Malone listened as Big Ben chimed, signaling 1:30 P.M. He’d hoped Nigel Yourstone was still in his office at Parliament, but was disappointed to learn he’d left an hour earlier. A call to William secured the address of Yourstone’s London residence, a limestone-and-marble edifice just in Belgravia, not far from Buckingham Palace. He’d always been fond of the direct approach, which was why he believed that a face-to-face encounter with the potential enemy might rattle some cages.
He rang the front doorbell.
To the steward who answered, a middle-aged man with silver-streaked hair and a hooked nose, he introduced himself and said that he would like to speak with Lord Yourstone.
“That would be impossible. His lordship speaks only by appointment.”
“Do you have a pad?” he asked.
The question seemed to catch the attendant off guard, but he recovered and lifted one from a nearby table.
“And a pen?”
Annoyance now registered, but apparently British breeding refused to allow rudeness. The steward slowly reached for a pen and handed it to him. He accepted both offers and wrote: COTTON MALONE, UNITED STATES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, TO SEE HIS LORDSHIP ON A PERSONAL MATTER. WE CAN TALK HERE OR YOU CAN OFFER YOUR REBUTTAL TO REPORTERS LATER WHEN THEY CALL. PERSONALLY, I LIKE THE LATTER COURSE BETTER.
He tore the top sheet off, folded the paper in half, and handed it over.
Two minutes later the door reopened and he was ushered inside to a spacious study, whose mosaic floor, stuccoed ceiling of elaborate octagonal panels, and gilded furniture screamed Old World extravagance. Yourstone was apparently obsessed with portraiture, as many dotted what appeared to be Carrara marble walls. Classical statuary was abundant, as were busts of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Newton. A portrait dominated the wall behind the desk and was, if Malone was right, a Van Dyck. Pretentiousness was most likely an occupational hazard for someone whose family had come to expect everything from life, but there was something challenging in the look of the man who rose to greet him. Nigel Yourstone was even more imposing up close than on television, and if he was disturbed by the introductory note he showed not a hint of concern, his face as stoic as those on the statutes that encircled the room.
Yourstone thanked the steward, who left, closing the door.
“What may I do for you, Mr. Cotton Malone, United States Justice Department?” The voice was the same baritone from earlier on television. “Your note indicated a personal matter. That, along with the veiled threat about the press, piqued my curiosity. As was its intention. So what is this about?”
“The game’s over.”
His target never flinched. “I was unaware that there was any game ongoing, much less one that I was a participant in. But, if there were, what interest is there for the American Justice Department?”
“Enough that I’m here.”
“To threaten me?”
He shrugged. “I look at it more as instructing you.”
Yourstone threw him a tight stare.
He asked, “Do you know what C-83 is?”
Yourstone didn’t waver as he answered, “I have no idea. Care to enlighten me?”
Malone shrugged off the inquiry. “Doesn’t matter.”
He drifted toward a row of windows that admitted the bright midday sun, lingering before a glass table where a pair of sphinxes, cast in what appeared to be bronze, rested. He assumed there was a story to them, as they were placed in a position of prominence. An oil painting of a manor house hung above them.
“That’s my country home,” Yourstone said. “That painting was commissioned in 1786 for one of my ancestors.”
“A beautiful place,” he said. “Your family has been around a long time.”
“We have served the Crown four centuries.”
“Now your son is married to Victoria’s daughter.”
“For an American, you certainly know a lot about me.”
He shrugged. “I just love the English.” He lightly stroked one of the sphinxes. “It’s not going to work.”
Yourstone’s face remained rigid.
Then he realized. This man already knew he was involved. Perhaps he’d even expected a visit? “You have good spies.”
“One good spy is better than 500 well-armed troops.”
“Sun Tzu also said all war is deception.”
“That it is.”
And something else the great Chinese strategist had written about winning came to mind.
Time to leave.
He stepped toward the door. “You have a good day, Lord Yourstone. We’ll be seeing each other again real soon.”
And he left.
* * *
Malone exited the town house. He’d accomplished what he came to do. Nothing slowed an enemy down faster than the knowledge that someone may be in close pursuit. Especially an enemy who cared about his public image. If nothing else the visit would buy him time to figure out just what was happening here. Yourstone would, at a minimum, be concerned. But coming here also had drawn attention, which nearly always meant trouble.
That was okay.
He was accustomed to trouble.
And the ball needed to stay rolling.
So he found his cell phone and dialed William’s private number, explaining what he’d like for Victoria to do next.
“Excellent suggestion,” William told him. “I shall organize it immediately. As you learned earlier, refusing the queen’s invitation can be difficult.”
He found the sidewalk and started walking back toward the Underground station. He’d take a train to Osborne House and have William arrange a meeting later with the Prince of Wales. He needed to see for himself exactly what he was dealing with.
He thought again of the cauldron from earlier.
That was another subject he’d need to learn more about.
A car braked at the sidewalk, and its rear door popped open. “Mr. Malone.”
An older man sat inside. He was in his early sixties, with a weathered face as round as a full moon. His silver hair was immaculately coiffed. Thick, steel-rimmed glasses hid his eyes. He wore a stylish dark suit with a vest, a silver watch chain snaking from one pocket. The right hand held a walking stick, the handle an ivory globe.
Which he recognized as the trademark of Sir Thomas Mathews.
Head of Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.
Or as more commonly called, MI6.
“We need to speak,” Mathews said.