Malone settled back in the seat as the helicopter angled up into the afternoon sky. The visit with Professor Goulding had been both enlightening and troubling. The chopper’s passenger compartment was roomy and insulated from both the cool air and the churning rotors.
The helicopter bucked upward, then headed east to London.
A rap from the cockpit window caught his attention. The pilot was pointing to his headset and motioning to another set that hung on the wall. Mathews donned the earphones, motioning for Malone to do the same with a third pair.
“There’s a scrambled communication coming in for Sir Thomas,” the pilot’s voice said in his ears.
Mathews twisted the microphone close to his mouth. “Let’s hear it.”
A few clicks and a voice said, “Guinevere is at the castle with Lancelot.”
“Any luck with the Black Knight?”
“We have no idea of his location but have the sword in sight.”
“We’re on the way. Keep me posted on any changes.”
Mathews removed the headset and signaled for the pilot to end the communication. The older man moved close to him.
“I wanted you to hear that. Albert is about to be murdered.”
The words grabbed his full attention.
“We’ve been monitoring this situation for some time. Peter Lyon plans to act this evening.”
“Then stop him.”
“It’s not that simple. We know where he intends to act, and how, even the point of origin. But your appearance in this offers us a new opportunity — considering the locale and the players involved. I’ve been wondering how we would proceed. Now I know exactly what to do.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. “You have thousands of security people at your disposal. And you need me?”
“I haven’t told you everything. Once I do, I believe you’ll understand why only you can do this.”
* * *
Yourstone enjoyed a walnut muffin and the rich Turkish coffee he imported by the case. The jam on the table was concocted from grapes grown on his country estate and was served at Victoria II’s table at Buckingham Palace, something he considered an omen, a signal that all things Yourstone were surely right for England.
He was reading the afternoon newspapers, evaluating the coverage on what had happened with Lord Bryce in the House of Lords. A lengthy editorial in one urged the Commons to seriously consider changes to the monarchy.
That part pleased him.
Many British possessed an almost fanatical obsession with their lineage, and the monarchy was just one of several links with that 2,000-year-old past. Living in a land littered with castles, manors, estates, and battlements only reaffirmed a connection with ancient Brits, Celts, Saxons, and Normans. He’d learned long ago that the proper manipulation of that collective affection could sway public sentiment, and he knew precisely what should be used as a cornerstone for that effort.
No other English character carried such a mystique.
Arthur’s resurrection would come directly after the Saxe-Coburgs’ bloody downfall, at a time when the people would be searching for something to latch on to. Though the idea of dispensing with the monarchy altogether had a certain appeal, he doubted that most would embrace the notion. Oliver Cromwell had made that mistake when he beheaded Charles I in 1649. His Protectorate lasted a mere eleven years before the Stuarts were invited to rule again. And in 1660, after Charles II was crowned, the king ordered Cromwell’s body dug up, hung on a gallows, then decapitated. The head remained displayed on a pole outside Westminster for twenty years until a gale finally blew it away.
Regicide was indeed a dangerous business.
Footsteps caused him to look up from the newspapers.
His personal secretary was stepping across the room toward the table, dressed in his customary gray suit. He stopped a few feet away and remained standing.
“What of Iceland?” Yourstone asked.
“Everything is progressing. But no success, as yet.”
He did not like that report. “What’s the problem? I’ve paid those buggers a fortune and they assured me it wouldn’t take this long.”
“I have reminded them of that. But weather is not cooperating. It’s cold there this time of year.”
“The expedition requires supplies, and arctic conditions make that difficult.”
He poured himself more coffee. He did not offer his employee any — nor, he realized, would any have been accepted. A clear line existed between the upstairs and the downstairs, and this man respected that division. “I’m going to need the Iceland project completed within the next week. It’s critical.”
“What would you suggest I do to spur their efforts?”
“Don’t offer them any more money. Try one of your … unique methods of persuasion. I’ll leave the particulars to your vivid imagination.”
His secretary gave him a nod, signaling a complete understanding. He liked that about the man. No questions, just results.
“I also need imagination used on this Cotton Malone. He knew about the C-83 explosives. That could be a problem.” He paused. “For us all.”
Once Eleanor was crowned this man would become
“And what of our South African ally?”
He said, “Our business with him will soon be complete. I doubt he’ll care about us after that.”
“Does not the fact that someone may be investigating concern you?”
He shrugged. “Not particularly. Lyon will gladly assume the blame for all that is about to happen. I believe he’s actually looking forward to doing so. The terrorist mentality, I assume. He seems to take this trial of his associates quite personally. But I agree. Men like the South African possess agendas unmindful of others. Fanatics come with an assortment of advantages and liabilities.”
And never had he dealt with such a dangerous personality. He’d located Lyon through intermediaries, and initially the terrorist had not been interested. That was, of course, before his associates were captured and Great Britain agreed to try them in an international court. It had been Lyon who’d reinstituted contact, the only condition to his involvement being that everything Yourstone planned must coincide with the trial. That criterion had been acceptable since it would further divert blame.
He glanced at his watch: 4:05 P.M.
“We’re only a few hours away. What’s happening now is out of our hands.”
* * *
Malone waited for an explanation.
“You’ve entered this fight at the last minute,” Mathews said. “I know the challenge that presents. But you’re a pro, and it may be fortuitous for us all that you are here. This entire matter is most delicate.”
“You’re aware that Princess Eleanor is involved?”
“Of course. She is in league with Nigel Yourstone. In fact, it is much worse than the palace realizes. Yourstone and the princess are lovers.”
That shocked him.
“Yourstone’s son is sterile. So the father is making sure there will be a proper blood heir.”
“How does Yourstone plan to murder Albert?”
“He doesn’t. But Peter Lyon does. And in a grand style. A missile, fired at the Tower of London. With Albert there.”
All of which fit Lyon’s grandiose personality. His people were being tried on British soil, and he would make sure the entire nation understood that error.
“Lyon wants to strike a public blow. Yourstone and Princess Eleanor want the second in line for the throne dead. Of course, they want no blame for that. So they made a most diabolical arrangement.”
Lyon was one of the world’s premier arms dealers. Procuring a surface-to-surface guided missile would not be a problem.
“And you kept all of this to yourself?”
“I head the Secret Intelligence Service. As you noted back at the college, my jurisdiction lies outside this country. MI5 handles internal matters.”
“Has MI5 been alerted?”
Mathews shook his head. “I couldn’t risk it. They are not the most reliable of people. Besides, Peter Lyon is an international matter and I want him. Now I have him. My people have worked hard to keep this contained. We just need to finish it.”
“A tracking device has been smuggled into the Tower, one the missile will use for guidance. I need you to locate that device.”
“Why not just stop the missile before it fires?”
“I will do that. We have the launch point under surveillance. There is no danger of any missile leaving that locale and striking Albert. But we need to implicate the right culprits in this vengeful plot.”
“You don’t have agents who can handle that?”
“None of my people was recruited by the queen. You were. The palace apparently trusts you, so you are the logical choice to reveal the conspirators.”
“The queen already suspects Yourstone and her daughter.”
“And she is correct. But proof must be uncovered.”
He understood. “And my doing it also insulates you.”
“Exactly. By law, I should not be involved. Luckily, here I am.”
He wasn’t exactly sure of that conclusion, but didn’t argue. “Where is the proof?”
“Now, that’s the most interesting part.”
And as the chopper continued flying toward London, he listened while Mathews explained.