TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 1996
Commander Hawksby pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk and took out two dice, although he was not a gambling man.
Superintendent William Warwick and Inspector Ross Hogan remained standing as the Hawk, like a Vegas croupier, shook the dice vigorously in his right hand before tossing them onto his desk and waiting for them to settle.‘Five and two,’ said William. The Hawk raised an eyebrow as he waited for William and Ross to confirm the relevance of the two numbers. ‘Five, sir,’ said William, ‘means that when we leave the palace, we’ll be taking the longer Embankment route.’
‘And the two, Inspector?’ demanded Commander Hawksby, switching his attention to Ross.
‘The password is “Traitors Gate”.’
The Hawk nodded before checking his watch. ‘Better get moving,’ he said. ‘Can’t afford to keep the Lord Chamberlain waiting.’ He bent down and put the dice back in the bottom
drawer of his desk for another year.
William and Ross quickly left the office as the commander picked up his phone and dialled a number that wasn’t in any phone book. It was answered after one ring.
‘Five and two,’ he said.
‘Five and two,’ repeated the voice on the other end of the line before the phone went dead.
William and Ross marched along the corridor, past the lift, and jogged down two sets of stairs to the ground floor of Scotland Yard. They didn’t stop moving until they’d reached the entrance, where they saw Constable Danny Ives seated behind the wheel of a dark grey Land Rover, not their usual mode of transport, but appropriate for the occasion.
‘Good morning, sir,’ said Danny as William climbed into the back of the car.
‘Morning, Danny,’ William replied as Ross joined him.
Superintendent Warwick and Constable Ives had joined the force a decade before, in the same intake as fledgling recruits, and it had taken the perpetual constable some time to stop calling his boss by his old nickname ‘choirboy’, and call him ‘sir’ instead. It had taken considerably longer for him to mean it.
Danny switched on the engine and eased the unfamiliar vehicle into first gear before moving off. He didn’t need to be told where they were going. After all, it wasn’t every day they visited Buckingham Palace.
He never exceeded the speed limit, as they didn’t want anyone to notice them, though on the journey back to the palace, they would touch sixty, sometimes seventy mph in one of the busiest capitals on earth.
Danny came to a halt at the top of Whitehall and glanced up at Britain’s legendary naval hero perched on his column. When the lights turned green, he swung left, drove under Admiralty Arch and proceeded slowly along the Mall, his destination now in sight.
When they reached the imposing marble statue of Queen Victoria, every other vehicle turned right or left of the palace, while they headed for the entrance, where once again Danny came to a halt. An Irish guardsman stepped forward as the back window of the Land Rover purred down. He examined Superintendent Warwick’s warrant card, placed a tick next to his name, and stood aside to allow the head of Royalty Protection to enter the grounds. Danny spotted a grey armoured Jaguar parked in the far corner of the courtyard and drew up behind it. Nothing changes, he thought when he saw Phil Harris, the Lord Chamberlain’s driver, standing to attention by the back door waiting for his boss.
Danny got out of the car and walked across to join his old mate. ‘Morning, Phil.’
‘Good morning, Danny,’ Harris replied. Although the two men met only twice a year, they had become friends. Lord Chamberlains might be replaced from time to time, but Phil Harris had served three holders of that high office during thepast eleven years, and Danny had almost as much service under his belt.
‘I presume you know which route we’ll be taking?’ asked Danny.
‘Number five,’ said Phil.
‘And the password?’
‘Number two. Your commander had briefed my boss even before you’d left the Yard.’
‘I’ve just spotted His Lordship,’ whispered Danny as thehead of the royal household came striding across the courtyard towards them like the old soldier he’d been. Harris opened the back door of the Jaguar while Danny quickly returned to the Land Rover. The Lord Chamberlain, a courteous man who never paraded his rank, gave William a wave before slipping into the back of his car.
The little convoy swept out of an unmarked side entrance onto the Mall and headed for Trafalgar Square. No outriders, no sirens, no blue lights. They didn’t want to alert any curious onlookers, something they wouldn’t be able to avoid on the journey back from the Tower.
Danny followed, and although he kept his distance, he would never allow another vehicle to slip in between him and the Lord Chamberlain’s armoured car.
William picked up the phone in his armrest and dialled a number he called only twice a year.
‘Chief Yeoman Warder,’ announced a voice.
‘We should be with you in about fifteen minutes,’ said William.
‘Everything’s been prepared and is ready for you,’ responded the Chief Yeoman Warder.
‘I can see no reason for any hold-ups,’ William commented, before replacing the phone in the armrest. He would call again only if there was an emergency and there hadn’t been one in the past five years.
‘How are the kids?’ asked Ross, interrupting his thoughts.
‘Growing up far too quickly,’ responded William as they drove on to the Embankment. ‘Artemisia is top of her class, but she will burst into tears whenever she comes second.’
‘Just like her mother,’ said Ross.
‘He’s just been made a prefect and expects to be school captain next year.’
‘Clearly lacks your ambition,’ said Ross, grinning. ‘What about my beloved Jojo?’
‘Your daughter’s in love with Prince Harry and has already written to Buckingham Palace inviting him to tea.’
‘I know,’ sighed Ross. ‘She asked me to deliver the letter.’
Ross felt a moment of guilt as he thought about why his daughter still lived with Beth and William. But since his wife’s death, they’d both agreed he couldn’t do his job properly while trying to bring up Jojo as a single parent. They’d turned
out to be wonderful foster parents. But he never admitted to anyone just how much he missed her.
‘Time to think about what we’re meant to be delivering,’ said William.
Ross snapped out of his reverie and began to concentrate on the task ahead. Danny had to run a red light as they passed Somerset House to make sure he didn’t lose contact with the Lord Chamberlain’s Jaguar. Nothing would have pleased Phil Harris more than to show he could outwit Danny.
They didn’t take a left into the heart of the city – a square mile policed by another force, who were unaware of their presence – but continued on through the underpass and didn’t stop again until they emerged onto Upper Thames Street, coming to a halt at the next traffic light, the Tower of London now in sight.
When the Jaguar swung across the intersection, Danny followed it down St Katharine’s Way with only the Thames in front of him. They finally took a sharp right and came to a halt in front of the East Gate of the Tower. A barrier automatically rose.
The duty warder stepped out of the sentry box and marched across to the Lord Chamberlain’s car.
‘Good morning, Phil,’ the warder said. ‘Password?’
‘Traitors Gate,’ Harris responded. The warder turned and nodded, and the two vast wooden gates that barred their way slowly parted.
Both vehicles continued the last leg of their journey unimpeded by the public as the Tower was closed for the day, so they had only a couple of dozen Yeoman Warders and the eight resident ravens to keep them company. Danny drove beside the Thames for another hundred yards before turning right and proceeding over the east drawbridge – originally built for horses, not cars. The two cars swept under the Queen Elizabeth Archway and up the steep slope towards the Jewel House, where they saw the Jewel House Warder standing to attention beside General Sir Harry Stanley KCVO, the Resident Governor and Keeper of the Crown Jewels.
Phil Harris brought the car to a halt, leapt out and opened the back door for his boss. The two men, who also met only twice a year, shook hands. After a cursory greeting and the minimum of small talk, the Governor led his guest down the short path towards the Jewel House.
‘Morning, Walter,’ said Harris, giving the Chief Yeoman Warder a warm smile before putting the boot in.
‘Another bad year for the Gunners.’
‘Don’t remind me,’ responded the Chief Yeoman Warder before he followed his boss into the Jewel House, slamming the door firmly behind him.
William got out of the back of the Land Rover and waited. He often wondered what went on behind those closed doors guarded by a cadre of Yeoman Warders known as ‘The Partisans’, a dozen men who were prepared for an emergency that hadn’t happened since 1671.
Once the Jewel House door had been locked, Harris returned to his car and continued with the annual routine. He drove a small semi-circle, with Danny following close behind, to ensure they were ready to move and move quickly when the time
came for them to depart. They were joined by five outriders from the Special Escort Group, who usually only accompanied members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and foreign heads of state, but the Imperial State Crown and Sword of State were symbols of Her Majesty’s authority and required the same protection. Once the two cars and escort were all in place, Harris got out of the lead car, opened the boot and waited. William’s eyes never left the Jewel House as he too waited for the door to open and General Stanley to reappear, accompanied by the most valuable treasures in the kingdom.
Three men entered the Jewel House but five emerged a few minutes later. The two Jewel House Warders led the way, each carrying a black leather case with the insignia EIIR inscribed on the lid in gold. One of the boxes resembled a viola case and contained the Sword of State, while the other held the Imperial State Crown that had been placed on the head of Queen Elizabeth II by the Archbishop of Canterbury during her coronation ceremony in 1953 and would once again be worn by Her Majesty the next day when she delivered the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lords at eleven thirty in the forenoon, to quote the official proceedings.
The final person to emerge from the Jewel House was the Lord Chamberlain himself who, once he’d seen the two black boxes securely locked in the boot of the armoured Jaguar, took his place in the back of the car. He nodded, to acknowledge that the second half of the operation could begin.
The Chief Yeoman Warder sprang to attention and saluted as the escort party moved off and neither he nor the Resident Governor left their posts until the little convoy was out of sight.
A taxi drove down the wrong side of the road as it approached the Savoy Hotel. Miles Faulkner had forgotten this was the only street in London where you can drive on the right without fear of being pulled over.
It was nearly five years since Miles had been in London. A man who divided opinion – he considered himself as an international businessman, while the police thought him a crook – he’d ended up serving a few years at Her Majesty’s pleasure. After leaving prison, having served four years for fraud, Miles had left England and purchased a luxury flat in New York, confident he would be far enough away from the prying eyes of Chief Inspector William Warwick to return to his shady import and export business, a tax-free enterprise that yielded vast profits without being registered at Companies House. However, it wasn’t long before he became homesick and wanted to return to England – unnoticed, he hoped. No such luck. A certain Agent James Buchanan of the FBI had been keeping a close eye on Faulkner in case he needed to report his activities back to Superintendent Warwick – someone he not only admired, but wanted to thank for all the good advice he’d given him when they’d first met on holiday while he was still at school. James was now in Washington working for the FBI, but he’d watched with admiration as his mentor had continued to climb through the ranks. He wondered if the superintendent would remember him.
Miles stepped out of the taxi and stood on the pavement for some time before he entered the hotel. During his selfimposed exile, not a day had passed when he hadn’t thought about lunch at the Savoy. He could still recall a prison diet of cold, lumpy porridge, burnt toast and a hard-boiled egg. The prison chef had not been familiar with his favourite Savoy cabbage or Peach Melba.
A liveried doorman saluted and pulled open the front door of the hotel. Miles stepped inside and headed straight for the Grill.
‘Good morning, Mr Faulkner,’ said the maître d’ as if he’d never been away. ‘Your usual table?’
Miles nodded and Mario led him across a crowded dining room to an alcove table where he would not be overheard. He sat down in his usual seat and spent a few moments surveying a room that hadn’t changed since he’d last dined there. He recognized several well-known personalities dotted around the room. The editor of the Daily Mail was lunching with a cabinet minister, whose name he could never remember, while in the next alcove sat an actor he could never forget. He’d watched every episode of Poirot while he was in prison, some more than once, to help him while away the unrelenting hours.
He began to think about his lunch guest. A man who was never late, but then he was paid by the hour. A man who always selected the sirloin steak and a vintage bottle of wine to be found near the bottom of the list.
During those forced years of emigration, Mr Booth Watson had been Miles’s only contact back home. A weekly consultation with his lawyer to bring him up to date with his numerous business affairs, or to bid for a painting or sculpture he wanted to add to his collection. A judge and jury might have sent him down, but the value of his various properties and shares had continued to go up.
Following a successful appeal at the high court, Booth Watson had managed to get a year taken off Miles’s original five-year sentence. A few weeks later Miles was transferred to Ford Open Prison, which felt like a holiday camp compared with Wormwood Scrubs.
After a few days at Ford, he had been moved to a single room – there are no cells in an open prison – and a month later he was taken off cleaning duties and appointed prison librarian, a position that had cost him three hundred pounds. One hundred for the old librarian to switch jobs and another two hundred for the prison officer in charge of job allocation. He would have paid three thousand but the PO made the wrong opening bid. Both payments were made in cash, which, although a punishable offence, is still the only acceptable currency in prison.
Not many inmates made their way to the library, and almost all those who did headed straight for the crime section in search of a well-thumbed paperback. War and Peace had gathered dust on the shelf for the past twenty years, serving its own life sentence.
Miles had taken advantage of being alone during those endless sixty-minute hours. He began his day by reading the Financial Times, which was delivered by an officer along with his morning coffee. After lunch in the canteen, he returned to the library to turn the pages of the latest novel he was reading. During those years of incarceration he’d read everything from Daphne du Maurier to Thomas Hardy, and by the time he was released, he could have taken an English degree at Oxford, which had turned him down thirty years before.
The governor dropped in for a chat from time to time, when they exchanged confidences over coffee and a plate of shortbread biscuits – his coffee and the governor’s shortbread biscuits. It quickly became clear that Miles knew more about what was going on in the prison than the governor did. Inside information he traded, ensuring further supplies of biscuits during his coffee breaks.
But during all those exiled years in New York only one thing remained constantly on his mind. When will it be safe for me to return to London and exact revenge on first Warwick, then Hogan, and finally the commander?