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Son of perdition, p.30
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       Son of Perdition, p.30

           Wendy Alec
 
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  Adrian looked at his phone. It was Jason. Adrian turned to the nurse.

  ‘Give me two minutes. No disturbances.’

  The nurse nodded. ‘Yes, of course, sir.’

  ‘Jason, Mother’s fast asleep,’ he said, ‘There’s no need to come over. You get some sleep. I’ll stay with her till Rosemary returns. I’ll call you if anything changes.’

  Adrian clicked off his phone. Lilian’s eyes flicked open.

  ‘The Rothschild connection has been most advantageous, Mother.’ Adrian smiled at Lilian. ‘Especially with the Israelis. But when all’s said and done, the Accord has been signed and sealed for three years.’

  He paced the hospital room.

  ‘James knew too much. He was about to talk. I had no option – I had to kill him. As for Melissa,’ Adrian shrugged, ‘she and her father were becoming a liability.’

  Lilian struggled to reach her mask.

  ‘And Nick? I liked Nick. He was innocuous enough. His death wasn’t in the plan.’

  She tore the mask off with all her remaining strength.

  ‘You . . . ’ Ashen-faced, she stared at Adrian. Her hands trembled violently. ‘They got to you. They promised to leave you alone.’

  ‘Mother,’ Adrian smiled, ‘I am they.’

  Lilian stared up at Adrian, her eyes wide with horror and rage.

  He walked round to the oxygen flow meter. ‘But you see, Lilian . . . ’ His fingers moved casually over the tubes to Lilian’s breathing cannula ‘you’ve been getting too clever. And you are in the plan. You signed your own death warrant. The information you so cleverly tracked down at the Medical Library in Wimpole Street is just far too incriminating to let you stay alive.’

  Lilian tried desperately to lift herself up.

  ‘Jason.’ She looked beseechingly at Adrian.

  ‘Oh, Jason’s your firstborn, all right. A real chip off the old block. Your second son was strangled at birth and the babies exchanged by order of the Grand Druid Council. The execution papers were signed by Julius De Vere. And now, Mother, your meddling has sealed Jason’s fate.’

  Lilian closed her eyes. A single tear fell down her cheek.

  Adrian smiled. ‘You want to plead for your eldest son’s life?’

  A male nurse entered quietly and Lilian reached out her hand towards him.

  ‘Help me, please,’ she sobbed.

  The male nurse nodded to Adrian, and Lilian watched in horror as the nurse metamorphosed into a Warlock before her eyes.

  As she reached for her rosary, her voice was shaking, barely audible.

  ‘Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the hour of battle,’ she whispered. ‘Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.’

  Lilian stared up at Adrian, unafraid.

  ‘May God rebuke him we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,’ Lilian clasped the rosary tightly to her breast, ‘by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan . . . ’ She struggled to breathe. ‘ . . . And all the evil spirits who wander through this world seeking the ruin of souls.’

  Adrian looked down at her, watching her face turn blue. He stroked her hair. ‘It was good while it lasted.’

  ‘Lawrence,’ Lilian murmured.

  Adrian’s eyes narrowed. He sensed the Presence. He followed her gaze towards the door but there was no one there.

  ‘I knew you’d come, Lawrence,’ Lilian whispered in elation.

  The Warlock retched violently. Adrian snatched the rosary from Lilian’s fingers and nodded to the Warlock, his eyes black with malice.

  The Warlock swabbed Lilian’s skin, then held up a hypodermic syringe.

  ‘The fact that you were Jewish was unavoidable,’ Adrian murmured as the Warlock slowly injected Lilian with one ampoule of concentrated potassium chloride. ‘But this will make up for it.’

  Ninety seconds later Lilian De Vere was dead.

  The De Vere Mansion, Belgrave Square

  Jason walked into the kitchen, letter in hand. He put the letter down on the kitchen table, grabbed a cafetière from above the Aga cooker, then a package of Lilian’s favourite Columbian coffee. While the kettle boiled he idly studied the branding on the coffee pack – mass market from her local grocery store.

  He’d never understood it. No matter where she travelled, Lilian swore that nothing matched up to the coffee he now held in his hand.

  He measured out two scoops into the cafetière, unaware that at the precise moment, Lilian was being murdered by his younger brother.

  He flicked the kettle off, poured the water and pressed the plunger down.

  * * *

  ‘She is far beyond your reach now,’ Jether said.

  Adrian leaned against the wall of the toilet in Lilian’s hospital room, sweat pouring from his brow, avoiding Jether’s gaze. He slid to his knees, retching violently.

  ‘The Nazarene,’ he uttered. ‘You have been with Him.’

  He gazed at Jether with loathing, his eyes glowing like burning coals.

  ‘His presence torments you,’ Jether said.

  ‘You were too late’ Adrian rasped ‘to save her.’

  ‘No,’ Jether said. ‘It was her time.’

  Adrian’s breathing became easier. ‘Do not think your secluded Portal in Alexandria will remain intact without a fight, Jether the Just,’ he spat. ‘The Monastery of Archangels is a military target. High on the list of the Fallen.’

  He raised himself unsteadily to his feet. Recovering rapidly. ‘I will win.’

  Lilian’s rosary, still in Adrian’s left hand, began to smoulder. He stared in horror at the sign of the cross branding itself into his left palm.

  ‘The Nazarene will defeat you on the plains of Megiddo,’ Jether said.

  And he vanished before Adrian’s eyes.

  The De Vere Mansion, Belgrave Square, London

  Jason pulled out a kitchen chair and sat. He took a sip of the coffee.

  ‘Not bad, Mother,’ he muttered.

  Then he picked up Hamish MacKenzie’s letter and continued reading.

  * * *

  1998

  The Aveline Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland

  MacKenzie was sitting at his desk when an orderly entered clutching a postal sack. He emptied it out onto the table and MacKenzie watched as the envelopes and papers fell out onto his desk.

  ‘Alien-watchers, cult-watchers – they’re calling you a satanist this time, Hamish.’

  MacKenzie shook his head and scanned some of the papers.

  The orderly leaned over.

  ‘The old man is here again,’ he said. ‘He’s making a nuisance of himself, Hamish – it’s bad for the Institute.’

  MacKenzie took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes wearily.

  ‘All right, I’ll see him. Rescue me after two minutes.’

  The orderly opened the door and ushered a grubby old man inside. The man stood nervously, clutching his plastic bags.

  MacKenzie gestured to the chair in front of him. ‘Please sit.’

  The old man shook his head. He stared around the room, obviously petrified.

  ‘I can’t be long. Have to stay on the move. They’re everywhere.’ The man pushed a paper across the desk to MacKenzie. ‘My credentials.’

  ‘Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians,’ MacKenzie read aloud. ‘Member of British Foetal Medicine, Perinatal Medicine.’ He looked at the old man in recognition. ‘Why, you’re Rupert Percival. You were the obstetrician in the St Gabriel’s case.’

  The old man nodded, a bit calmer now. ‘I received my medical degree from Trinity College, Dublin, and did my obstetric internship at Guys. I was highly respected in my field. Look, my time is short. They’ll get to me. They get to everyone eventually.’ He darted a glance out through the window, then back at the door.

  ‘There was an incident. I was highly sought after – my practice was in Harley Street. I selected my patients from the elite. The prenatal genetic diagnosis for one of the mothers I loo
ked after was oligohydramnios.’

  ‘Too little amniotic fluid?’

  Percival nodded. ‘There was no doubt of the poor foetal growth. A lagging fundal measurement of over three centimetres. Because of the status and wealth of this particular family – he had a top White House job – no measure was spared. DNA samples, weekly ultrasounds and measurements of the baby’s head, thigh bone, abdominal circumferences. In the last six months of pregnancy the amniotic fluid comes from foetal urine, and since lung formation is dependent on breathing in amniotic fluid the lungs of babies with severe dysplasia are very underdeveloped. I set the Caesarean date for 20 December 1981.

  ‘Certain powers that be did everything they could to take me off her case and replace me with a fellow of the Monash Institute but the mother would have none of it. She insisted that I, and only I, should treat her.

  ‘I delivered the baby on the set date at St Gabriel’s Nursing Home in Knightsbridge. As expected, the baby had very severe dysplasia and no kidney function at all and as a result was placed immediately in intensive care.

  ‘I didn’t expect it to be able to survive more than a few hours after birth because of the poor lung function. Well, the following morning I came in at dawn for my routine visit. The baby’s functions were perfect. It was a completely different baby.’

  ‘You’re sure you couldn’t have been mistaken?’ MacKenzie asked him.

  ‘I am a specialist, MacKenzie. There was no mistake. I sounded the alarm. But all the details in the file had been changed to coincide with the replacement. The nursing staff I’d worked with on the previous shifts were all mysteriously unobtainable and the mother – of course she’d never seen the baby – insisted it was a miracle.

  ‘The powers that orchestrated this were very wealthy and very, very powerful. Within twenty-four hours, I was made out to be a madman.

  ‘On reaching my surgery in Harley Street, I found my office ransacked and all files confiscated – by M16, I was told.

  ‘I was immediately suspended and my name was dragged through the mud by the British press.’

  ‘Gross misconduct,’ MacKenzie whispered, remembering. ‘They said you had been drunk while operating, that you had a long-standing alcohol problem.’

  ‘A dry sherry at Christmas was the extent of my drinking. They shut me out and shut me up, MacKenzie. Took my credibility. I lost my family, my career, my life. They turned me into this.’

  Percival scrabbled in one of his shopping bags.

  ‘Unknown to them, I had executed two sets of tests, one immediately after the birth, a separate one the following dawn. I had filed those papers immediately with the Redgrave Medical Library in Wimpole Street, under a fictitious case name. They have lain there undisclosed for over seventeen years. They will be your proof.’

  * * *

  The De Vere Mansion, Belgrave Square, London

  Jason put MacKenzie’s letter down and rifled through the file. Scrawled on the back of the last page was ‘The Redgrave Medical Library, 64 Wimpole Street.’

  ‘Wimpole Street,’ Jason said to himself. ‘So that’s what Mother was looking for.’

  * * *

  1998

  The Aveline Foundation, Edinburgh, Scotland

  ‘I had taken a sample of the newborn’s DNA early that morning when I came in. I still had a sample of the foetus’s original DNA.’

  Percival took a small steel tin from his plastic bag.

  ‘I’m dying, MacKenzie. I have six weeks left, maximum. They can’t get to me any more. I need an expert in the field. Someone I can entrust this to.’

  Opening the steel tin, he placed two laboratory slides on the table before MacKenzie.

  ‘It’s the DNA of the surrogate. I had never seen genetic make-up like that in my life before.’ Percival’s lip trembled. ‘It was non-human.’

  MacKenzie walked over to a large microscope in the adjacent anteroom.

  Percival’s hands trembled as he passed the first slide over. ‘This is the DNA belonging to the original baby.’

  He gave MacKenzie the second slide. ‘And this is the surrogate’s DNA.’

  * * *

  2017

  Gables Retirement Home, Isle of Arran, Scotland

  MacKenzie stared out towards the loch, his eyes distant.

  ‘That was the first time I ever knew . . . ’

  * * *

  2025

  The De Vere Mansion, Belgrave Square, London

  Jason continued reading.

  The genetic make-up of Percival’s ‘surrogate’ infant was the exact replica of the nuclear genetic clone that I had produced years before in my laboratory. There could be no mistake.

  I would have known the clone’s genetic markers in my sleep.

  This was the DNA belonging to the clone, born twelve hours after the Caesarean birth of Percival’s infant.

  ‘They’ had removed the original infant and, unknown to the parents, switched it for their genetic clone for some veiled malevolent scheme.

  Percival’s body was discovered a week later with a gunshot wound through the chest. In a rubbish dump.

  * * *

  2017

  Gables Retirement Home, Isle of Arran, Scotland

  A ruddy-faced old lady, her hair covered by a purple scarf, pushed a tea trolley into the room and smiled kindly at MacKenzie.

  ‘The usual, professor?’ she asked.

  MacKenzie nodded. ‘Thank you, Bridget.’

  As she poured him a steaming cup of tea, MacKenzie folded the letter and pushed it into a pale blue envelope. He sealed it and with a shaking hand wrote on the envelope:

  James De Vere – Personal

  c/o Thomas Nunn

  Adler, Nunn and Greenstreet Solicitors

  Vestry Hall

  Chancery Street

  London WC2

  Bridget placed the tea down next to him on the desk. ‘Three sugars, Professor?’

  MacKenzie nodded.

  ‘Bridget.’ He took her leathered hand in his and placed the blue envelope carefully in it. ‘Get this in the last post.’

  Reaching in his bathrobe, he brought out a battered old wallet and carefully counted out three pound coins and a couple of twenty pence.

  ‘Register it, Bridget, and bring me the receipt.’

  ‘Of course, professor.’ She gave him a cheery smile. ‘I’ll see you later.’

  The door closed and MacKenzie picked up his tea, relief written all over his face. He closed his eyes.

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Skeletons in the Closet

  2025

  The De Vere Mansion, Belgrave Square, London

  Jason looked up to see Maxim standing in the kitchen doorway, his dressing gown awry.

  ‘I’m afraid I have terrible news, Master Jason. From the hospital.’

  Jason felt in his pocket for his phone.

  ‘Damn.’ He’d left it in the drawing room all this time.

  ‘Madam Lilian passed away ten minutes ago.’

  Jason stared at Maxim, speechless.

  Maxim walked over to the pantry, then reappeared holding a whisky bottle in his hand. He laid the bottle and one glass down in front of Jason.

  ‘Madam Lilian’s last instructions before she died, Master Jason,.’ Maxim’s voice shook with emotion.

  Jason held up the bottle and looked at it.

  ‘It’s over seventy years old,’ he whispered, reading the label. ‘Macallan Fine and Rare Collection. These bottles are out of circulation.’

  ‘Seventy-two years old to be precise, Master Jason. Madam Lilian acquired it for thirty-eight thousand pounds in 2008.’

  Jason shook his head in disbelief. He looked at the blue ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle, then opened the card. It was Lilian’s handwriting, dated the day before she had collapsed on Wimpole Street.

  To my beloved eldest son.

  I have kept this for you as a token for over fifteen years.

  You well know I don’t a
pprove of your drinking. I never have. But if ever there was a moment for a toast, surely it is now.

  I have lost your father. I lost Nick.

  And I now know that Adrian was never mine to lose.

  You, my beloved son, are all I have left.

  Look after Lily for me. And Julia. She loves you, Jason.

  Be strong, my son. Be courageous. And fight for the truth, no matter where it may lead you.

  Do not fret for me for I am in a much better place.

  I wish you love. I wish you peace. But most of all – I wish you faith, Jason.

  I will love you always,

  Mother.

  Jason wiped the tears from his cheek.

  ‘She knew . . . ’ His voice broke. ‘She knew she would die.’

  Maxim nodded. He poured the whisky into Jason’s glass, then raised his own of elderflower cordial.

  The phone rang in the hallway and Maxim went to answer it.

  Jason picked up the card and reread it.

  Maxim walked back into the kitchen.

  ‘Master Adrian has just left the hospital. He’s coming straight over.’

  * * *

  Jason sat at the kitchen table, the half-finished glass of single malt in front of him. He turned to the last page of MacKenzie’s letter.

  I have followed the genetic clone’s rise intently since that day in 1998.

  In December of that year, he graduated with five A levels from Gordonstoun.

  In 2002 he received his BA (Hons) in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford.

  In 2005, after two years at Princeton, he spent a year specializing in Arab studies in Georgetown.

  From 2006–2010, he served as a Director in the family business. Asset management.

  In 2010, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

  In 2012 he became Prime Minister.

  This is the secret I have held for over three decades.

  Jason stared at the last sentence in disbelief.

  The clone incubated in the Jesuit laboratory all those decades ago is none other than the present Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – your son – Adrian De Vere.

  The whisky glass slid out of Jason’s fingers and smashed on the floor.

  He sat staring at the shattered pieces of glass for a full minute. Slowly he got up, then walked over to the kitchen door and unlocked it, the blue envelope still clutched in his hand. He paced restlessly around the rose beds, smoking his fourth cigarette of the evening. He stubbed it out with his heel, then immediately lit another one, his fingers trembling.

 
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