CHAPTER TWO

Nigel Yourstone smiled at the cameras while reporters asked their questions. Lord Bryce’s tirade in the House of Lords had been a classic. The crusty old gentleman had spent nearly an hour berating the monarchy, particularly Richard, for what he considered a vicious assault on the pride and dignity of his family. The press seemed to salivate at Bryce’s promise that a bill would be introduced in the Commons calling for the monarchy’s abolition. Such measures were nothing new, but the number of ministers supporting the idea was growing. Bryce himself had made no secret of the fact that the head of state should not be chosen by genetics, echoing what every schoolchild was taught from an early age. At the very least, royals should be a mirror to our better selves. Unfortunately, as Bryce had made clear, Richard Saxe-Coburg was a married man who cavorted like a schoolboy at the public’s expense. And, as Bryce had so aptly said, the clear incompetence of this feeble-minded individual, who owes his station to an accident of birth, borders on the amazing.

Interestingly, Bryce’s daughter had yet to publicly comment, but Yourstone knew the young lady would do exactly as her father instructed. The senior Bryce controlled the family finances, and her two brothers could easily be given her one-third share. She was certainly an enticing woman, and he was betting she wasn’t stupid. A romp in the sack with royalty was not worth the millions of pounds sterling she might lose from her father’s continued disapproval. So Yourstone was sure that when the good Lady Bryce finally spoke her words would be dignified and distressing, compelling the palace to respond.

He readjusted his posture before the microphones, delivering his standard line that the monarchy was good for England, but that did not mean he agreed with everything the royals did. Though he respected and admired Victoria, and was delighted Eleanor was a member of his family, his fondest wish was for the Prince of Wales to mature. He was next in line for the throne, father of Albert, the second heir, both of which demanded that he conduct himself as a proper gentleman. He finished his remarks with a sincere hope that God would continue to bless the people of England with good health for Her Majesty, Victoria II.

He thanked the reporters and surrendered the microphones to another colleague. Ordinarily, he would not have taken the time to even comment, but it was important that his views be clear.

With what was about to happen, he needed no misunderstandings.

He quickly departed the Parliament building, crossing the street to St. Margaret’s Church. The white stone edifice, a patchwork of architectural styles, sat in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. It contained a collage of Tudor monuments that had survived two world wars, though the building had not been as fortunate, now replete with 20th-century repairs.

A middle-aged man sat in one of the long pews.

The daily parade of tourists had already begun, and the aisles were crowded. He walked over and calmly sat beside the man, keeping his eyes ahead, toward the altar.

“What was so urgent?” he quietly asked.

“I believe you have a problem.”

He listened as his spy told him about a man named Cotton Malone, a barrister who worked for the American Justice Department, in a specialized intelligence unit known as the Magellan Billet.

“Never heard of it.”

The man explained that it handled highly sensitive investigations worldwide, working outside the established American intelligence community. Malone, a former navy commander, possessed a reputation for competence and was in England to help prosecute the terrorists’ trial, set to begin next week.

“At the moment, though, Mr. Malone is meeting with the queen.” The spy paused. “About you.”

He told himself to stay calm. All was in place. Too late now to turn back. “I don’t suppose you could discover the content of that meeting?”

“It would be difficult and might risk exposure.”

“Give it a try. Results would be most appreciated.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

The other man stood and left, following the crowd toward the main doors. Money motivated most weak souls. This one particularly.

Or at least he hoped.

He sat for a few moments and considered this new development, unsure of its implications.

American Justice Department?

He’d not factored that into the equation.

He stood and ambled toward the far side and the east window. It was a magnificent stained-glass depiction, crafted in Flanders at the command of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1501 to celebrate the marriage of their daughter, Catherine of Aragon, to Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII. Henry had been fascinated with the Arthurian legend and intentionally named his heir for the mythical monarch. After ending the Wars of the Roses and killing Richard III, the first Tudor king had been intent on resurrecting the English throne, beginning with his son, Arthur. Unfortunately, the boy died shortly after the marriage, even before the window rising before him had arrived on English soil. Poor Catherine eventually married Arthur’s brother, Henry VIII, and went on to suffer the disgrace of a forced divorce and an early death.

But he admired Henry VII’s audacity. That first Tudor king had thought of the right idea.

He told himself to stay calm.

Be patient.

And finish what he’d started.

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