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Son of perdition, p.23
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       Son of Perdition, p.23

           Wendy Alec
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  Julia was now in deep conversation with the man who he presumed was Vickers. He frowned. The guy must be at least ten years younger than her. Longish blond hair, tan. Thirty, thirty-two max. Probably an actor or a model. One of Julia’s PR celebrity types.

  Lily looked at him intently. She read her father like a book.

  ‘He’s actually a top London surgeon, Dad,’ she declared.

  ‘Plastic surgeon, I’ll bet.’

  Lily heaved a sigh. ‘Neuro, actually.’

  Jason turned round for one more look at Callum Vickers, then stood up to pray for the soul of his youngest brother – Nicholas De Vere.

  * * *

  Maxim bent over the bonnet of the Bentley, painstakingly polishing the winged badge.

  ‘A butler. How appropriate.’

  The familiar voice came from directly behind him. Maxim froze.

  Charsoc clasped and unclasped his long fingers, cracking his knuckles loudly. ‘My, my, Xacheriel. From taking my throne at the right hand of Jether the Just to buffing the automotive ornaments of men. Oh, how thou hast fallen.’

  Maxim continued his deliberate polishing.

  Charsoc studied Maxim’s untameable mop of wiry hair for a moment, then fished a Mason Pearson hairbrush from his carpet bag and held it out.

  ‘My promise.’

  At that moment, Jason rounded the corner with Lily in her wheelchair, followed by Jontil Purvis.

  He frowned. ‘Von Slagel.’

  Charsoc bowed slightly. ‘Mr De Vere.’

  Jason looked at the hairbrush. He raised an eyebrow.

  ‘You know Von Slagel, Maxim?’

  Maxim rose to his full height. He turned to face Charsoc.

  ‘I have had the displeasure of his acquaintance in my former life.’ He glared down at the hairbrush. ‘Before I went into service, Master Jason.’

  Maxim opened the car door for Lily and eased her into the Bentley as Jason folded up the wheelchair. Jason shook his head, baffled.

  ‘Maxim worked for you, Von Slagel?’

  Charsoc smiled thinly. ‘Many years ago. He served me well.’

  Jason took another look at the hairbrush, then at Maxim’s hair, grinned and climbed in next to Lily.

  Maxim closed the door, then turned to face Charsoc.

  ‘You have no place here.’

  ‘Oh, but you see, Xacheriel, I do. Jason De Vere’s demise after the Seventh Seal is opened is essential to our strategy.’

  He looked at Maxim through narrowed eyes.

  ‘I know Jether resides somewhere on this dirty little planet.’

  Maxim stood expressionless.

  ‘I shall find him.’

  Maxim climbed into the front seat and drove off leaving Charsoc standing in the falling rain.

  Lanesborough Hotel, London

  Jason stood at the far side of the conservatory under the high glass roof, watching Adrian make small talk with Lord Kitchingham, former chairman of BP, a man with a ruddy face and a waxed moustache. Behind him was the normal line-up of politicians, industrial magnates and oil barons, all fawning over the recently inaugurated President of the new European superstate.

  Jason read his brother at a glance. Anyone watching the animated young politician would conclude he was vitally engaged in conversation, but Jason knew that in reality he was bored. His left hand tapping rhythmically on an antique table next to him gave it away Jason walked towards him, side-stepping the discreetly placed Secret Service men.

  ‘Hey, pal,’ he whispered. ‘Need a drink?’

  He put his arm around Adrian’s back. Guber frowned. Jason ignored him and surveyed an escape route.

  Adrian shook hands with the effusive Lord Kitchingham and allowed himself to be guided by his elder brother towards the well stocked-bar.

  ‘Sir James Fulmore,’ Jason muttered, indicating a stout gentleman with a bow tie. ‘He’ll be wanting your support.’

  ‘And Owen Seymour – ex-governor of the BBC – he’ll be wanting my support.’

  ‘Why Babylon?’ Jason asked as they entered the bar.

  Adrian nodded. ‘After the Treaty’s signed on 7 January, the oil will start flowing again like Niagara Falls. Everybody wants a share in Babylon.’

  Jason turned to the bartender. ‘Whisky.’ He looked enquiringly at Adrian.


  Jason shrugged. ‘Perrier water for the European President.’

  The bartender nodded, staring at Adrian, awestruck.

  Jason leaned against the bar. ‘Levine told me the New York and Moscow stock exchanges move permanently in July.’

  Adrian nodded. ‘And Bombay. The entire Asia Pacific exchange moved last month – Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Milan, Frankfurt and London will become permanent fixtures in the new International Exchange Edifice in January.’

  ‘You’ve got to admit, though,’ Jason continued, ‘the catalyst was the United Nations move from New York to Babylon in July.’

  Adrian nodded. ‘That and the fact that the EU and the World Bank pumped in over two trillion dollars to reconstruct the city.’ He sipped his Perrier water.

  ‘And bulldozed Saddam Hussein’s prehistoric blot on the landscape,’ Jason added, ‘as Nick used to call it.’

  They both fell silent at the mention of Nick’s name.

  ‘Seriously, are you okay?’ Jason asked. ‘The funeral I mean. It must bring back bad memories.’

  Adrian looked out at the view of Hyde Park. ‘You mean Melissa and the baby?’

  Jason nodded.

  Adrian continued his staring, expressionless. ‘It’ll take years, Jason.’ he hesitated. ‘To get over their deaths, I mean.’

  Jason studied Adrian intently. Adrian wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

  ‘Sorry, pal. Didn’t mean to upset you,’ Jason said.

  Adrian instantly regained his composure.

  ‘It’s okay. I have to learn to live with my own ghosts.’

  Jason took a slug of his whisky and slammed the glass down on the polished countertop. He surveyed the room.

  ‘I hate these things. My social skills have completely slipped.’

  A faint smile glimmered on Adrian’s lips. He put his hand on Jason’s arm.

  ‘Aw, c’mon. You never had any social skills.’

  Jason grinned just as Lilian came up to them, followed by a posse of well-heeled suits whom she proceeded to introduce.

  Owen Seymour, the former BBC man, rushed over to join them.

  ‘Jason, please accept my sincerest regrets.’ He put his hand out to Adrian. ‘Mr President.’

  ‘Well, Mother,’ Jason said, drawing Lilian to his side and leaning closely to her. ‘between Adrian and myself, it looks like we’ve got both the political arena and the media sown up.’

  Jason continued. Relentless. ‘They all want something.’ He downed the whisky. ‘And it wasn’t Nick.’

  Lilian removed the glass from Jason’s hand and placed it firmly on the bar counter.

  Adrian rested his hand affectionately on Jason’s shoulder.

  ‘It’s politics, Jason. We all play it.’ He grinned. ‘You do, too. Ah, there’s the Queen of Spin.’ He looked at Jason, mischief in his eyes. ‘Julia.’

  Jason paled, took a deep breath and steeled himself.

  ‘Levine, another whisky.’ He watched Julia coming towards him with Lily in tow. ‘A big one.’

  Lilian turned round from her guests.

  ‘That’s your third, Jason,’ she whispered. ‘And you refused breakfast.’

  ‘Trust me, Mother,’ he muttered, watching Julia glide towards him in her five-inch Chloe heels and a close-fitting black Chanel suit. ‘This is no time to be sober.’

  Lilian reached out her hand to Julia.

  ‘Julia – meet Lord and Lady Kirkpatrick. Margaret – this is the daughter I never had – Julia St Cartier.’

  Jason seethed as Julia charmed Lilian’s friends. Her long ash-blonde hair was swept up beneath a classic black hat
with a long black tulle veil.

  Julia turned to Adrian. She lifted the veil away from her face, revealing bloodshot eyes.

  ‘Hey, Jules.’ Adrian clasped her hands, gently kissing her on both cheeks.

  ‘I’m so sorry, Adrian.’ She smiled up at him weakly.

  She turned to Jason whose mouth was set in a firm line and her eyes immediately lost all warmth.

  ‘I’m so sorry about Nicky, Jason.’

  Jason gave her a blank look.

  The blond surgeon from the funeral came up behind Julia and put his arm around her waist.

  ‘Adrian, this is Callum,’ she said. ‘Callum Vickers. Callum, this is Adrian De Vere. No introductions needed.’ Callum offered his hand to Adrian who shook it firmly.

  ‘And this is Jason,’ Julia said, curtly.

  Callum held out his hand to Jason who stared at him, then unenthusiastically shook his hand.

  ‘Very sorry about your brother,’ Callum said, softly.

  ‘Thanks,’ Jason answered.

  ‘How’s the media empire doing?’

  ‘Well enough, thank you.’ Jason turned and narrowed his eyes at Julia. ‘I’m sure that Julia has told you I’m a slave to the industry.’

  ‘No,’ Callum said, in his calm manner, ‘Julia hasn’t really mentioned you.’

  Jason grunted as Levine reappeared with a full whisky glass. ‘Lily said you’re a surgeon.’ He took a swig.

  Callum nodded. ‘A consultant surgeon, at St Thomas’s.’

  Jason looked over the glass at Julia, a sarcastic smile on his lips. ‘That’ll please Daddy, I’m sure.’

  Julia glared at him.

  ‘You’re drinking,’ she said frostily. ‘Callum, we need to leave.’

  The PD on Callum’s waist emitted a loud insistent chirp.

  ‘So sorry, I’m on call . . . if you’ll excuse me.’ He walked towards the window, talking into an earpiece.

  Jason took another slug of his whisky, deliberately staring at Julia. She pulled the black veil back down over her face in annoyance, and walked away from Jason over to Callum at the window.

  ‘Dad,’ Lily hissed, ‘behave. Can’t you be civil to Mum just this once?’

  Jason stared ahead grimly. ‘The short answer is no.’

  ‘De Vere.’ A low voice broke through into his reverie.

  He turned to find a fat pasty-faced man at the bar. He was in his late twenties, wearing a badly fitting black suit that had seen better days, covered by a grubby yellow anorak.

  Jason’s eyes narrowed in slow recognition.

  Dylan Weaver, Nick’s schoolboy friend from Gordonstoun. Now some top European IT specialist.

  Jason held out his hand. Weaver ignored it. He looked around the room, clearly ill at ease, his eyes lingering on Guber.

  ‘You don’t like me much, do you?’ Jason said.

  Weaver stared at Jason impassively. ‘No, I suppose I don’t.’

  Weaver glanced furtively around the room, as though looking for someone.

  ‘Meet me at The Singing Waitress in Shaftesbury Avenue at ten o’clock.’ He picked up a handful of appetizers. ‘Come alone. I’m on the move.’

  Jason stared, incredulous, at Weaver stuffing cocktail sausages into the pockets of his anorak.

  Weaver walked away from Jason. Then turned back.

  ‘It’s about Nick.’

  * * *

  Julia unlocked the door to the quaint cottage, situated in what was formerly known as the Artists’ Colony of the New Chelsea Studios.

  She picked up the small pile of letters from the doormat and sifted through them casually, then froze, staring at a cream linen envelope. The writing was familiar. Extremely familiar. She’d know Nick’s writing anywhere.

  Trembling, Julia dumped the rest of the post on the hall table, then walked through to the drawing room.

  She turned the envelope around, studying the Mont St Michel crest and stared at the postmark on the envelope. She recognized ‘Pontorson’, the name of a small town near Mont St Michel. The postmark was dated the 22nd. The day of Nick’s death.

  Picking up a silver letter opener, Julia slit the letter open and sat down on her sofa. A photograph fell out onto the hardwood floor. She picked it up and placed it on the side table, then took out Nick’s note. It was written hastily. In a scrawl. But it was definitely Nick’s scrawl.

  Dear Jules,

  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. Tell Lily I’ll always be sorry. Be my leading light, Jules.

  Always, Nicky

  PS I’m not sure if Adrian’s – ’

  The sentence was unfinished. Julia turned the slip over – there was nothing on the back. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She picked up the photograph.

  There were four men. She recognized one of them as Jason’s grandfather, Julius De Vere. Another was Xavier Chessler, his godfather. She turned the photograph around and read the writing.

  ‘The Robes are Behind the Suits.’ Then a woman’s name – Aveline.

  Julia replaced the photo in the envelope, then walked over to the French doors, staring out at the Italianate walled gardens, her thoughts in disarray.

  She took out the note once more and studied it.

  Then reached for the phone.

  * * *

  Jason sat in the upmarket bar below the street patio that was the cigar room of the Lanesborough. A waiter hovered discreetly.

  ‘Lagavulin 1991,’ Jason muttered. The waiter smiled in approval. Jason leaned back in the leather chair, puffing on an expensive cigar and stared up at the tent-top roof. Lily wheeled herself next to him.

  ‘Okay, all sorted. Gran’s tired. She just left with Uncle Xavier. Alex’ll drop Polly and me in Chelsea, then spend the night at Nick’s apartment.’

  ‘Why don’t you stay with me?’ he asked.

  Lily shook her head.

  ‘Mum’s expecting me, Dad. Next time.’ She looked around. ‘Where did Uncle Adrian go?’

  ‘Conference call. Babylon,’ he murmured.

  Polly walked towards them, pulling her, long blonde hair back into a ponytail.

  ‘Hi, sweetheart.’ Jason smiled. Polly stowed her mobile in her bag, then leaned over to Jason and gave him a hug. Jason trusted Polly. She was straightforward. Down to earth. No guile. She’d been a good friend to Lily. The best.

  ‘Keeping Lily in check, Polly?’ Jason raised his eyebrows.

  ‘I try.’ Polly smiled back at Jason. ‘She’s a chip off the old block, Mr D.’

  Alex caught sight of them and made his way through the cigar smoke.

  Jason frowned. ‘Still an item?’ he asked.

  ‘Alex wants to get engaged when I turn eighteen.’

  ‘I hope you know what you’re doing,’ Jason muttered. ‘God knows I didn’t at that age.’

  ‘I always know what I’m doing, Mr D.’

  ‘Is he all right? He looked like hell at the funeral.’

  Polly took Jason’s hand. ‘Look, Mr D. I know he’s really mad at you for cutting Nick off. But you’re like the only real Dad he’s ever had. Don’t be too hard on him.’

  Jason turned to watch the tall, lean twenty-year-old striding towards them in his black funeral suit, laptop slung over his shoulder, carrying cans of Coke.

  ‘I’ll try not to beat myself up over it,’ Jason said, wryly.

  Alex arrived at their table and Jason watched as he stowed the cans in his satchel, except for one which he opened.

  ‘Testing for fluoride?’ Jason said sceptically.

  Alex glowered at him, then sat down morosely in the chair next to Polly.

  Jason puffed on his cigar, then looked up to see Alex still glaring at him.

  ‘Look, Alex.’ He stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray. ‘
Nick’s dead. I should have been there for him. I wasn’t. Are you going to hold it against me the rest of my life?’

  ‘Maybe.’ Alex scowled at him darkly.

  ‘Have it your way.’ Jason shrugged.

  ‘Alex has been investigating something, Mr D,’ Polly said, trying desperately to ease the tension. ‘Something big.’

  Jason yawned.

  Polly nudged Alex.

  ‘The global elite – Bilderberg, the Feds, World Bank, UN – they’re engineering world economics,’ Alex mumbled. ‘Famine, looting, rioting – Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 – this is nothing compared to what’s coming.’

  ‘Okay, Alex,’ Jason steeled himself, ‘tell me what’s coming.’

  Alex took a long slug from his Coke can. ‘Martial law, that’s what. That’s how it’s all going to start. The military policing our streets, curfews, they’ll just pick you up and put you in prison.’

  Alex was picking up steam.

  ‘If people only knew the truth.’

  Jason rolled his eyes. ‘It’s not the truth, Alex. People already know the truth. I’m the media. That’s my job – to inform people of the truth. Don’t you think if there were any accuracy in anything you’re saying that at least one out of ten thousand of our correspondents would have got hold of this?’ He groaned in exasperation.

  ‘When everything’s already in chaos,’ Alex continued, ‘they’ll stage a false-flag operation. A secret operation when government forces pretend to be an enemy while attacking their own people.’

  Jason caught sight of Adrian winding his way through the tables towards them.

  ‘I know what false flag means, Alex,’ he said, icily.

  ‘You know your problem, Uncle Jason – you’re a puppet of the New World Order.’

  Lily rolled her eyes in despair.

  Jason sighed and his expression softened. ‘Look, Alex, no matter how much you investigate a shadow government, nothing’s going to bring your mother back.’

  He picked up the glass, savouring the intense, peaty bouquet of the thirty-year-old single malt whisky.

  ‘Produced on the island of Islay, Lily.’ He sipped it slowly. ‘Queen of the Hebrides.’

  ‘Did I hear ‘false flag’, Alex?’ Adrian said, grinning.

  Jason signalled to the waiter who opened a mahogany box of the hotel’s finest cigars and presented it to Adrian.

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