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Son of perdition, p.5
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       Son of Perdition, p.5

           Wendy Alec
 

  Julia knew her softer, more artistic nature. They were best friends, as close as a mother and daughter could be.

  The only thing that had nearly destroyed Lily had been Julia and Jason’s divorce.

  Julia bit her lip at the memory. She had heard Lily sobbing every night for a month after she and Jason separated.

  ‘Ask him how Lulu’s doing,’ Julia mouthed.

  Lily rolled her eyes.

  ‘Mum wants to know how Lulu’s doing, Dad.’

  She put her hand over the mouthpiece. ‘He says it’s his dog. He’s keeping her. No negotiation.’

  Now it was Julia’s turn to roll her eyes.

  ‘He says she’s fine. She’s sleeping on his bed every night.’

  ‘That’s a first.’

  She watched as Lily clicked off her phone, still seething, and manoeuvred her wheelchair over to the windows. She scowled at the stormy English Channel in the falling dusk.

  Julia hid a smile and placed a hand on Lily’s shoulder. ‘He’ll calm down, sweetheart. He always does.’

  Lily’s cat-like eyes flashed with indignation. ‘He expects me to drop all my plans and spend the summer in New York when he knows Polly and I are going to Georgetown with Alex.’ She looked at her mother imploringly. ‘We’ve planned it forever, Mum – it’s Polly’s seventeenth. Her parents are in Tanzania. Alex is depending on her being with him – she won’t go without me.’

  The doorbell rang and a tall lean young man walked into the room.

  Alex Lane-Fox was six foot three and as handsome as his mother Rachel had been beautiful. His dark hair was streaked with blond and he wore torn Levis, a baggy jacket and clutched his Apple laptop.

  He kissed Julia affectionately on the cheek, then spun Lily’s wheelchair around.

  ‘Hey, Lils – looks like I got accepted by The New York Times and The Washington Post.’

  Lily clasped his hand. ‘Alex, that’s fantastic. You’ve always wanted to go back to the US! Mum – Alex is following in your footsteps.’

  Alex grinned. ‘No,’ he said emphatically, ‘I’m going to be a serious journalist.’

  Julia clipped him with her hand.

  ‘Respect, please – I’ve known you since you were in nappies!’

  Alex walked past the immaculate silver-and-white French sofas through the living room to the kitchen.

  ‘Is Polly ready?’ he shouted.

  ‘She’s just showering,’ Lily called back. ‘She’ll be out any minute.’

  Polly Mitchell was Lily’s bosom friend from school. They had been friends since they were nine. Whereas Lily was the vivacious leader, Polly was her perfect foil.

  Polly was one of eight children, the daughter of a minister with a passion for social action who supported AIDS orphanages in Tanzania and Malawi and fought vehemently against human trafficking in China and Eastern Europe. Polly had been accepted at Roedean on a scholarship and instantly the quiet, hard-working minister’s child and the outspoken tycoon’s daughter had become inseparable. And Julia had watched in amazement as the thin slip of a girl had blossomed overnight from a shy, pale waif into a supermodel lookalike.

  Alex, son of Rachel Lane-Fox, Julia’s best pal, had been completely smitten. He and Polly had been an item ever since.

  After Rachel had died on American Airlines flight 11 on 9/11, Alex had lived in Manhattan with his stockbroker father. Until his first stepmother came on the scene, that is. Alex, then fourteen, had fought violently with his father and shocked everyone by packing his bags and moving in with Rachel’s parents, Rebekah and David Weiss in the north-west of Ireland.

  His grandparents had strongly encouraged him to pursue a career in journalism, and at seventeen he had a placement with the Irish Independent newspaper in Dublin, then spent two years with the Guardian in London. He had long since buried the hatchet with his father and had spent the past three summers with him and wife number three, but his grandparents were kindred spirits and he was fiercely loyal to them. As he was to Jason. And to Julia.

  Alex grabbed himself a Coke from the refrigerator.

  ‘I hate to disillusion you both,’ his voice echoed through to the lounge, ‘but Cosmo isn’t serious journalism!’

  He walked back inside.

  ‘Well, which is it to be?’ Julia asked. ‘The New York Times or The Washington Post?’

  ‘New York, of course. I start on 8 January. My defining moment. Who knows? Maybe Uncle Adrian’ll give me an exclusive on the Ishtar Accord!’

  ‘In your dreams.’ Julia threw a set of keys at him. Alex caught them deftly in one hand. ‘Present from Nick. Keys to his London apartment.’

  ‘South Bank?’ Alex grinned.

  Julia’s eyes narrowed. ‘No wild parties, Alex. You and the girls stay there while I’m in Italy. Nick’ll pick you up on his way back from France. I’ll meet you all at the manor for Christmas.’

  ‘I’m not in a partying mood, Aunt Jules. There are things going down. Stuff . . . ’ Alex hesitated. ‘Stuff the man in the street has no idea about,’ he added ominously.

  ‘Oh Alex – don’t start,’ Lily pleaded.

  ‘You don’t understand!’ He opened the Coke and slugged it down noisily. ‘The public’s being lied to – manipulated by a global elite that has as its ultimate objective world domination.’ He looked up at Lily and Julia ominously. ‘World depopulation.’

  ‘Oh, come on, Alex,’ Julia said, waving him quiet. ‘We’ve been through all this a million times.’

  ‘Respectfully, Aunt Jules, it’s not about 9/11 – I’m in the middle of uncovering explosive stuff.’ He put the Coke down and opened his laptop. ‘Weaponized Avian flu produced in bioterror laboratories in Maryland . . . covert deep-underground military bases across America . . . five hundred billion dollars of drug cartel money run by the CIA siphoned off into the black budget annually . . . ’

  Alex’s eyes blazed with conviction.

  ‘And all roads lead to a shadow government.’

  Julia and Lily mouthed at each other, ‘Shadow government.’ ‘You have to admit, Alex,’ Lily said, ‘it’s wild – even for you!’

  Julia winked just as Alex looked up at her.

  Alex shook his head. ‘Your heads are in the proverbial sand. A shadow government. The global elite. The Federal Reserve, International Bank of Settlements . . . ’

  His fingers flew over the laptop keys: ‘I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind.’

  Alex looked up. ‘Who said that? he demanded.

  Lily shrugged her shoulders. Julia shook her head.

  Alex held up his hands. ‘The thirty-fifth President of the United States.’

  ‘JFK?’ Lily frowned.

  ‘Oh, come on, Alex.’ Julia waved him quiet.

  ‘Did you know he said that?’ He glared at Julia fiercely.

  ‘Well, no – but there’s no proof, Alex – the fact that Kennedy disliked the CIA doesn’t make a government conspiracy, we all know that. The Warren Commission put an end to it.’

  ‘Closed minds – closed to anything beyond your comfort zone. Over 40 per cent of the Warren Commission were members of the Elite Council of Foreign Relations. JFK fired Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, after the Bay of Pigs. But Dulles was appointed to the Warren Commission after Kennedy’s death . . . Look at the motives to assassinate JFK. Kennedy had tried to control the agency by reducing its ability to act through National Security Memorandums 55, 56 and 57.’

  Alex pointed to the screen.

  ‘These documents literally eliminated the ability of the CIA to wage war. It threw Angleton and the Dulles brothers into a panic. Their power would have been limited to handguns. And who stood to gain from a long-drawn-out war in Vietnam? The Vietnamese had refused to allow the elite to establish a central bank in Vietnam. The elite wanted a central bank and access to the vast oil reserves off the Vietnamese coast.’

  He stared at Julia and Lily in frustration. ‘Don’t you get it! Vietnam. The
Cold War. The international bankers, the elite, the military industrial complex, the oil barons – all members of a shadow government totally dependent on a Pax Americana forced on the world by American weapons of war. They all stood to gain from his death.’

  Alex pulled out a kitchen stool and sat.

  ‘Within days of JFK’s death, Lyndon Johnson signed a National Security Action memorandum instructing the Pentagon to keep the troops in Vietnam. By 1963, Kennedy had already called for general and complete disarmament in the Cold War. And of course there’s the contested issue where on 4 June 1963 JFK issued Executive Order 11110 instructing the Treasury to issue Treasury silver certificates.

  ‘Okay.’ he shrugged. ‘The disinformation surrounding this is common knowledge, but it seems evidence exists that a high-level meeting of the elite was called immediately . . . Kennedy had thrown the secret masters in Washington and London into a tailspin. Look at this . . . ’ His fingers flew over his laptop keys.

  ‘A 1960 USA five-dollar note. Green Seal. Look what it says at the top.’

  Lily steered her wheelchair closer.

  ‘It reads Federal Reserve Note.’

  ‘Okay. Now study the 1963 five-dollar USA note. Look at the Red Seal. The year Kennedy was assassinated.’

  ‘It says United States of America Note.’

  Julia peered at the screen, perplexed.

  ‘You sure? It can’t be – it’s always Federal Reserve.’ She studied the laptop screen.

  ‘There it is, Aunt Jules. Documented in black and white. A real note. The year of Kennedy’s death. United States of America Note. Now look at a 1964 note. The year after JFK was assassinated.’

  Julia frowned.

  ‘Federal Reserve Note,’ she murmured.

  ‘Exactly. Back to the Fed. The facts are – issuance of all United States notes ended in January 1971. Everything in circulation today is issued by the Fed. Nothing by the US government. The powers that be got back control.’

  Alex slammed the laptop shut.

  ‘Federal Reserve aside, JFK signed the Test Ban Treaty with Moscow. He was going to stop the Vietnam War, drastically reduce the CIA’s influence.’

  He stood as Polly Mitchell walked into the sitting room, her pale blonde hair straightened and her exquisite face perfectly made up. Alex kissed her full on the lips.

  ‘He was blowing their power base apart piece by piece.’ He swung around to Julia.

  ‘Kennedy defied the secret rulers. They made a deliberate example of him. Brutally executed in broad daylight in front of millions. He didn’t have a chance,’ Alex concluded matter-of-factly. ‘The shadow government achieved its objectives. Look at the 2008 bailout. Prime example. The shadow masters pull the strings. The Congress, the Senate . . . all too terrified to get out of line. They learned their lessons well. They know the cost of disobedience.’

  ‘C’mon, Alex. Enough,’ Polly said.

  ‘I just don’t get it,’ Julia said. ‘What has JFK’s assassination got to do with anything?’

  ‘If the government has lied and covered up the assassination of JFK, Aunt Jules – ’ Alex stared at her darkly. ‘And they have. What else have they lied about?’

  He looked Julia straight in the eye.

  ‘And who really runs the government?’

  ‘Dad would go ballistic if he heard you,’ said Lily.

  ‘Uncle Jas,’ Alex rolled his eyes at Lily. ‘The great American patriot!’

  ‘Alex!’ Polly glared at him warningly.

  ‘If I’m not mistaken,’ Julia said drily, ‘it was the great American patriot who got you your place at The New York Times. And changed your nappies when you were four months old. You’re going to be the scourge of Manhattan at this rate.’ She looked at him and sighed. ‘You are so like your mother, Alex Lane-Fox.’

  Alex grinned. ‘Gorgeous – yeah, I get that a lot.’

  ‘I was rather thinking stubborn.’ Julia stopped in mid-sentence. Frozen.

  Lily was staring up at Alex in complete adulation. Lily and Alex had virtually grown up together. Holidays. Family festivities. They were like brother and sister.

  Julia took a deep breath. All these years, she had never noticed. Her strong-willed independent daughter was totally besotted with Alex Lane-Fox.

  Julia knew with a mother’s instinct that it had nowhere to go. Alex was deeply in love with Polly. Lily was disabled for life.

  How had she not seen this? Alex, through no intention of his own, was literally breaking her daughter’s heart.

  She was going to have to put some space between them.

  The doorbell rang again. This time, eight teenagers stood in the hallway.

  Alex pushed Lily’s wheelchair out through the doorway.

  ‘Bye, Mum,’ Lily said, waving. Julia smiled weakly.

  ‘Bye, Mrs D.’ Polly stopped. ‘I suppose I shouldn’t call you Mrs D. now.’ She shuffled embarrassed. ‘ . . . now that the divorce is through.’

  Alex poked his head back through the door. ‘You should really start dating again, Aunt Jules. My dad’s surgeon friend Callum Vickers says you never return his calls. He thinks you should.’

  The door slammed behind them.

  Julia walked over to the windows to draw the heavy cream curtains. The skies were already darkening. She hesitated and frowned looking at the strange white apparition in the skies above the English Channel. She wondered if Jason was dating. Strange, the thought of Jason dating. She couldn’t quite imagine it.

  She had to admit he was still attractive in a worn kind of way. She missed him tonight.

  She walked over to the mantelpiece and picked up a photograph of Jason, the only one in the apartment. She looked closely at the picture, studying his features.

  She ran her fingertips gently over his face. Then turned the photo face down and scrolled down her BlackBerry to Callum Vickers’ phone number.

  Took a deep breath.

  And dialled.

  Chapter Seven

  Mourir de Façon Horrible

  Monastry of Archangels, Egypt

  Nick dried off his freshly washed hair and upper torso with a bath towel.

  There was a loud knocking on the door of the monastic chamber. Nick opened it. Lawrence St Cartier, now freshly changed into a crisply pressed shirt and cravat, stood clutching a dog-eared British newspaper in his hand. He stared at the red weals and sores all over Nick’s chest, then lowered his eyes.

  ‘Lawrence, this place is in the Dark Ages,’ Nick said in frustration. ‘There’s no mobile signal. I’ve tried to put a call via landline through to the UK six times and each time I’m told the lines are down.’

  ‘Oldest monastery in Egypt – still operates on a local exchange. The lines stay down for days at a time.’ Lawrence replied distractedly.

  ‘Aren’t you going to come in?’ Nick studied Lawrence’s face. The Professor looked shaken. He fidgeted uneasily in the doorway.

  ‘I’m the bearer of unpleasant news, I’m afraid, Nicholas.’

  He laid the newspaper on the table awkwardly.

  ‘I came as soon as it was slipped under my door – I haven’t had time to review the entire article.’

  Nick stared down at the newspaper headline – Massacre at the Temple Mount. His eyes locked onto a black-and-white headshot of one of eight murdered archaeologists.

  ‘Klaus,’ Nick murmured, stunned. He grabbed the paper and scanned through the leading paragraph. ‘Klaus . . . ’

  ‘Von Hausen.’ St Cartier finished his sentence. ‘Rising star of the British Museum and intimate friend of Nicholas De Vere. Your association was splashed across the Sun and News of the World, if I recollect.’

  ‘Look, Lawrence,’ Nick muttered. ‘I don’t expect sympathy.’ He sat down heavily on the bed, his hands trembling. ‘If it makes it easier – Klaus and I were long over.’

  ‘Don’t waste your sentiment, Nicholas, dear boy.’ St Cartier’s voice was unusually soft. ‘You can’t bring Von Hausen back.’ He g
rasped Nick’s shoulder gently.

  ‘I . . . I saw him two days ago,’ Nick said. ‘In London. We met for drinks . . . I hadn’t seen him for months. He’d been seconded to a classified dig in the Middle East.’ He looked up at St Cartier.

  ‘He was exhilarated,’ he murmured. ‘It was classified “Eyes Only”. He said MI6 and Interpol were swarming over the British Museum. Klaus knew the way they work – it would remain undisclosed to him until his arrival.’

  St Cartier took the paper from Nick, put on his glasses and studied the article thoroughly.

  ‘Hmmm. The papers only report it was an ancient Temple relic,’ St Cartier said. ‘All the marks of a massive mop-up job. Seven archaeologists mown down with sub-machine guns execution style. Special Forces. Trained killers . . . ’

  He scanned a smaller paragraph halfway down the page. ‘ . . . and one Vatican priest beheaded.’ his voice trailed off.

  Nick studied the professor through narrowed eyes. St Cartier was ashen, his right hand trembling uncontrollably.

  ‘Beheaded, Nicholas.’ St Cartier said, swiftly regaining his composure. He folded the paper. ‘Most barbaric.’

  St Cartier’s eyes glittered with an uncharacteristic hardness.

  ‘Islamic terrorists?’ Nick asked.

  ‘No.’ St Cartier walked to the far window and gazed out beyond the rows of cypress trees to the vast expanse of sand. ‘Not terrorists, Nicholas. This has the mark of something far more sinister. Someone would like the entire Western world to think it was terrorists.’

  St Cartier fell silent, engrossed in his own reflections.

  Nick stared blankly at his hollow cheeks in the mirror. ‘If not terrorists then who? And what do they want?’

  The bell in the tower chimed six o’clock just as the dinner gong sounded.

  ‘Time runs down, Nicholas. Daniel’s week is almost upon us.’

  He looked grimly into Nick’s face.

  ‘I fear the End of Days has begun.’

  The nib of Gabriel’s quill scratched the heavy linen paper embossed with his Prince Regent crest. Gabriel’s exquisite italic lettering filled the page.

 
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