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The new novel by

Andy Reeley

King’s Ransom

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Whilst some of the name places may be real, all characters, people and events in this story are entirely fictitious; they are figments of my imagination and not reflections of real events or people. If you think differently, then that is your right, but coincidences do happen. Š Andy Reeley 2007 www.reeley.co.uk

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Contents PART ONE – THREATS REALISED............................V HOME TRUTHS................................................................ 1 RISK AND REWARD..................................................... 17 HOME TRUTHS.............................................................. 35 END OF TERM................................................................. 47 MESSAGES....................................................................... 61 INNER ARRANGEMENTS........................................ 69 NEW ASSIGNMENTS ................................................... 75 FACING THE PAST........................................................ 85 REVISITING THE PAST ............................................... 89 FUTURES PLANNED..................................................... 99 SOMETHING’S AFOOT.............................................. 109 A BATH AND A HAMMER........................................ 115

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WOMEN IN HOTEL ROOMS .................................... 121 PART TWO – STORM SURGE................................... 145 TUESDAY........................................................................ 147 WEDNESDAY................................................................ 183 THURSDAY.................................................................... 203 FRIDAY............................................................................ 211 SATURDAY.................................................................... 229 SUNDAY ......................................................................... 239 MONDAY........................................................................ 247 TUESDAY........................................................................ 261 WEDNESDAY................................................................ 277

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Part One Threats Realised

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VI


1

HOME TRUTHS

Geraldine rose from the old crinkled brown leather Chesterfield and turned to look out of the office window, her attention drawn to the traffic passing by on the main road into town. Her view through the window was tinted slightly to green due to the thickness of the glass; glass that was designed to be thick enough to protect against all but the most unthinkable of attacks. She was not gazing out from an ordinary office. She was, however, dressed for an office, wearing a blue jacket suit with her skirt appropriately just above the knee, and her blouse had a high neck ruffle that showed no flesh of her dĂŠcolletage. Her auburn hair was short with a slight wave to it, her skin a pale almost milky white contrast to her hair, showing no evidence of having been exposed to the rays of the sun. Her stockings were sheer, a small seam at the back ran straight up her legs

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without deviation, and the heels on her blue Italian shoes were sensible office length two inches. She looked every inch what she was, a senior person’s PA. Geraldine walked silently across the office, her foot falls silenced by the carpeted floor, to small desktop coffee machine on the side unit and looked back with a question on her face. She received a nod, selected a Kenyan Roast from the tray adjacent to the machine, and prepared two coffees. The hiss and spit of the coffee machine the only sound, no distractions from traffic noise in this office. She added a little ground hazelnut to her coffee, but not to the other cup. When she arrived the ground hazelnut had been her only addition to The Colonels domestic office arrangements. In general she had approved of his selection of blends of tea’s and coffee’s, and cared not if no-one else wished for hazelnut, she did, and she often made the coffee. “It isn’t quite as I expected it to be,” she remarked turning to face the Colonel, her nose twitching as the blend of coffee and hazelnut aromas swirled around the room, overwhelming the stale old leather smell. “Why so?” The voice was quiet and slightly clipped, a hint of accent, perhaps Eton or perhaps Sandhurst. “Well there is so much going on that I am finding it a little difficult to keep it all in mind.” She placed the coffee cup in front of him on the small oak coffee table. “The threats are real, that is why we are here.” He leant back into the Chesterfield as he spoke, his eyes only on her. “I thought at first that you were, well, regular spies, you know. I never realised exactly who we were protecting.” “No, I realise that. By our nature and by our brief we have to be reclusive.” His hair was short and was parted to the left and there was a clear gap between his neck hairline and his shirt collar. His shirt was a crisp white cotton with oxford collar, the tie an olive green with a gold tie clip holding it in place, and his jacket a tweed. There was a small gold pin of a pair of flying wings in the left lapel. To a casual

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observer his clothing looked civilian; however as soon as any conversation ensued it was obvious from his demeanour that he was anything but civilian, indicating a military background befitting his title. His responses were spoken clearly and clipped, there was never a hum or har nor hesitation and he looked into the eyes. Geraldine maintained the eye contact and continued. “Things I expected you, sorry, us, to be involved in, we aren’t. I am struggling sometimes to understand the defining line. I mean, with that business with Ivan; Edward, Henry, you, you all acted exactly like spies would.” Geraldine was referring to the events of the previous year when a former Russian Special Services agent, freelancing for an Afghani drug lord, had wreaked havoc in her life, murdering and attacking those close to her, before her husband had dealt a paralysing response on the Rock of Gibraltar to eliminate the risk. It was following that operation that she had left her old freelance consultancy life behind, and joined the secretive organisation that already employed her husband. It was only after joining that she had come to realise that the secretive organisation that she had become a part of, was not, in fact, anything like what she had thought it was. The Colonel responded. “If you just sit back and look who is at risk, rather than what, then you will be able to determine if it, whatever ‘it’ is, is something that warrants our attention, and if so, how urgent that attention need be. Like any one, when people we love are put at risk, or in George’s case murdered, we use all our resources to strike back. On that occasion, it pleased Her Majesty’s Government to allow us, rather than the usual services, to deal with the matter. If it had gone awry, then there was deniability and we would have just been portrayed as people seeking private revenge.” “I understand that, but then, I am trying to catch up here, because I am new to all this, looking at what we are sup-

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posed to be doing, you know, for our day job. I have been reading the files, and all it does is add to my confusion. Let me give you an example, didn’t we fail in Paris?” “Oh no, anything but, we succeeded greatly in Paris, and the world also benefited from an outcry against drunk drivers. Three deaths in that underpass saved countless more by keeping many drunk drivers off the road.” “But Henri Paul wasn’t drunk.” “No, but crucially the autopsy showed that he was. Moreover, the rider of the motorcycle can never be found, despite The Grocer’s money. The white Fiat is also now a dead end following Andanson’s suicide.” “But it wasn’t suicide.” “The coroner thinks that it was. Everything found was consistent with filling the car with petrol and setting light to it by himself.” “Except the amount of carbon monoxide in his blood exceeded what he could have taken in before death from the conflagration.” The Colonel dipped his head, closed his eyes, and made no comment. He tapped his finger tips together, and then peeled them apart, one digit at a time. Geraldine looked from his fingers to the office wall behind him. On the wall were a number of photographs, most had him in, all but one had senior members of the Royal Family. The one framed picture that did not have a Royal connection showed him and a group of seven soldiers. In the corner of the picture was an emblem of a winged dagger. She waited until he had stopped his finger drumming and continued. “Henry will keep quiet?” “Everyone keeps quiet. There are so few of us actually in the know. The Chamber only take on people that we can trust, and have only been let down once in the last three hundred and thirty seven years. We are not the kind of people to write memoirs or sell stories to newspapers.” “I can’t believe the reason why we did it though, I mean, converting to Muslim? It goes against everything I believed I knew.” “You have to understand her position and how the Establishment, as she saw it, was railing against her. She was seeking a safe

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port in a storm and the opportunity to fight back against her detractors in a way that they could not defend. It would have been catastrophic for the Monarchy and succession.” “Let me read the files again, I’m still not sure.” Geraldine slid the empty coffee cups to the side of the table and then stood. She picked the cups, carrying one in each hand and took them across to the small cabinet by the door. She would go and wash them through shortly. She turned back, another question on her mind. “One other thing though, for such a huge responsibility, even for such a level of risk, there are actually so few of us.” “We do not need a large organisation; we have other resources we can call on, as you saw last year in Gibraltar. The other issue is that the right calibre people are actually becoming quite tough to find. It is a vocation almost, and we need people who are trustworthy to an exceedingly high degree. We do, of course, employ a small number of technicians who can do technical things for us, and even some freelancers who do work for us occasionally, and we also employ a small number of clericals for odd bits and pieces in what you might refer to as the ‘back office’ ” “You seemed to take me on very quickly, you know, add me to your little family; you couldn’t have possibly vetted me that quickly.” The Colonel smiled, it was his first since the conversation had begun. He put his hands beside him and pushed, bringing himself to his feet and walking across to his desk before turning to her and replying. “As soon as the first flag was raised on you, even before you did your bit on the Post Office floor, we started a file on you and started profiling you, and believe me, our profilers are the best in the world.” “What do you mean, before the Post Office? I hadn’t even met Edward until then.” “No, but you had encountered him several times. It was actually quite by chance that we spotted you taking an interest in Edward, but then a small chance is sometimes all it takes.” “I don’t think I can quite believe you.” “I am being

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absolutely straight let me tell you.” “I am sure that you are, but still, checking me out before I had even managed to garner Edward’s interest, probably before I even realised I was interested in Edward is a bit much. Let me see my file, I want to know what attracted you to me, and when, and then what you did.” “That is absolutely not possible.” “But I have seen your file, Edward’s file, even Lord Chalfors’, why not mine?” “It is a golden rule. We can all see every file, except for our own. Keeps us honest if we do not know what is in our own file. Absolute rule laid down by George.” “George, which George? I haven’t seen a file on anyone called George, except for the short one on Anne’s George of course.” “King George II, son of King George I, father of George III.” “Right, of course. Silly me, George II, I should have realised.” Geraldine felt a little sheepish at her failure to realise what should have been obvious. She knew that which George was something that she could be forgiven for not knowing, but she really should have realised that TC was referring to a King George. “We are who we are. There is only us, we cannot, must not, dare not fail.” He did not make a point by remarking on her failure to recognise, he guessed she would feel badly about it, and nothing he could say or do would deliver a lesson as powerfully as her own pride. “I don’t accept failure; it is not in my makeup,” Geraldine stated forcefully. “I know, why do you think you are here? You are here on your own merit, not because of whom your boyfriend was or to whom you are married. Having caught my attention and interest, I would probably have approached you at some point anyway, even if you and Edward had amounted to nothing. Your profiling was better than Rosemary’s had been; and she had looked after us for many years, so long in fact, that I actually inherited her from my predecessor who also inherited her. She was a quite a star, but perhaps a little bit ‘old school’. I could read her and knew her better than she knew herself. I could tell

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that she had begun to wane even before she knew her time was ending. I was already looking for a replacement when you came on my radar. Your position, as my PA, is exceedingly important and I could not risk a long-term vacancy necessitated by Rosemary leaving before I had identified a suitable replacement. Timing is everything.” Geraldine took the speech like explanation and felt that her position was indeed of value, and that in itself raised some doubts in her mind. “Looking back now, I could almost think that you ordered that snow storm to see if I would still deliver my report to the council on time, or if I would just cry ‘Force Majeure’ and crawl back under my duvet,” she delved. “Not even I would engineer weather of that magnitude on cue in order to test a potential recruit, although under the right circumstances, and with the help of the Royal Air Force, we can and do certain things at certain times. We have caused rain, but it can be inexact and that can lead to a deluge when all we wanted was an nconvenient rainstorm. We explore that route only with the greatest of caution.” His denial did not exactly satisfy her, she noted his use of ‘would’ rather than ‘could’ and she tried a new tack, almost poker like, she tried raising the ante. “It was raining unexpectedly in Paris if I recall.” “Was it? I don’t remember.” He checked back. “I understand,” Geraldine folded; she was not going to beat him down so easily. She was, however, not going to completely roll over. “ Nevertheless, do not take me for a fool. If you do not want to talk about something, then say so, do not feign amnesia. I may not have been here long, but I do know how good your memory is, especially on major operations like that one. That operation was world changing. I do not believe that you would have forgotten a major detail such as the weather, especially if it was a key part of the operation. Treat me like a fool and I will leave. I shall not stay where I am not respected.” “I stand by what I have said. Some things are better left unspoken, and I,

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Geraldine, shall not be interrogated.” His tone became somewhat more stilted and Geraldine realised that she had pushed him as far as his patience and tolerance would allow. There was one last point she wanted him to answer. “Perhaps you should be. Who are you accountable to?” ‘You know that. I am absolutely accountable to only one person. There can only ever be one person.” Geraldine looked once more at the passing traffic, but found no inspiration there. She knew very well that there was only one person, but it was so difficult, with all that went on, to actually just exist or to undertake a role for the benefit of only one person, excluding all others. Some people did do it, in the name of love, but few did it in their day to day job. She was now part of a very small and exclusive group of people. Howard Fitzroy had endured a long day at work. There had been the frequent irritation of small planes flying overhead from nearby Staverton airport, buzzing or droning, their changing engine tones disrupting his concentration. Then there was the faulty fluorescent light strip over his desk that flickered throughout the morning, which, having had enough of by lunchtime, he disconnected from its socket by climbing onto his desk in order to reach. Almost rounding off his day was the particular components company that seemed incapable of reconciling their amounts invoiced with amounts he had paid, and then had come on the phone and threatened his employer with court action for nonpayment. What did finally complete his day was that when he eventually managed to get the component company’s accounts people on the phone, the accounts department of said company had been recently outsourced to an offshore location in Bangalore. Struggling to get even the simplest of financial English understood, his temper had frayed almost to snapping point. “This is flipping ridiculous,” he said to the piped music that played down the phone whilst the offshore accounts department supervisor kept him on hold

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yet again, “I am worth so much more than this crap.” His day had been bad from the get off with having to, unusually, come to work by bus, and that was always tedious and time consuming compared to his own car. Yesterday had also been an exceedingly trying day with foreign call centres and when John Derek, a co-worker, had suggested a drink after work, he had readily agreed to meet up in the ‘Vaults’ for a pint, or two. He felt that the end of the day was a time to imbibe and enjoy a few pints of the best local bitter. Howard had left his own car in the company car park and he had caught the works bus into town. He knew it would mean having to get up early to catch the bus to get to work for the next day, but Howard didn’t hold with drinking and driving. His mood had been dark yesterday evening when he had walked into the pub with his colleague and his temper had been barely constrained. Fortunately, the clientele last night were sparse and local and had been unlikely to raise his ire. His anti foreigner rhetoric found only sympathetic ears as he complained of bloody help desks run by bloody foreigners. “Too bloody right mate,” John, now seemingly a new friend had agreed, “too many towel heads don’t speak proper English. I go to the cities a lot and my God it’s hard to find a good white bloke who speaks the Queens English in Bristol or Birmingham these days.” There was a man in the corer nursing a bottled lager and trying to do a sudoku puzzle in the folded up paper before him. He looked up in apparent mild irritation at the loud conversation that disturbed his thinking, and turned his back to Howard and his friend. As he turned away, hidden from view, he pressed record on a small digital recorder that he pulled from his inside pocket, and then got back to his puzzle. “Tell me about it,” Howard had agreed, unaware of the puzzle man and the disturbance that he gave him, his voice had become slightly slurred, and his pitch rising as his excitement grew. “London’s even worse; no bugger speaks English in the streets.

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We should never have given up the Crusades. Bleeding sodding foreigners. We should have kept going, King Richard should have never stopped, and we should have wiped them all out and bought proper Christianity to the world. Be none of this fucking Muslim terrorist crap now if we had.” His new chum had summoned more beer from the young pimply youth behind the bar, and when they had been served, John continued in the same vein. “Well we have always had crap kings. Richard gave up crusading to help Robin Hood, what the bloody hell was that all about? And Henry, all he could do was kill his women, and look at the fucking Royals we got now? She’s Kraut and her old man’s a fucking Greek, her son’s a wimp who married an air head, mind you, he had enough about him to keep porking the neighbour’s wife, ugly cow though she is.” Howard’s guard had come up through the mist of alcohol and he had felt only a vague agreement, and a real need to partially rebut John’s aspersions. “Henry the Eighth wouldn’t stand for this, now he was a proper King,” he responded tersely, “he just ended up marrying stupid or biologically imperfect women who couldn’t produce healthy sons. If he were around now, well, any bleeding nonsense, and he’d be lopping off a head as soon as look at someone. Nah, he was bloody alright he was. Last decent king we had.” Despite the alcohol, Howard had kept enough wits about him to try and steer away from matters controversially Royal and felt he needed to get back to safer matters, and his greatest ire was on religious territory. “Bleeding Muslim crap, don’t know why we stand for it. Should have made the whole bloody empire and commonwealth Church of England and destroyed this Muslim nonsense before it even started. Been no fucking dustbin Laden and his hijacking tuppenny ha’penny terrorist wannabe’s fucking up all our foreign holidays if we had, that’s for bloody sure.” He had taken another swig of his beer. “Arsehole,” he had concluded as he saw the nods of John’s head,

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and decided that he had successfully succeeded in bringing the conversation back to safer territory. “Too right mate,” his chum had agreed, “look at Glasgow airport the other month, now we got bloody foreign doctors trying to blow us up? Fucking foreigners got no respect; no English doctor would try and kill people.” “Not unless you were private and hadn’t paid your bloody medical bill,” Howard had laughed, “bleeding foreigners piss me off.” Another drink had arrived and Howard had slid his empty glass towards the pimply youth. “Cheers mate” he had saluted his new drinking chum, downed half the beer in one, unfortunately slopping beer down his shirt, and had decided that he really needed the Gents. “Back in a mo,” he had slurred, leaving his newfound chum at the bar to discuss foreigners who couldn’t speak proper English with the barman. The man doing the puzzle pressed stop on his recorder, and then turned to a word puzzle, the Sudoku having been easily solved some minutes before. Relieved and somewhat more comfortable, Howard had returned from the toilets, and had come in at the end of a conversation between his pal John from work and the barman. “Too right mate,” the pimply barman had said. “Good job we speak bonzer English in Oz mate, yeah?” That had been yesterday evening. This morning he had woken early with a sore head and throat. Too much alcohol always left him feeling groggy for a few days, and today was no exception. A bad start and the day had only gone downhill from then onwards. “I understand what we do, and why we do it, and I am absolutely in agreement with that, although you will never hear me making royalist or jingoistic proclamations.” Geraldine had not yet left the office. The cups for washing now ignored and she again stood, now facing him at his desk with her back to the windows and the ever slowing day time traffic. “We know you wouldn’t. None of us would. Standing at Speakers Corner spouting loudly in support of Her Maj-

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esty, for example, would automatically rule someone out from the Star Chamber.” “Well, that is another thing, Star Chamber? I don’t understand really why we are called The Department of Overseas Analysis when we are apparently actually and secretly called the Star Chamber, and, if I am honest, nor do I understand quite how it came to be. I mean I understand what our primary function is, but why do we hide from the Security Services by being within the Security Service? Wouldn’t they naturally totally support what we do?” The Colonel looked across at Geraldine and then pushed back his chair and stood. He went to the cabinet and poured two glasses of water and waving a glass at Geraldine, he ushered her to sit back on the Chesterfield. “You are of course right in your confusion. It is not something that we publish externally and the knowledge is written down in so few places, and so securely guarded, that few people could stumble across it. It cannot be something that someone can discover by accident. Let me explain, and do sit down, it is a bit of saga.” Geraldine took the proffered glass and sat at the end of the Chesterfield. She guessed that TC could only explain this in detail, in the manner that he explained all things, and she was determined to listen closely and take it all in at the first pass. It would be interesting later to compare notes and versions with her husband to see if there were any variations on interpretation. The Colonel started. “Some of this you will already know, so forgive me if I go over familiar ground. DOA is an acronymistic title for the Department of Overseas Analysis, which is the current outward incarnation of the necessarily secretive Organisation of Knights of the Star Chamber or KSC. His Majesty King Charles the Second set the KSC up some years ago. King Charles, as I am sure you remember from history, was the King put back into power by Parliament following the failed experiment of the Republican years under the repressive Cromwell. Charles had, of course, remained legally the

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King of Ireland, Scotland and England during the years of the Cromwell, the self styled Lord Protector, but he had been driven into exile by the Roundhead armies of Cromwell. Eventually the Parliament tired of the Republic and Richard Cromwell who was the son of Oliver, and restored the Monarchy. Hence King Charles II reign is known as the Restoration. His reign, as his fathers had been, was plagued with disagreements with Parliament, the most hampering of all being Parliaments holding of the Royal purse strings, curtailing somewhat Charles’ hedonistic lifestyle. England was still Protestant in nature, which lead to desires by the Kings of France and Spain to return England and Scotland to Roman Catholicism in order to garner favour with the Pope and thus increase their own power base. Using this to his advantage, Charles struck a deal with the King of France promising to return England to Catholicism in return for money. This was known as the Secret Treaty of Dover, which was actually any thing but a secret.” The Colonel stopped talking for a moment and took a drink from his glass, giving Geraldine an opportunity to pose a question. He had, after all, sent a lot of information and facts her way. He wondered how much Geraldine would retain. It would not have surprised him to discover that she took every word in and would be able to recite it back to Edward word for word. “Didn’t Charles have a mistress called Nell Gwyn? I seem to remember that from school. I remember that we had to draw a woman selling apples to a king in long curly hair.” The Colonel nodded and then continued. “Yes indeed, although she is the most remembered and actually bore Charles two children, she was only one of many mistresses. Perhaps the most intriguing Royal Mistress was Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth who was actually a French Spy in the service of the French King, which of course, King Charles knew. It must have amused Charles greatly to both bed the French King’s spy and also take his

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money.” The Colonel paused and looked at Geraldine, his eyes taking in her body language, her attention as he spoke, her eyes on him, not wavering around the room in disinterest. He continued. “Charles had many mistresses and between them all they produced a large number of children, most of which he readily acknowledged. He may have been a hedonist, but he was the King and he took his responsibilities seriously. Back to history; following the signing of the Treaty of Dover in 1670, Charles was freed from the financial constraints of Parliament and had the funds at his disposal to do with what he wanted. Ever mindful of the fate of his father, he quickly set about to establish various Secret Organisations whose sole aim was to protect him and ensure his long life and reign. Of course many of the organisations were less than secret and were well known throughout Parliament and the Kings Court. Not all, however, were so public. One such unknown organisation was the Knights of the Star Chamber. This was an organisation set up in Westminster Palace with the greatest of secrecy, and named after the, by then defunct, Court of Star Chamber that had served his father until its dissolution and The King’s subsequent demise. The Knights of the Star Chambers only had one mission and that was to protect forever the King and his lawful heir from all harm.” The Colonel again paused and stood to refresh his glass. He looked at Geraldine and proffered the water bottle asking by gesture if she wanted a refill. Geraldine shook her head, she had listened more than spoken, her throat was fine. He replaced the bottle, restoppered it, and sat down and continued the history lesson. “As the Knights of the Star Chamber, we have carried out this task with solemnity and anonymity from that day to this, often at great odds with Parliament, for which reason our secrecy was an absolute necessity. We actually only relatively recently came to the attention of Parliament, and this was following the crisis of the abdication of Edward VIII and

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accession of George VI. King Edward VIII was the legal heir and his abdication gave a conflict of position to the then incumbent Head of the Star Chamber who found himself with two Kings to protect, one sitting and reigning, the other the legal Monarch but abdicating. Later, when Edward VIII, by then known as the Duke of Windsor rather than the King, declared public support for Hitler from his safe haven in the Bahamas, the head of the Star Chamber had a crisis of conscience and sought an audience with Winston Churchill for guidance. This was granted on December 27th and the then Lord Chalfors, Protector of the Seal of the Star Chamber, Commander of the Knights of the Star Chamber, presented his Seal to the Prime Minister and sought advice. This was at great personal risk to Lord Chalfors for it went against the very tenets of the Seal that had been set up 270 years before at the express royal command and instruction of secrecy from Parliament, the Kings greatest perceived threat. Lord Chalfors however deemed that Britain had changed and that Churchill was no ordinary man and believed him to be amongst the wisest men alive. No notes were taken at the meeting nor did it ever appear in any diary of Churchill’s movements, seemingly justifying Chalfors’ gamble, however following that meeting there was a subtle shift. The Star Chamber followed Churchill’s advice and sought a clarification from King George VI. King George declared that the role of the Knights of the Star Chamber was to protect only the Reigning and Sitting Monarch, and his or her lawful heirs et cetera. Abdicated Kings also abdicated their rights to protection by the Star Chamber. This absolved the need to protect two Kings, be one sitting and one abdicated, two Kings, who at this time, were at odds with each other. The needs of the Kingdom or Commonwealth were irrelevant to the Star Chamber as their Seal precluded such interest as being that of the King and Parliament, not of the Star Chamber. King George VI asked only one thing of Lord

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Chalfors; that henceforth, on request, the Star Chamber give all assistance and aid to the lawful Government of the day wherein this did not conflict with their primary duty to the Sovereign. ‘Perhaps’ Churchill suggested, ‘you could lay public your attentions to matters within the Commonwealth. Such a focus would serve both our interest.’ Times had moved on and the Monarch was more at one with his Government than his ancestor King Charles had been. George VI instructed that not only the succeeding Heir to the throne be appraised of the Star Chamber and its role on his, or her, eighteenth birthday, or accession which ever came first, but so too each new Prime Minister of the British Parliament on the occasion of his accepting the formal Royal invitation to form a Government. Queen Elizabeth has now done so on eleven occasions, and on each occasion she has been amused at the look of surprise on the face of the recipient of the information. Interestingly should Prince William, son of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer succeed to the throne, he will be the first direct line descendent of Charles II to sit upon the throne. This is because Diana Spencer is a direct descendant of Charles II through his illegitimate son Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, acknowledged illegitimate son by union with Louise Renée the Duchess of Portsmouth.” “Golly. So the Overseas Analysis title was actually Churchill’s idea.’ She paused as TC nodded, ‘And with the descendant of Charles II and son of Charles Windsor reigning, what goes around would indeed have come around.” “Indeed Geraldine, indeed. Lord Chalfors, as head of the Star Chamber, intends that this come to be as it will be in effect closing a circle, reuniting the rightful Monarchy with that of the reigning Monarchy, a moot but important distinction, a merging of the Royal Houses of Windsor and Stuart” Geraldine was startled at the implication of his words and quickly sought clarification. “Are you implying that the Windsor’s are not rightful Monarchs?”

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“No, absolutely I am not, and if that is your conclusion, then you must have that debate with Lord Chalfors. I will point out, however, that it has been an absolute rule throughout British History that no illegitimate offspring of the Monarch can take the throne and reign. William will not take the crown because of his mother’s lineage, but his fathers.” Geraldine stood and flexed her knees. Her session with TC was at an end, it was time to return to the grind of the regular office routine. There was only so long that they could both hide behind doors and be out of circulation. As she left she collected the cups and saucers for cleaning. Geraldine had not been at her desk for more than about fifteen minutes when one of ‘those’ calls came through; the important sort, the sort that no matter what TC had instructed her, she had to put through. “Sir” “Yes Geraldine?” “The Prime Minister is on the line for you.” “Put him through please Geraldine.” “Sir.” “Colonel” the voice had its distinctive Scots edge yet still carried a command of obedience. “Prime Minister, how may I help you?” “Your request for an additional disbursement of thirty-three point two million is denied.” “I see.” TC was disappointed at the news, and a little surprised. He remained silent; there was no point in arguing. “You do not protest?” “Sir I do not question your rebuttal. I shall have to examine our financial commitments and identify how I can meet my obligation to protect within whatever fiscal constraints you apply.” “I am advised by Chalfors of additional risk in your specialism. Your requested budget is therefore increased to

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assist you to target the increased risk. Your disbursement is thirty-eight point five. Do not give me cause to regret my decision.” The Line went dead. The Colonel sat looking at the silent handset and then laughed in personal embarrassment at the cliché before replacing it in the cradle. In his many prior years as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister had demonstrated incredible financial jurisprudence. The Colonel had expected a rebuff on his request, a reduced allowance perhaps, but he had been surprised by the increased allowance, and that surprise worried him. Surprises in his profession were dangerous, and he had just received two, one a larger than requested increase in his budget, and the other a clear indication that the Government, or at least the Head of it, had information regarding his charge that exceeded his own. He picked the telephone handset back up and pressed Speed Dial button 1. “Charles” the phone had not even rung, but had simply been answered straight away with a quiet voice that carried sophistication and authority. “Your Lordship. I have just had the PM on the phone.” “I am aware.” “He mentioned an increased risk.” “Target One has been known to make a number of comments concerning Muslims and how the Principal is too soft on non Anglo Catholic religions.” “I know this, our threat assessment is that this does not reflect any increase of risk to the Principal, merely an increase in the rhetoric.” “My assessment is different. I spoke with Gordon, you have funding. I think that it is time for a change in who is heading up monitoring of Target One.” “Racer has always done an excellent job, I have no reason to replace him.” “You do. His assessment is at fault. Get someone new.” The phone went quiet. TC sat and mused. He did not like

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surprises and he did not like people meddling in the running of the team and the personnel, even if it was from the Head of the organisation, he did not like it all.

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2

Risk and Reward

The pain was intense and hot sharp jags of pain and light flashed through her head as she was swung by her hair; her momentum spinning her uncontrollably towards the exit doors. With a depth of violence Nadira had never expected to see, nor wanted to experience, she was shoved so hard in her chest that she went flying, her feet hardly touching the floor as her legs bicycled backwards. There was a sickening sharp pain as her buttocks smashed into the crash bars of the exit causing the doors to fly open and she fell in an untidy heap. The ground was wet from the early evening storm lashing down as she lay; the dirty puddles of rain stinging her eyes with its oils and grit. As the emergency exit doors continued to swing open, they crashed against the outside wall, bounced back, and hit her heavily in the side. Unprepared for the impact, the air whooshed from her lungs, leaving her gasping for breath both from the beating and from the winding caused by the doors. Her headscarf was

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grabbed again and yanked upwards, pulling her to her feet by her hair. A cruel laughter rang out as she gulped at the air, desperately trying to suck oxygen back into her lungs. A fist balled and hit hard and low in the soft tissue of her stomach, mercifully avoiding cracking her already bruised ribs. She sank to her knees as the headscarf came away in her assailant’s hand. Tears of pain flowed flushing the grit from her eyes, as what little air she had was forced from her lungs and darkness lowered its veil across her vision. Her brain, starved of oxygen, did the only thing it could to protect her and itself. Feeling the responsiveness leave and her weight go dead in his hand, Yasser Rashid let go of her, watching as she crumpled into a pool of rainwater, reflections of lights dancing, coloured by the smears of oil and fuel dropped by so many cars and vans. Without a pause, he stooped and picked up her feet, hardly noticing the lack of a shoe on her left, and dragged her across the hard standing of the car park area. The anger was so great within him, that his fury boiled away what little control he might have had left, leaving him oblivious as to whether her head, or face, was damaged by the scrape of the pitted and cracked tar macadam. He dropped her legs at the side of his battered sign written van and he fumbled through his coat to the keys on the spring chain. This was a small electronic blip and quick flash from the hazards as he deactivated the alarm and unlocked the van. He slid the side door back, the inside illuminated by a weak fluorescent giving a wan but white light. There was a moan; almost a whimper indicating that Nadira was coming to. He gave her small kick to her backside and he was rewarded with a grunt as his shoe connected with her

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coccyx. He reached down and, grabbing handfuls of hair, helped her to her feet before propelling her into the van. He climbed in and slammed the door shut behind him, looking down at her, the anger still strong with him. Her head was pounding as if Thor was using her brain for hammer target practice and as she blinked open her eyes, the light caused her eyes to stream and her vision to swim. She struggled to understand where she was and what was happening. Dazed, she initially had little memory of the beating that she had taken so far. As her senses began to return, it was as much as she could fathom to understand who she was, let alone where she was or why. Awareness slowly returned and she remembered the beating, an understanding of the ancient devil hammering in her head came her way, and her vision cleared enough to see a figure standing above her, looking down at her, face red with anger, eyes piercing in the light. She realised that she was in a van, but had no idea where the van was, not knowing if had been moved or even if it was still in the car park. She hoped he had not found out the truth, so much depended on her keeping her secret. A sudden explosion of pain as he leant down and slapped her hard, screaming in her face, his spittle foaming and splattering her as he spit out his obscenities, almost incoherent to her as her head bounced off the floor of the van, lights flashing in a crescendo of pain and whiteness as he repeatedly slapped her head. What small vestiges of awareness and realisation that she had gathered, slipped from her as a pool of darkness gathered up and extinguished the lights and pain, unconsciousness once more bringing relief to her torment. There was a moment or two of continued abuse before Yasser Rashid realised that she was unconscious, or possibly dead, and that there was no longer any response to his beating. Still panting from the exertion of his assault upon her, he looked down at her.

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She lay, a small crumpled heap of humanity, mouth open, tongue hanging out from the lower side, her hands still up at the side of her head where she had attempted futilely to protect herself from the beating. There was blood on her cheek, whether grazed from being dragged on the ground, or from the repeated slapping he knew not. Her dark blouse was plastered to her skin, ruined by being ripped and tattered. Sundered down the front, it revealed a silken lacy brassier, torn about her right breast, her nipple showing through the tear. The hem of her long skirt was rucked up about her waist, her underclothes pulled up into the crease of her crotch, her under stockings totally destroyed, unable to survive the vicious assault from the car park ground. Grazes and small cuts showed through the holes in the hose, and bruises had begun to form at her ankles from where he had held her as he had dragged Nadira to his van. Anne turned her left indicator on, slowed her car, and pulled off the main Painswick Road onto the drive in front of a red brick semi detached house. The beech hedge that separated the property form the main road had long since thrown last winter’s coat and was no longer brown and thin. Green leaves now adorned its frame, providing a reassuring shield to the house. Anne so hated beech hedges because of their lingering death like appearance through the winter months; she much preferred holly and spruce as at least they looked alive all the time. There were a few Cotswold stone and traditional pottery tubs dotted around the edge of the drive housing a mixture of Erica and summer flowering pansy, impatiens and begonia, all of which Anne heartily approved. Anne picked her stones heater up and as Anne weaved a path between potted planters towards the house, the front door opened and a tall thin woman with black hair called a cheery ‘yoo-hoo’. “Hello

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Stacey. Where are we going with this today?” “Upstairs Anne, I think it is the best, well you know what I mean? The downstairs is too, well, you know, someone peering in through the windows? No I don’t think so , and anyway it is all so fussy and busy down stairs, no we want somewhere quiet and calming, come on in.” Stacey never changed; each sentence was still a train journey of conversation, each rattling along goodness knows what track to goodness knows where. Anne often felt when listening to Stacey, that she had arrived somewhere without quite knowing how the journey had actually happened. Stacey was certainly the most wordy person that she dealt with. She didn’t quite understand what it was about Stacey. “Okay Stacey let me just get the heater plugged in and then I can get the rest of the stuff in whilst you have a 5 minute soak in your bath, which I hope you have all ready?” “Yes Anne, well of course it is, I always have my bath ready. I always know what time to get the bath ready for, and as you are almost always exactly on time, the bath is always right. It’s not like a shower that you can just switch on and step under is it? No, it takes preparation and usually I would be adding my salts and scent, but I know that you always just want me to cleanse and so I have put nothing in the bath.” Anne looked at the wallpaper as she followed Stacey upstairs and mentally gritted her teeth. She had almost exactly the same conversation every time she arrived for her appointments with Stacey. She could almost, almost but not quite, write the script. “Stacey, that’s good. Now it’s time for you to go and put yourself in your bath and marinade, and I’ll finish bringing the stuff in,” Anne said, trying to hurry Stacey along, so that she could bring the last of her potions and lotions, oils and gels from the car into the hall. She heard the splashing as Stacey assumed her

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bathing position. Anne shut the front door after locking the car with the remote, and then she put her keys in the top of her handbag and put it on the hall floor in the corner by the door, slipped her shoes off and put them next to her bag. Starting with the table, she ferried the tools of her trade up to the bedroom at the back of the house. Stacey had, as always, cleared plenty of space, and after leaning her treatment table up against the wall, Anne pulled the curtains too leaving a small gap to allow only the slimmest slither of light through. Anne made her repeated trips up and down the stairs, on each occasion she passed the bathroom, which was next to the bedroom. Stacey had, as usual, left the door open, and was lying soaking in the warm water. Anne popped her head into the bathroom. “Now I hope that is not too hot Stacey,” Anne remarked dipping her fingers in the water. “I don’t want you cooking,” Anne said as she dripped a few drops of Lavender Oil into the water. “Nicely marinated and warmed I want you, not simmered or poached.” “Oh you know I only ever follow your instructions to the letter and I don’t dream ever of trying to go against what you have said.” Stacey paused speaking as she stood up, ready to get out of the bath. “Your Debbie is the one isn’t she, with her massages and deep rubs and foot work? She has me all of a dither I can tell you, she is really something quite special that girl.” “Here you are Stacey,” Anne said as she passed Stacey her robe that had been placed folded and ready on the toilet seat lid. As always Anne noticed the lack of hooks, and almost for the first time, Stacey didn’t mention putting some up. “Now you dry yourself and give me a moment to get ready and then you can come through.” Anne left a slightly Lavender scented Stacey patting herself down through her towelling robe and went into the bedroom to set up the table. Yasser Rashid took a breath, thought for a moment, and concluded that any further violence or action here would

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almost certainly garner some attention, if it hadn’t already. He flicked off the internal light and slipped out of the side door, dead locking his cargo inside. He would leave the rather public car park, and drive to somewhere somewhat more private. He would find out if she was alive or dead later. He stood in the car park for a few moments scanning for signs of unrest or interest in him or his van, there was none, no one had coming rushing from inside to investigate. As he looked around he spotted her discarded shoe and slowly walked across to retrieve it. Back at the van, he threw the shoe into the passenger foot well, started the engine, and slowly turned out of the car park and headed off towards the escarpment. He was racking his brains as he drove, trying to think of a suitably quiet place to go. He needed somewhere well off the beaten track, in case she was dead, and definitely not somewhere where the van could get stuck. If she were dead, he would need to move quickly and lose himself in another community, perhaps in the east end of London where he had contacts. From there he could get to Pakistan or perhaps Afghanistan and then return in a few years with a new name and identity. In his mind he flipped through all the tracks and lanes he knew of in the area that could be suitable and settled on the old Cat Brain track. It was un-metalled, and led up to a sheep station on the tops. Rarely used at anytime it was bound to be deserted at this time of night. If he remembered correctly, it dead ended and so didn’t exit anywhere, which meant that it probably hadn’t been popular with the local off road enthusiasts, and so hopefully wasn’t deeply rutted. He was glad that he had taken the time to study the area and knew where all the roads and tracks were. The rain that was falling this evening would make the surface a little slippery, however he was a careful driver and he felt sure that even

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though he did not have four wheel drive, whatever the track threw at him he would cope with. It was some months since he had last checked the track out, and that had been a dry day, and he had found the track to be stony and hardly rutted. Most ordinary road cars would have had little difficulty on that day, tonight they would be foolish to try. With his high driving position, he expected no difficulties. Slowly Nadira regained consciousness in the back of the van. This was a far worse reaction than she had expected. Her head was pounding, a real deep throb that seemed to grow in intensity with each pulse. She was sure that as the pain peaked, her head would explode with the pressure, but it didn’t, and then the next peak would be even greater. She felt the movement of the vehicle which helped her senses identify that she was probably still in the van, and that the van was moving. She opened her arms and legs to spread herself across the floor and to try and brace herself for when the van went around corners. She was shivering, she knew not if it was from the wet and cold, or the shock of the beating she had received. She had no idea what state she was in, whether the wetness was from blood or water, or a combination of them both. The inside of the van was pitch black, and she did not dare move her arms or legs to investigate the damage for fear of being flung against the side of the van at the next corner. She felt the van slow, almost to a stop, and then the noise from the tyres changed. The rhythmic hum changed to a slushy wet sound, and although the speed seemed slow, she was bounced around a deal more. She was sure too that she was moving down the van towards the back doors. Terrified, unable to guess her fate, she lay in the dark, snivelling and gibbering in her trauma as the

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sloshing and bumping continued. Her training, though comprehensive, had not fully prepared her for the events of this evening. Her only redeeming thought was that in all his screaming and shouting he had not once given her any reason to know who, or what, she really was. Anne laid her towels on the table and then took Stacey’s robe from her as she came in. Stacey sat and then turned to lay face down on the table, the crease of her bottom and legs forming a cross, and higher up, a small dimple in her Stacey’s back. Anne folded the towels over Stacey ensuring that modesty was maintained, and that Stacey would keep warm. There was a time when Anne just had her clients laying down, and went to work on them naked. However, experiences and the personal revelations of last year had led her to move to a somewhat blander and less intimate surrounding. Seeing her clients naked was something that she now tried to avoid. Anne folded back the towels from Stacey’s waist, leaving the bare skin. Into the small dimple at the spine base, Anne poured her Stacey Special, a mixture of Vanilla and Patchouli oils carried in one her favourite base oils of organic Jojoba. She worked her hands over Stacey’s shoulders, burying them deep into the warmth between the towelling table cover and Stacey’s décolletage, and then sliding her fingers back from the deltoids, over the shoulders and down deep into the tissue of Stacey’s buttocks, and then pushing back up and around Stacey’s side. This she did for around fifteen minutes, massaging a pink and slightly reddening warmth into Stacey’s wan skin. It was time to move to the next stage. “Now just lie there and relax Stacey, as you know, at this point I am going to remove the lower towels. This will enable me to work on your buttocks and thighs.” Anne took the towel from Stacey and placed it over the back of the chair placed nearby. She opened her heater, took out a pair of small hot stones, and

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again spoke softly to Stacey. “You know what comes now Stacey, these will be warm on your toes and will prepare your feet for when I arrive there. Now just close your eyes and imagine water trickling and babbling in a brook in a leafy meadow.” Ann then placed one stone between the big and next toes of each foot, and then simultaneously gripped Stacey’s big toes, holding them both for a minute before releasing. Anne went back to her oils case to prepare for the next phase. She added some drops of Bergamot and Neroli to her bowl and mixed in some additional Jojoba, swirling it round with her finger. Ensuring that her palms were well oiled, Anne started on Stacey’s buttocks, kneading and rubbing, her hands gliding over the rounded surface, rubbing down into Stacey’s inner thigh abductor muscles and then back to circle and manipulating the gluteus muscles. It was, possibly, an intimate massage, but one that Anne steadfastly worked in a detached way. As Anne concentrated; her hands working the ligaments hidden beneath the muscle mass, her oiled hands massaged back and forth; her manipulations began, as usual, pressing Stacey down on to the table and Stacey began to go slightly pink over more than her shoulders and flanks, and her breaths became deeper and were held for longer. Yasser Rashid bought the van to a controlled stop besides the remains of the old sheep station, turning the van to face back down the hill in case the still falling rain made the track too slippery toturn around on later. The sheep station had fallen into ruin; its roof long since plundered for its booty of slate, much of its stone walls had been pressed into service repairing the many dry stone walls in the area. All that was left were some roof struts atop open walls, and a rusting open sided storage bar with some bales of animal food sheltering from all but the worst of the local weather. He flicked the switch in the cab that turned on the interior light in the back of the van, slipped out and walked to the side door, releasing the dead lock; he slid the door open and

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climbed inside, shutting the door behind him. Nadira was cowering at the rear of the van, teeth chattering, whimpering and mewling like a damp lost kitten. The concentration required for his drive up the track had tamped down most of the anger that had manifested itself before; now he was just plain mad, in a degree of control but cross. She scrambled back as he stood over her, her fear only too real as he reached down and ripped the remnants of her blouse from her body, before throwing the rag like remains at her, telling her to clean herself up. She knew that it was ridiculous but she found herself upset that her new blouse was ruined. She had only bought it last week, along with the new underwear. Through her sobs she remembered the delight that she had felt when she had found the matching lacy bra and pants, not only pretty, but the bra was really comfortable and lifted and shaped her in what she thought was a lovely way. Her body heaved as she took huge gulps of air, trying to remember her training to try and bring her self under control. Her mind recalling standing in front of the mirror, looking at herself in the new underwear, twisting this way and then that, looking at her shape, and how her bust was shaped in the new bra, and how it made the slight bulge of her tummy seem smaller. Nadira remembered how she had felt so good, and then how wrapping the blouse over the top and above her skirt had really made her buzz. For the first time in a long time, she had felt like she looked feminine since her apparent conversion to Islam. She had planned to use this night out to explore a notion that she had. Yasser Rashid, her husband, had the behaviour of a good devout man with modern views. He had never requested nor required her to wear the Chador or Kamiz, requesting only that she dress modestly and wear a head scarf. She had nev-

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er seen an angry violent side to him before, but now, her suspicions vindicated, she could fully understand its origin. Virtually naked, she was feeling the cold now, but had managed to stop the crying. Her breathing was almost back to normal, her body no longer heaving as her training came to the fore, and she took controlling breaths. She used her blouse as a cloth and wiped her self dry as directed, admonishing herself for being saddened that her underwear was ruined too. As pain began to focus into individual areas, uncontrollable and irrational thoughts flashed into her mind, “Doctor it hurts wherever I touch myself ”, she imagined herself saying and the Doctor replying “That’s because you’ve injured your finger”. She knew that she was in shock, but could not control herself and started to laugh, a gulping laugh that combined with the vestiges of her tears and sobs. He just glared at her as she laughed as she tried to tidy herself. Her grazed cheek no longer dripped blood, and just looked angry and sore. Although the light was poor, he could see the bruises forming on her body where he had beaten her. Yasser Rashid guessed that her back would be cut or grazed too from the dragging across the car park. He did not care, Anne’s fingers expertly worked the sinews and knots deep within Stacey’s body. Her hands perfumed with the fragrances of essential oils, the semi darkened room, and the ever present songs of whales combined to present a sensual and deeply personal atmosphere. This atmosphere was essential to provide the deep and holistic approach Anne favoured. She knew that Debbie was taking it to a new level with her Australian Techniques, but Anne was still comfortable with the knowledge that her own technique worked and was effective for all of her clients. Clients

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like Stacey came back for more, even those that had a sample of Debbie’s ‘The Paige Treatment’ still booked Anne for her treatments. Stacey was by now oblivious and lost in her own dreams as Anne’s hands moved over her skin. Stacey had lost her senses of reality, the manipulations would pull her skin one way at the same instant as they pushed her skin in an altogether different way; and with her eyes closed and little light for reference, it was an almost surreal sensation. Stacey knew the pattern by now, slowly the hands would go from her toes, around her feet, and up her leg. As they went, their traverse always left a slight tingle in her as they made an inexorable passage to her upper leg, where an expectant crescendo built but never quite erupted, where Anne’s hands always seemed aimed at, but never quite arrived. Stacey’s breath would pause as she waited for, and always hoped for, a touch that would never come; her breath only releasing only as the hands, uncontrolled by her desires, would land at an unexpected point, a hand or a foot or her neck. She wondered did Anne touch so close, but not close enough, did Anne tantalise and tease, she wondered if Anne did this deliberately, and then, as always, she would loose herself in a moment of deep pleasure and would forget the questions, sated in the rush of endorphins released by the skilled manipulations. Anne was now herself also lost, deep in her duty, she massaged not on automatic pilot, but from refined skill that guided hands and fingers in a pre-programmed sequence. They would start at an extremity, perhaps a finger, perhaps a toe, and each time both of Anne’s hands would slowly work their way along the limb, rubbing and massaging in the oils, releasing the tensions of Stacey’s stressed suburban life. Anne’s voice was kept soft

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and infrequent, gentle and soothing as she massaged, aware of the potentially intimate pressures that she generated in the insides of her subject, immobile but not irresponsive as she lay upon the table before her. Anne knew that the aromas of Vanilla and Neroli combined to produce a heady and almost hormonal scent; however her senses were so keen, so refined that still she could detect both the scent of Stacey and the under tones of the Bergamot. As she moved her hands down, Anne could feel Stacey’s breath being held. She felt Stacey’s anticipation and waiting, knowing that the wanting was there too. This was not Anne of a year ago, now her self-control was in place, her client was, simply that, a client. Anne no longer found herself struggling to maintain a professional and detached approach; there was a line over which she would now not cross. She knew in her innermost secret thoughts that the line had been fragile, she knew that it had stretched almost to breaking point. Anne had once imagined as she worked, that it were her friend on the table and not a client, and had often wondered where it would end if it were. Now those days were gone, her control in place, now her movements were controlled and designed to bring release to her clients, not provide a surrogate to herself for an unrequited love. After Stacey, Anne had to pick Debbie up from College as the rest of the appointments were for both of them, booked to be after Debbie’s last college lectures of the day. Anne could take a little back step and give Debbie her head, relaxing and de-stressing herself as the business day drew towards a close. Stacey suddenly let out a long breath, the tension that had been mounting left her client, and Anne breathed an imperceptible sigh of relief. Anne was getting tired of this, it was mentally draining, and Debbie had such

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enthusiasm, it too was tiring. Yasser Rashid’s actions were now under control but his temper was still on a knife-edge as he began slowly to undo his shirt. Standing over her, he looked down at her hair, straw like where the oily rain had dried after decimating her style. Button after button was slowly released, his eyes taking in the scene beneath him, its raw imagery, brutal and animalistic, sending powerful messages to his loins. Nadira’s torn brassiere with her nipple showing raised lust in his body, not sympathy from his heart. With the cuff buttons undone, he slipped the shirt from his body and hung it on a hook to keep it from the dirty floor. The fine downy hair on his chest rose to trap a layer of warming air next to his skin, his small masculine nipples hardened on his chest, and his stomach muscles tightened as he undid the belt at his waist. Nadira looked up at him as he undid his shirt, unsure at first at his intentions, fear gnawing at the edge of her mind as the remains of the concussions cascaded waves of pain through her head. He was towering over her, the light behind him bizarrely giing his head a halo, and causing his features to be darkened, making his expression unclear to her. She watched as he took off his shirt and started to undo his trousers, first slipping his shoes and socks off, tucking the socks inside the shoes, before lowering his trousers. As he turned to hang the trousers with the shirt, she saw his profile outlined against the light, his arousal was very apparent and finally she knew his intent. Yasser Rashid slid down his boxer shorts and slowly stepped out of them, ensuring his balance with the surety and slowness of his movements. Naked he stood over her bruised and cowering form, the earlier uncontrollable anger now transformed into hard arousal. He leant to the door behind her, his arousal ugly in her face and released the rear door catch. Her weight on the door caused it to spring open, and unprepared for the opening; she crashed to the ground her legs still up on the rear step

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of the van leaving her in an obscene posture. She lay winded, the thin layer of mud having done little to soften the landing. She gathered her wits a little and scrambled backwards, looking in the poor light and falling rain like some deformed giant land crab, scuttling to escape a predator. He dropped softly from the back of the van and advanced upon her as if she were his prey, his feet making a small squelch with every step, his eyes aflame, and his intent only too apparent. She slithered and slipped as she backed away, her feet failing to find the leverage she needed to accelerate away from her fate. The thin mud seemed to cover every surface, leaving no chance for grip or purchase. The air was full of the fetid, almost fecund stench of animals and animal fodder, adding to the surreal nature of her predicament, the animalistic behaviour of her attacker. The slimy mud oozed into her underwear as she scrabbled along the ground, its discomfort hardly noticeable in the fear of the moment. This moment smelled primeval, and her fear was almost a taste on her tongue. She flinched as he reached down for her, failing to avoid him as he managed to grab at her brassiere, and pulled her up to him. The straps of her tortured underwear cut cruelly into her back and shoulders as he hauled her weight up off the ground. Trying desperately to take her own weight and release the torment of the straps, her feet slipped and scrabbled to get grip, any grip, on the stinking muddy ground beneath her. He held her by her hair with his free hand, releasing his other hand from her bra, and the pain in her back from the straps was replaced by a cruel burning as her hair strained at her scalp. He reached behind her tearing at the catch to her bra until it released and, whipping the brassiere from her, he flung it away into the rain and darkness, leaving her hanging by her hair from his hands, slumping as her knees failed to lock and give her the support she so desperately needed. He slapped Nadira hard across her left check,

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backhanding her other cheek as her head snapped to the right. Slap, slap, slap. The few sounds from the valley below dimly audible through the veil of rain, gave little scope for reference as her head spun, pivoting around his hand still cruelly gripping her hair. Without warning he let go just as he delivered one last huge slap to her face. She twisted as she fell, her face burying in the mud, its coolness giving some relief to the stinging burn of her slaps. She felt his hands roughly grab at her remaining underwear, winced once more at the pain in her upper legs and waist as her tore the last shred of clothing from her body before flipping her over onto her back. “By Allah you whore, you will learn never to utter such sacrilege again least you want to beg personally at Allah’s feet for forgiveness.” He dropped to his knees between her legs, preparing the cruellest punishment that only a man can bestow on a woman, slapping her once more as he screamed at her. “Be sure woman, I can and will send you on that glorious journey if ever such words leave your mouth again.” He punched her face once more and as Nadira wavered on the edge of unconsciousness she felt his hardness as he lay upon her, no tenderness or love in his action, only pain and cruelty. Her final thought before unconsciousness blessed her was that at least she had been proven right, and that he hadn’t uncovered her truth. If he had, she would have died a slow death, rather than suffer a beating and a rape born from fundamentalist rage. “Geraldine, get Racer in to see me.” “Sir. He is not due back from Le Mans until next week. I will send him a ‘soonest’” “Thank you. Also I can see Henry now.” The door knocked discretely a few minutes later and he shouted ‘come’. Henry‘s head appeared through the opening door. “Come in Henry, take a seat.” The Colonel instructed as he got up from his desk and moved towards the less officious Chesterfield. He recalled the day that he had sat here with Henry’s wife Rosemary, Geraldine’s predecessor,

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as she had told him of her desire to retire, a desire that he knew about before Rosemary did, and now it was the turn of Henry. “That time is here then Henry.” “Yes sir. It is time.” “You will be missed Henry, your contribution has been remarkable, yet as you know must go publicly unrecognised. It is the nature of our role that there can be only a discrete ceremony with Wales, and although you will be suitably entitled, there will be no public announcement of the CMG, for that would bring attention to the Chamber.” “Sir, we are aware of that, and Rosemary and I have done what we have done through a sense of duty, not for rewards down the line. The title will be cherished as a memory for the services I have undertaken for the Principle. And before you ask, Sir, there will be no book, and we have kept no diaries. There are no embarrassments to appear in the tabloid press of this or any other country, and neither will I expect anyone to Call Me God when I have my CMG.” “Henry, I expected nothing less, although you will always be a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the Royal Star Chamber, at least with the CMG something recorded in public history. How are the move arrangements progressing?” “The house sale is progressing well and Rosemary has found a suitable new house on the island, it is apparently in the colonial style. I am arranging for our possessions to be shipped out and I shall leave for Montserrat as soon as the details are finalised. We shall not be idle, they still need help with rebuilding following the disaster, and we can be of use. The Governor is an old family friend, as I am sure that you are well aware, and he welcomes our assistance. I think he plans for Rosemary and me to crack on with rebuilding the education service. I thought that I might also set up some discrete training facilities for my old friends, Sir, if that would be of benefit?” The Colonel smiled. Even when people retired they still stayed involved and in touch, as if the work was a family

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business. Henry would find out soon enough that some of his old friends from Hereford were already very active on the island, albeit in an exceedingly discrete way. It would probably turn out to be they that helped him, rather than the other way round. “Excellent idea Henry, and might I suggest that keeping a guest bedroom may be a good idea? You never know when old friends may drop by unexpectedly.” “Indeed Sir, and I suspect that we may then forget that they even visited.” “Just the ticket Henry. So, when is last orders?” “Sir, I have left that in the hands of Trader. I believe it may involve a small excursion to Hereford, some friends there, I believe, have requested to host the event.” “Very good Henry, I may well have a word with Trader, see if I can’t buy a round, that sort of thing. Well then, Teacher, time to hang up the chalk, at least in this role and perhaps the next time you are referred to as Teacher, it will be in a publicly acknowledged role.” “Sir, I always found ‘Teacher’ to be an amusing moniker, ironic that my new life will actually involve education.” “Indeed Henry. Allow me to walk with you to the gate.” “Sir.” As were the tradition and rules Henry had not parked inside the compound on his last day. It was not a case of mistrust, for any employee could be trusted with their life. Knowing secrets that could bring down Governments put stealing a few paperclips or other office supplies into perspective. It was just customary that on his or her last day, weather foul or fine, the last act was to walk to the gate with the Colonel. Today the weather was grey and overcast, the cloud low and the light flat. A sombre weather for the end of an era the Colonel thought as he accompanied Henry, The Teacher, Faraquar KMG (KSC) to the heavily monitored and guarded gates that protected their borrowed offices. Borrowed, for they had no official home, no publicly official fund and only a Royal Mandate that allowed their existence, an existence that had been secretive for over three hundred

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years, an existence that had, on occasion, bought them into conflict with the elected Government of the Nation, but it was the Realm, not the Nation that demanded their attention. The Nation simply provided them the courtesy of a home. “Next Wednesday I see the Prince of Wales,” Henry said as the gate came into view for the last time. There was sadness in Henry’s heart as the finality of his retirement finally began to strike home. Henry unclipped his Photo identity card from his Jacket and rubbed it between his finger and thumb as he walked his final steps inside this secured location. “Is Rosemary to return for the investiture?” “Yes Sir, she doesn’t hold quite with it, feeling that the title should come with the role and the duty, not when you have relinquished them. She argues at great length, quoting from history, for example, that the Knights Templar would have fought less well and protected the Christian Pilgrims with less vigour if they were to have been awarded the title and their reward and status only on their return home. But it is important and she wishes to also have a final farewell with The Principal’s son too before we move to the Caribbean.” “I am not entirely sure that I agree with her assessment. Perhaps they would have fought harder and longer knowing that their reward was awaiting them.” “I don’t agree with either view Sir. My view is that they saw their reward as being in heaven, and that they fought through commitment, rather than for reward, a view in respect of my duty that I hold myself.” “Indeed Teacher, indeed; you live up to your name.”

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3

Home Truths

Howard knew from his papers and research that he was thelegal monarch of Britain, not the Windsor woman who sat squattingon his throne. This should once more be the time of the Tudors, anew Restoration Monarchy was needed. But first he had to find away to get rid of the Windsors. It was difficult, and dangerous he felt, to find the support thathe needed and wanted, and yet remain away from the eyes of thewatchers. Howard knew that the internet in the United Kingdomwas closely monitored by the Secret Services, and indeed all internettraffic passed through their hands where it was examined for keywords. The internet was not a safe place for Howard Fitzroy. Hisbrief time on the internet had convinced him that if he made tooloud a noise about his claim, then he would ‘disappear’ or conveniently die in an accident, and he was the last of his line. So far, he had no children. Once he was King he would set about changing that, and if necessary, he would live up to the example set by his illustrious predecessor and change wives by what ever means necessary in order to sire a son. He needed information and contacts and it could not come

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electronically to him through his mistrust of the internet. In the nineteen eighties, after reading an adventure come spy novel, he had decided to get a false passport. He had not done so out of any desire to defraud, or for any reason nefarious, rather he had done so only to see if it was as easy an exercise as the novel had indicated. Following the instructions in the novel, he had searched the local crematorium for the death of a child who had been born and lived only a few days before death and who, if he had lived, would have been about the same age as him. He came up with two candidates. He had then looked up the surnames in the telephone directory and found the addresses of the surviving families. Watching the two houses on a casual basis for a few weeks gave him a family that had apparently made recluses of themselves following the loss of their son; the other family having seemingly recovered from their loss and subsequently produced other offspring. He therefore had his name from dead son of the reclusive family, Stewart Jackson. He spent a while his hair grew his hair longer and then bought some dark rimmed reading glasses from a local trader in the indoor market. He also ordered a copy of the birth certificate for Stewart Jackson, he was surprised that anyone could simply pay a small fee and order a copy of so important a piece of identity documentation. He had been sure that had been a fictional part of the novel, but no, it had been accurate. A day trip to Tewkesbury, where he estimated no one would recognise him, got him his Passport Photographs in his disguise of glasses and long hair. His regular passport showed him with no glasses and slicked back hair. He had been lucky with a usable posting address, a neighbouring couple had retired and gone on a round the World cruise, leaving him a set of keys to their house in case of emergencies. He left that address with the photographer who assured him that he would

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send the photographs through the post ‘within the week’. Three days later the photographs arrived. He compared them to his real passport; he did not look the same man. He then re-cut his hair and returned to looking like Howard Fitzroy once more. He filled in the passport application using the address of the holidaying couple, and entered the details and forged the signature of a local doctor, not his own, but one nearby, as the corroborating professional witness, gambling that the passport authorities wouldn’t actually check. Three weeks later the hard backed Blue passport declaring him to be Stewart Jackson, Citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland arrived. Flushed with his success he then applied for a provisional car driving licence and booked himself a driving test in his new name. He failed the first driving test, his lazy driving habits proving too much for the examiner, but four weeks and one retest later, he also had a ‘pink slip’ entitling him to drive Automatic or Manual Motor Vehicles. He sent off his application to Swansea for his full licence. As Stewart Jackson, he also registered with the Doctor who had unwittingly provided him with the provenance of his name. Over the course of the next few months he had managed to get a job as a night time shelf stacker at a supermarket giving him a National Insurance number as well as some useful income. He had taken his first payroll cheque to the Midland Bank and opened an account, allowing him to stop having to use the inconvenient Postal Orders for everything he wanted to pay for in his new name. It had taken six months and he felt pleased with himself. He had a fully realised alternative identity with bank account, National Insurance and NHS numbers, driving licence and Passport. Having accomplished his original task and proving that sometimes the things you read in novels were true, he consigned his new identity to a shoe box stored on top of his wardrobe. Resurrecting the Passport at renewal ten years later using a

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short lease hired bed sitting room as the delivery address, he also updated the driving licence to this new address and the bank account he had kept alive by adding a few pounds into the account as cash, as and when means allowed. In late 1998 he had decided to see if the identity would stand a stern test and had hired a car from Hertz and driven to Paris via the Dover Ferry using his alias. He had handed the hire car over to the Hertz people in Paris and stayed in a hotel in the Rue de Longchamps near the Place de Mexico, taking in the sites and spending money on Stewart Jackson’s Visa card. Having decided that the test had been a success, he put his false identity into his suitcase and travelled home via Air France from Charles de Gaule Airport to Heathrow using his real name and particulars. Should anyone discover his actions and try to trace him, for no particular reason, Stewart Jackson had disappeared in France. Howard did not expect to need him ever again and was a little worried about what would happen if ever he were caught masquerading as someone he was not. Jail, probably, for fraud was his conclusion. He felt more comfortable thinking that if anyone knew about Stewart Jackson, all they would find is that he had gone to France and not returned. He hid the false identity papers in the loft and promptly forgot about them. It was only when he read of his history in 2004 and his rightful claim to the monarchy did he remember his false papers obtained those years ago. ‘Well if that isn’t fate’ he said to himself, ‘I don’t know what is, the false ID might just come in useful.” At the time he was blissfully unaware of the lack of privacy on the internet, and he had started searching for Royalist Sympathisers, looking to see if any felt that the current succession might be wrong. He found someone who claimed to be descended from the Twins in the Tower, claiming that they were in fact hidden by the Duke of Gloucester, not murdered as many thought. If true

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and provable then this man’s claim could usurp his own. He corresponded by email with the man, a resident of Australia, but eventually decided that the man had no providence to confirm or prove his claim. During his period of searching he came across the conspiracy theorists and discovered the true path of internet traffic, as they explained to him the complete lack of privacy on the internet. He stopped searching and vowed not to do so again for at least a year, and then only with his false identity, and probably then only from internet café’s. He began to ignore emails that were sent to him from prior contacts and then eventually he ceased the old original email accounts. Howard Fitzroy the Royalist dropped off the internet. He didn’t know it, but it was too late, he had already been flagged and come to the attention of the Star Chamber. They was decided he was worth keeping an eye on. “You let me think that you were some secret Government Organisation.” Geraldine stood hand on hips in the kitchen as Edward shredded some iceberg lettuce. “You were the one who kept accusing me of being a spy,” he responded as he worked. “But you are.” Edward stopped shredding and put down the knife. He turned and took Geraldine in his arms, bending a little, his lips grazing hers as he placed the gentlest of kisses on her mouth before he pulled back slightly and responded. “No, my darling, I very definitely am not a spy, not in the sense that you meant, not in the secret service sense, and I think I frequently denied that I was a spy at the time. We, as now you are also, are both sworn protectors and guardians of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Sovereign Ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Empire of the Commonwealth etcetera.” “Etcetera?” Edward chuckled, nearly everyone always picked up on the etcetera. “Yes etcetera, I know it sounds

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odd but it slipped in somewhere in the eighteen hundreds and has stuck ever since. It honestly says etcetera in the Honorary.” “Probably that King George again.” Geraldine pulled him close to her and pressed her lips against his, her tongue pushing between to run along his lips. She gasped and took a deep breath as his wanting became only too apparent as he pushed his hips against hers. She dug her fingers into his back, a slight grazing as she raked her nails across his skin, his shirt giving little protection. Lingering her kiss and pushing back with her hips she returned the body language of wanting, before pulling away. She had let him know her own desires equalled his own, but now was not the time and she would not be sidetracked by his guile or lust, no matter her own. “Not so fast mister. You still misled me Edward Seymour.” “Not in any meaningful way, after all, I am in a kind of service and it is kind of secretive. Look, you are now in the same place as me, think about it, what do you tell Anne?” “You are right, she thinks I work for spies, that you are one, and therefore that I probably am now also.” Geraldine walked across and pulled a green bottle from the cooler, and picked up the corkscrew. She paused her reply as she pulled the cork from a bottle of 1996 Chablis, the exertion taking her attention rather than his sexual approach to her bantering admonishment. There was still one important matter to be answered to her satisfaction before the pleasures of food and then the bedroom could be explored. “TC explained the origins of the Star Council, but now I come to think about it, he was a little vague about why we are called the Department of Overseas Analysis, simply suggesting that it was Churchill’s idea.” Edward had turned his attention to the tomatoes. He had sliced the tops and scooped out the seeds and flesh. He mixed the scoopings with some sweet chilli sauce and English mustard powder, and as he carefully refilled the

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tomato carcase’s he answered her query. “Well indeed it was. We were partially in the open and needed something that looks like a small innocuous secretive government service, especially to the other secret services who would now know about us. Often the best place to hide is in the open, and we needed to hide if we were to be effective. By seeming to be within the Secret Services we could appear to be open and helpful in areas that they were perhaps short staffed, and in return we could call on their assistance when our own resources were limited. They also saw us as no threat, just a small group providing analysis on matters overseas, focussing on the Commonwealth. We were no threat to the major foreign focussed secret services or domestic oriented intelligence service. Since then we have been funded partially as a Government Service, which is known about and audited, and partially privately by Her Majesty which is not.” Edward turned to the spring onions and began to slice them almost through lengthwise, preparing them to soak in iced water so that they would open like a flower. Taste was, after all the most important thing to bring to the table, but presentation ranked highly too. He continued his explanation. “In keeping with Churchill’s wishes and King George’s instruction, when we are able, we assist the Secret Intelligence Services, thus maintaining our credibility with them and with Parliament. I personally find it somewhat amusing that Lord Chalfors heads up a secret service that every one knows about, as well as ours that almost no one knows about. I sometimes wonder if he must be schizophrenic in nature.” Geraldine walked up and kissed him again, a soft and lingering kiss, her hand resting lightly on his cheek “I see. Thank you darling, you have a wonderful way of explaining.” She turned back to her preparations and diced the chorizo, ripped some flat garlic bread into small chunks and tossed them all in a small bowl, ready for him when he was

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ready. “You know there has been some coming and going in the office today. Something is definitely afoot.” She commented as she watched him drain the now opened spring onions. “Yes? I haven’t heard anything on the grapevine, so I suspect that it is just simply Henry’s retirement and his impending CMG. Someone leaving our organisation is a relatively infrequent event and there is a bit of ceremony involved, and both TC and Henry are a bit pernickety when it comes to tradition. “Does that include the Prime Minister?” Geraldine asked. “Well it might darling, well it might. Whilst we trust ourselves implicitly, the small number of externals who know about our primary remit will never properly trust us.” Geraldine leaned back, her elbows and lower arms resting on the work surface as she watched Edward. She adored him and loved these moments where they could talk and work together. That she was able to do this in terms of their work, and also domestically, was for her, sheer bliss. “Well I don’t think it was anything to do with that. Henry had to wait to see TC whilst other matters took precedence.” She paused and then added a small rider. “I suppose that really, I shouldn’t be talking about this.” Edward laughed as he completed the last of the ingredients for their supper and started combining and arranging. Geraldine was impressed at how little mess and washing up he created as he went along. “In public places darling, no I guess that you shouldn’t raise such matters, but here in our own home is secure and it is okay. This is not some figment of a Hollywood or Pinewood film studio. This is real life, our real life, we are married and both work for the same organisation, and we both know exactly what the other does. Unless either of us specifically is told something that cannot be shared with the other, then it is safe to assume that we can talk shop. It is not in our interests to keep secrets from each

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other simply for the sake of it, that would just add stress to an already stressful occupation. It will take a while, but I guess eventually we will get used to it and simply stop talking about it. I will probably ask Henry how he and Rosemary dealt with it.” Geraldine wasn’t sure that she considered that working with Edward could be stressful, and as a small grumble escaped her stomach and her hunger reasserted herself, she couldn’t help but ask. “Are you ever going to finish preparing the salad?” “Well I will if you pass me the dressing. The red balsamic I think.” Geraldine went across the kitchen and retrieved the bottle of Modena Extravecchio. “Golly, this is nearly out. We will need to order some more. Actually, why don’t we take a day out to London and do some shopping, we do need a few bits.” “Good idea, we can do Fortnum and Masons and Harrods. We can go in my car, I know it’s more difficult to park, but the shopping capacity is greater.” “I am surprised that you shop at Harrods. It strikes me as supporting the enemy.” “Not at all. It’s just a shop; its owner is of no importance to us in the DOA, and of little importance to the Government.” “That is not quite the view I got from TC.” “You surprise me. It was Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit that actually enabled The Grocer to buy Harrods in 1984. It was all done to stop Tiny Rowlands and Lonrho from acquiring it.” Edward held up a hand for silence and picked up the two plates, and led the way to the table. Geraldine followed with the wine cooler and its bottle of Chablis. Although hungry she poured them a glass of wine each before taking her first mouthful of food. After a suitable pause she continued by asking. “Why on earth would they prefer Al Fayed over a British business man?” Edward put down his fork and took a sip of wine and nodded his head slightly to one side in approval. “Well Tiny Rowlands was only slightly more British than Al Fayed,” he explained, “his father was German and his moth-

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er half Dutch, half English. Tell me, have you ever heard the phrase ‘The Unacceptable Face of Capitalism?’” “Well, yes, of course, it is just a phrase, probably something that Marx or Lenin would have coined.” Edward shook his head, “no actually, Edward Heath first used it in the early eighties to describe Rowlands. His business interests were in Africa, his company name, Lonrho actually comes from the name of his London & Rhodesian Mining Company. Allegedly he was apparently a pretty nasty piece of work. Not at all ‘British’ in character.” “So Al Fayed was a better choice?” “Well actually he was the only other option. Rowlands had already bought just under a third of Harrods shares and to stop him from taking any more shares and getting ownership, Tebbit referred the purchase to the Monopolies commission. They desperately needed someone to come along and take the rug from under Rowlands feet. The Grocer was just the man. Believed to be a wealthy entrepreneur business man from Egypt and a close ally and broker for the Sultan of Brunei, he was trusted by both the Government of the day, and Rowlands. Grocer appears to have persuaded Rowlands to sell him his share of House of Fraser on the promise of selling it back to him as soon as the Commission enquiry was resolved. Rowlands probably agreed to do so thinking that Al Fayed was not flush enough to do anything more than buy his share.” “I take it he was more than flush enough?” “We will never know why the Sultan of Brunei never complained or tried to do something about it. You would think that even the world’s richest man would miss one billion pounds of funds.” “Wow. One Billion?” “Yes, and a few months after duping Tiny Rowlands, the Grocer managed to acquire the shares that took him over fifty per cent and thus become the majority owner of Harrods. The Government of Thatcher just saw him as an Egyptian in love with Britain and Britishness. Any suggestion of impropriatory behaviour

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or dealings were years in the future. It avoided a scandal at the time.” “What is your view on it all?” “I don’t have a view.” “That is rather politic of you is it not?” “Well it was twenty years ago, the politics of the Thatcher era don’t apply to today. Rowlands had a degree of unsavouriness about him that could have bought down the Government, so at the time, it was probably the best result.” “How about the Dodi and Diana thing? He will never rest until he proves something and that puts him at odds with us, doesn’t it?” “Less than six people know what actually happened that night, and not one will tell. The Grocer will never find the proof that he wants. Others, not us, can apply themselves to his discredit. We can ignore him and shop in his store. It makes no matter.” “You trust me enough that if he came to me with a million Pounds I wouldn’t tell?” “Of course, you would not be in the position that you are in if you were not trusted implicitly, and anyway, you only know some of it, not all. But the point is, none of us who know can provide any proof of what happened that night, there is no proof to be found. Grocer may well believe he knows what happened, and indeed he may, but he cannot prove it, ever. Actually I feel a little sorry for him. All of that money, and he cannot use any of it to prove the one thing that he wants to prove.” “Henry?” “Henry doesn’t even have a permit to drive motorcycles on his driving licence.” “Inconclusive proof?” “No, not inconclusive, non existent. There is no proof.” “What about the weather?” “What do you mean, what about the weather?” “We made it rain that night?” “We what?” “Ahaa, see, I know something that you don’t.” “Maybe, but there is still one thing that I am sure you won’t have. Proof.” “True, but if I can find things that you don’t know, don’t

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you think that others could?” “Maybe, but I keep saying that there is no proof, because there is no proof.” “Someone somewhere will have filed flight plans and there will be records and it will be RAF. Therefore some proof will exist for some of the explanation of what happened that night, and that evidence will add credence to the story.” “I can guarantee that no such records will exist.” “How?” “I know Charles. He would not have allowed such evidence, if it actually existed, to survive.” Geraldine put down her fork onto the empty plate. She drank the last of her glass of Chablis, and stood up. She walked around the table and collected Edward’s plate and glass and took them, along with her own, through to the kitchen. As she returned to Edward she bent behind him and kissed the top of his head. “I felt you earlier, and it was all I could do not to ravage you as you prepared the onions, but this poor woman needed sustenance. Now, I need something altogether more pleasurable.” She took his hand, hauled him to his feet, and headed through the door to the stairs, pulling him along behind her as she went. It was obvious as he kept up, that he was not entirely opposed to the idea. Anne was more than a little exhausted, it had been a long day, and after three long sessions with clients this evening, she was glad to be back at home. She stood naked and wet on a folded towel on the bedroom floor. Debbie was elsewhere in the house cleaning the pots that had contained the days specialist mixes and lotions, and checking the diary and mixing the correct oils and lotions for the next day. When Debbie had began her chores, Anne had stripped off to her underwear, taking her tunic and collected the one that Debbie had discarded, and put them both in the washing machine and then gone upstairs. Too tired for a bath, Anne had stepped out of her underwear and had stood beneath the shower, her

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blonde hair safely tucked out of wet’s way in a plastic cap as she had washed away the fatigue from her muscles. Getting out of the shower she had stood on the folded towel on the bedroom floor for a moment, collecting her thoughts. After a few minutes drip drying, she dabbed herself dry and then rubbed an apricot and walnut oil lotion into her body to re-moisturise her skin. Lotioned and dry, she sat on the edge of the bed looking at herself in the mirror. “These long days are beginning to show” she said to the small cat sat watching her. Leo was not in the slightest interested. He wouldn’t say no if she offered a small scratch behind his left ear, and a bit of one under his chin would go down well, but as to her human talk, he had no idea what she said. Leo sighed when no scratch came his way and turned instead to raising a paw and washing his backside. “Sometimes Leo, you can just be so rude.” A small tub of Magnolia and Chilean Rosehip cream, her magic anti aging potion, resided at the edge of the dressing table, and she leant forward and took it. Unscrewing the top she took a small blob of cream onto two fingers and began to gently massage it into her forehead and jowls. As she rubbed her neck she closed her eyes and leant her head back, tightening the skin of her neck, allowing the cream to be fully taken up by her skin. She felt a pair of hands on her shoulders, and with a lightness of touch they then began a circular motion. “Hhm, that is good, don’t stop.” “I think I need some cream, pass me the tub.” “Heavens, no, not this, this is way the wrong cream for massage. Use the coconut oil at the bedside.” There was a moment when his hands left and she took the opportunity to wipe the residue of cream from her own hands with a small square of muslin. “I’ll come and lie down,” she said and inched herself up the bed and rolled to lay on her stomach. She felt the bed dip as he knelt beside her and the dribble as he allowed the oil to fall onto her back. His hands at first simply moved the oil about her

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back, no attempt to massage or knead her skin, simply to ensure that she was fully lubricated. Then she felt him sit astride her, realising with a satisfying smile that he too was unclothed. She settled into the bed and began to relax as Gerald began a strong rub along her spine, branching out to her shoulders before returning down her sides to the base of her back once more. “I hope that you shut the bedroom door,� she murmured as his hands began each circuit lower and lower down her back. Leo looked up from washing and shook his head before dismissing the distraction and getting back to the serious business of grooming

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4

End of Term “I will be ready at eight.” “That is very good of you. The table is booked for seven thirty.” “I have had a long day, there have been many clients and Debbie being at college all day meant I had to do them all myself. A long full day and I need time to get ready.” “To do what? You are already beautiful. A wise man once said ‘a blonde woman need only wear a smile to light up a room and enter a man’s heart.’’ “Exactly, a man, no woman would ever say such rubbish. Since when did wise and man happily coexist in the same sentence?” “Droll my beautiful, droll. You do not need to do your hair, you do not need to do nails, lashes, eyes or iron clothes. You simply need wash away the days toil, cover up to preserve your modesty and you will be ready to be whisked to dinner.” “Gerald, you are a man. You have no conception of getting ready. Clothes have to be examined and matched, underwear needs to be selected and trialled for comfort.” “What the heck do you mean, ‘trialled for comfort’? Do you not know if something fits or not?” “Oh you poor unobservant man, how little you know. A wom-

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an, my dear and lovely man, changes shape as the month progresses. It is called fluid retention. It is a natural biological event. The bra that fits one week will cut in the next. The lift and support of next week may be loose and failing this week. The pants that hide beneath a skirt one week, bulge and protrude the next” “In all the years I have known you Anne Markham, I have never known you worry about makeup or underwear. You have always been the beautiful and ever so slightly scatty blonde.” “In all the years I have known you Gerald Paige, how hard do you think I worked to keep that image in place?” “In truth? Not at all. I think that this obsession with clothes and look is recent and newly found. I personally have no problem with it, but I suspect that the proprietor of Bearland will be a tad disappointed if his seven thirty patrons don’t turn up on time.” “In truth? Geraldine’s illness and the horrible death of George were a wake up call. I could no longer waltz through life without a care. Things suddenly gained in importance. One of those things was a desire to look my best for you. I shall not be hurried nor harried. I shall be ready when I am ready, and the man at Bearland can like it, or jolly well lump it.” “I will make a call and delay our reservation. You know, my sister is always late, you’re more like her twin than I am.” “An analyst would have a field day with that comment.” “I’ll make the call.” Gerald walked towards the phone to make the call. As he approached he was slightly startled by the phone ringing. ‘God I hate it when it does that’ he thought. “It’s for you, Debbie, business” he called. Debbie did the diary now; Anne had given up trying to keep track of when Debbie was available, and when she wasn’t. She had, of course, recently started worrying about exactly what Debbie was up to, and with whom when she was ‘unavailable.’ It was

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too much to deal with and Anne had declared that Debbie was now to keep the diary for. Anne would only ever book appointments for herself. “Hello?” “Hello Edward, may I talk with Ger please?” “Yes Anne, of course you can. Will you wait whilst I free her from the stocks?” There was a wait of a few minutes and then eventually Geraldine’s voice came down the receiver. “Annie?” “What did he mean free you from the stocks?” “I am his slave. When he doesn’t want to have his evil way with me, he stores me away by locking me in the stocks in the boot room.” “I have been to your house. There are no stocks in the boot room.” “No my dear.” “You are teasing me.” “Yes dear.” “What did you want?” “You rang me.” “Oh yes, sorry, blonde moment. I am going to Bearland with Gerald tonight.” “Lucky you, wish it were me.” “What is it with you and him? I swear you guys should be together. He was going on about you earlier.” “It is a twin thing. Put is in the same room and we will probably kill each other after a few hours, but woes betide any person that comes unwelcome between us.” “Anyway. What shall I wear?” “Well you know my stock answer to you for that.” “Yes but I think I want to add some colour. I am a little tired of small black dresses.” “Okay, how about the blue satin Chinese one? You can put ribbon in your hair and wear some blue eye liner.” “Pink nails and lippy though?” “I am not too sure I know this new you with the lippy and the nails. Are you having fun?” “Yes, I think I am. I don’t think that the horrors of last year were fair, but they pulled me out of the dream I had lived in since college.” “I wouldn’t wish any of last year on anyone. No. But for poor George at least his torment is over. For you, it isn’t.” “Now stop it. It happens. I am alive and having a fantastic life. And I’ve managed to thin my wardrobe considerably.” “I worry about wearing your dresses, the ones you won’t wear any more. It feels wrong.” “Nonsense.

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It makes me happy that you wear them. I rather my best friend get joy out of them than they go to the charity shop and be worn by people who cannot appreciate them.” “It still makes me stop and think.” “So it should. Get my brother to check you out for lumps. He should know your every nook and crannie by now.” “Ger, you’re incorrigible.” “Well he should, shouldn’t he?” “Actually I think he found a few I didn’t know about, and I don’t mean lumps.” “Well there you are then. Blue satin Chinese and make sure he gives you a really good time. I have to go, I think Edward wants me back in the stocks, my allotted freedom is now up.” “Bye Ger, speak to you tomorrow.” “Bye hon.” Anne returned the phone to the cradle and walked naked across Gerald’s landing to the spare room. She still thought of it as Gerald’s house. Her house was still the cottage and even though she had, to all intents and purposes, moved in with Gerald some two months ago, in her heart she still hadn’t quite managed to call it ‘home.’ Her clothes had taken over Gerald’s spare room, and swelled with a number of what had once been Geraldine’s outfits, Anne was beginning to think that the house just wasn’t big enough for the three of them. There was no consideration given to them moving into the cottage, it was too small and had bad memories of Debbie’s attack. She knew that she would have to sell the cottage, and probably pool her resources with Gerald and move into a bigger place. But she wasn’t at that stage in their relationship yet. Gerald was definitely ‘now’ for her, but she was not yet ready to commit to a future. Too much had happened last year for her to be sure of her emotions. As both Gerald and Geraldine had pointed out today, she had changed. What Anne did not know was, was that a change for the better, and was it a change for good? “Taxi here in five minutes,” Gerald called from downstairs. “I’ll be down in ten,” she shouted back. It was so simple for men, she thought as she pulled

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the Chinese dress from the clothes rail and headed back to Gerald’s bedroom to dress, all men have to do is put a shirt on and chose a tie. How would men ever cope with a bra or, heaven forbid, a corset? The taxi had only been waiting for five minutes when she went down stairs to Gerald. A quick kiss and embrace, and then they were off, leaving Debbie to do a three thousand word essay assignment on Tissue Manipulation. The taxi had just dropped them off outside the entrance to the restaurant when Anne had a flash of déjà vu and realised that the reason she had no visible panty line, was because she had no actual pants on. She stopped Gerald just before he entered the glasshouse entrance to the restaurant. “Kiss me” she instructed. Bemused, he did so, a lingering and sensual kiss that hit all the right buttons for Anne. ‘Thank God’ she thought, ‘If I am reverting back to me, Gerald still lights my fire.’ “Come on, lead on Gerald, hungry woman here” she said, ‘who needs knickers anyhow?’ she muttered behind his back, ‘they only get in the way later.’ “Pardon love, did you say something?” “No Gerald, just lead me to food.” “What do you think about a reconstruction?” “What do you mean, ‘what do I think?’ It’s not my body.” “Does it bother you that I only have one breast?” They were laying in bed in the warm moments post love making, the tingle still percolating around Geraldine’s body as she lay in the crook of his arm, his hand across her stomach, a finger gently teasing to mine fluff from her navel. “Good God, no. Have I ever, for a moment, even a nanosecond, given you the slightest hint or inkling that I might think such a thing?” “No. But then I know what you do for a living. I am not saying that you are deceiving me, but deception is a key part of your job description.” “Not in my job description as husband it isn’t.” “True. Two jobs, one person.” “It doesn’t bother me, and I didn’t think it bothered you. It would bother me, if I thought that it bothered you, but I don’t think it does, and so, no, it doesn’t.

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Bother me I mean.” “I think I got that.” “Do you really want more surgery and the risk of all those superbugs and Lord only knows what?” “No, it’s just that the scar and skin under the prosthesis get very hot and sweaty. And it gapes when I lean forward. I am not complaining, I would rather be alive with the prosthesis than the alternative, but I just did think about a reconstruction, or an implant. It was just an idea. I just wanted your opinion.” “Frankly I honestly would rather you have no more surgery. I love you, with your big scar or without. You are no a less a woman to me, and I am being selfish, I know, not wanting you to go through surgery that you don’t need. I am too scared of losing you, and it is a risk that I would rather you didn’t take. But, if you wanted it, then, absolutely, I would support you.” “Is it painful?” “What, surgery? I don’t know.” “No Edward, is sitting on that fence painful? I just want a yes or no from your viewpoint.” “No.” “Thank you. Now turn the light out, kiss me, and stop talking, we have work in the morning.”

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60


A sleeper terrorist in rural Gloucester awakens with a message from the caves of Afghanistan. He is given a plan to kill the Royal Family and members of Parliament, in a plot to rival the attack on New York in its impact.

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kings ransom  

Kings ransom novel

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