll make some discreet enquiries.’
‘You’re sure you’ve never met any of these men?’ Nick studied Adrian’s face intently.
‘Nope. Never in my life.’ He held his hand out. ‘I’ll give it to Guber – he’ll pass it to the Interpol operatives in The Core.’
Nick handed him the envelope containing the blank compliments slip.
Adrian tucked it in his inside jacket pocket.
‘You know what, Adrian?’ Nick said, lowering his voice. ‘I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think Lawrence is senile. I
Adrian relaxed. He put his arm around Nick.
‘He needs psychiatric evaluation. We’ve got units here that can help him.’
Nick nodded. ‘I’ll talk to Mother this weekend about having him checked out.’ He stuck out his hand. ‘I’d like the document back. Avoid any confusion.’
‘Too late, Nicky. You were so concerned, it’s already on its way to Interpol. Thought it would ease your mind.’
‘Look. No harm done. I’ll call them and tell them it’s a hoax.’
Nick nodded. ‘Do that, Adrian.’
Chastenay materialized at the door and Nick walked towards him. He turned.
‘One more thing. De Vere Continuation Holdings AG – can you get a set of management accounts for me? And the latest audit.’
Adrian frowned. ‘Why Nick? You’ve never shown any interest in the financials before.’
‘I am now. Dad always said I should take personal responsibility. It’s never too late.’
Adrian gave him a strange look.
The intercom buzzed again.
‘The British Foreign Secretary is now on the premises, Mr President.’
Two security men dressed in the pale blue uniform of the European Superstate’s elite forces entered and moved towards Nick.
‘Keep your minders off.’ Nick grinned. ‘I’ll see myself out.’
Adrian shook his head at the security men and Chastenay.
‘Clear my brother through the gate,’ he said quietly. ‘A red Aston Martin.’
‘By the way,’ Nick said over his shoulder, ‘ever heard of the International Security Fund?’
Adrian stared grimly after Nick’s swiftly disappearing back.
Nick walked as fast as he dared back down the corridors and exited through a small side door into the vegetable gardens.
‘Idiot,’ he muttered to himself, knowing he had overstepped the mark. He walked evenly towards the old kitchen wing alongside the stables.
As he passed the scullery he peered through the window, then walked around to the open back door.
‘Beatrice,’ he whispered.
A stout red-faced woman with grey braided hair looked at Nick out of beady twinkling eyes.
‘Why, Master Nicholas!’
She wiped her hands on her apron, then flung her plump arms around his waist in delight.
Nick put his finger to her thin lips. ‘I’m not meant to be here. Our little secret.’
Beatrice giggled and nodded vigorously.
‘I bake Christmas bread for you.’ She shuffled over to the oven and took out the plaited breads.
‘Beatrice, is Pierre still here?’
‘He and I are the last to go. As usual.’
‘The main gate?’
‘Our men left at one. Special forces took over the shift.’ Beatrice scowled.
‘Good, the car’s already cleared through the gate. Pierre has the keys. Tell him to close the roof and keep his head down. Once he’s past the gate, tell him to park in the old dock shelter. Our little secret from Guber. Do you understand?’
‘What’s going on tonight, Beatrice?’
‘Classifed function. The usual procedure. Private caterers – Guber’s private army – his battalions in charge. So different from your father.’ She pursed her lips.
Nick looked out of the window, searching uneasily for signs of the European Secret Service.
‘I need an envelope,’ he said. Beatrice walked over to an old mahogany dresser and, unlocking a drawer, removed a linen envelope with the Mont St Michel crest on the back.
Nick nervously took out the photograph of De Vere and De Molay from his satchel and pushed it hurriedly into the envelope.
Beatrice passed him another compliments slip and Nick wrote in a hurried scrawl:
Dad was onto something. Something big that they killed him for. They gave me AIDS deliberately. I think they know I’m onto them. A group of elite powerbrokers. I’m doing some investigating of my own. In the event that I don’t make it out of here – you must get this to Jason. He’s the only one I trust.
The sound of footsteps drew closer.
‘Master Nick. Quickly.’
Nick continued in a hurried scrawl.
Tell Lily I’ll always be sorry. Be my leading light, Jules.
PS I’m not sure if Adrian’s – ’
Beatrice rushed to the door. Nick sealed the envelope, turned it over and scrawled Julia’s name and Chelsea address.
Beatrice sighed with relief. ‘It’s all right. It was Jaques, the groom.’
‘What time does the post van pick up?’
‘Pick up from the main house was at 10 a.m. The staff mailbag is picked up at 2.35 p.m. from the stables, Master Nick.’
Beatrice looked up at the kitchen grandfather clock. ‘In ten minutes. It’s not checked.’
Nick placed the letter in Beatrice’s hand and closed her plump, work-worn fingers over it. He looked into her eyes, addressing her as if she was a child.
‘Beatrice, this is very important. Put this in the mailbag before you go through the main gate. You must post it before you leave. I need you to do this for my father.’
Beatrice nodded earnestly. ‘I promise, Master Nick.’
Nick planted a big kiss on Beatrice’s jowled cheeks.
‘Is the East Wing suite vacant?’
She nodded. ‘No one’s staying there tonight.’
Nick pulled out a small plastic container and shook out two white pills, slinging them back in his throat. He leaned his head on the large oak kitchen table in paroxysms of deliberate and faked coughing. He had felt perfectly well since his encounter at the Monastery in Alexandria, fighting fit in fact, but he was sure he would be forgiven for his present deliberate melodrama. It was essential to his plan.
‘Beatrice . . . ’ He grasped her hand. ‘You know I’ve been sick.’
She nodded vigorously.
‘I’m in no state to go through all Guber’s laborious security measures.’
Beatrice looked at him earnestly. ‘Master Nick, what can I do?’
Nick looked up, between his hacking coughs.
‘Get me to the East Wing. Our little secret. Guber mustn’t know I’m here.’
Beatrice scowled. ‘Stuck-up Guber.’ She glowered.
‘You’re absolutely sure it’s vacant, Beatrice?’ Nick persisted. ‘I thought there were heads of state flying in?’
‘Some high-flown royal prince arrived around midnight last night. A presidential order was issued. No one is to occupy the main house while he’s in residence apart from Master Adrian. All visitors leave immediately after dinner. The fancy prince is in the West Wing. Guber’s thugs are crawling all over it.’
She bustled over to the corner of the kitchen and picked up a key card with a gold Mont St Michel seal embossed on it.
‘But the East Wing’s deserted till the weekend,’ she declared.
She pushed a wisp of grey hair out of her eyes.
‘At 3 p.m., all staff security clearances are declassified.’
Beatrice punched in the key card through the security scanner. It emitted a green light.
‘I need the surveillance system dismantled in the East Wing,’ Nick said. ‘Guber mustn’t know I’m there.’
‘I can’t do that.’ Beatrice raised her face to Nick’s. ‘I don’t know how.’
‘But I do.’ They both turned to find Pierre standing watching them from the scullery door.
Pierre had known Nick from the time he was a sweet-faced three-year-old, and had loved him always. Pierre took the key card from Beatrice, passed it back through the scanner and punched in the number 666. A purple light appeared directly above the green.
‘Then you’re on your own.’ He made the sign of the cross. ‘May God protect you, Nicholas De Vere.’
* * *
Nick, all signs of pallor and sickness now vanished, opened the shutters and stared out of the East Wing attic windows. From his vantage point he had a bird’s-eye view from the stable to the main gate. He looked down to the kitchen block as Beatrice walked out of the scullery door, over to the stables’ entrance and placed the letter in the Mont St Michel staff mailbag. She climbed on her bicycle and cycled towards the main gate. A few minutes later the red Aston Martin, its roof closed, sped down the winding Abbey lane.
Nick watched as Pierre cleared the main gate and roared off towards the dock.
He paced the room back and forth, then walked back over to the window as a nondescript French post van drew up to the stable gates.
A uniformed officer placed the mailbag in the back of the van, which then meandered back up the drive and out through the main gate. Nick sighed in relief.
The photograph was safely on its way to Julia in England.
He walked down the spiral staircase, through the master bathrooms with their custom water-lounger baths, through the sumptuous master bedroom to the drawing room and checked that the East Wing suite doors were fully secured.
And then he waited.
Somehow he knew he was in danger. Grave danger.
Tonight he would find out why.
Between Jordan and Saudi Arabia
Jotapa sat on the plush leather sofa in the lounge of the Royal Household’s Gulfstream jet, staring straight ahead. The only sign of her unease was her constant checking of her watch. She looked over to Jibril who was playing games on the plane’s media centre.
He looked up at her. In the face of his banishment he was calm. Just as her father would have been. Jotapa’s eyes flashed with anger. Jibril shook his head, then put his finger to his lips. She sighed.
‘Faisal.’ She thought of her elder brother with loathing.
Son of Perdition by Wendy Alec / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes