The National Theatre
Trouble, for Guy Royce, came in many guises. A man with a gun, another with a big mouth. A face in the wrong place or a blonde with a glitter in her eye. Royce watched for it all. This was just another party but the scar on his cheek itched. Under his dinner jacket he tapped his 9mm Glock.
At 11 p.m. the street doors to the National Theatre restaurant swept open. Marie Montague, the star of Much Ado About Nothing, made her entrance.
She wore an emerald-green satin gown with ties at her shoulders. The gown had a plunging V-neck like the Hoover Dam and she clutched a champagne Miu Miu bag. Her long, blonde hair was piled high with a diamond pin. The floor-length gown made her look impossibly tall and curvaceous. She greeted her co-workers with a studied, shy curtsy and burst out laughing.
Guy wasn’t laughing. His night had just taken a turn for the worse.
Her role as Hero in Much Ado About Nothing had brought the blonde rapturous reviews in the heavy papers but it was her décolletage and her piercing blue eyes that got her into the tabloids. The paparazzi followed her everywhere. Guy wasn’t worried about them. Nobody ever died from a flashgun.
A wiry, girl paparazzo with wild, carrot-red hair had stalked her through the concrete back stairs of the National Theatre. She wore chocolate brown biker’s leathers. Having breached the private party unchallenged she wanted to make her intrusion pay. Guy noted where she was and moved on.
At midnight the swing doors to the kitchens crashed open, propelled by a serving trolley. The guests crowded round the vast, iced cake. He thought the waiters, in black aprons, clapped its arrival too much.
Guy wasn’t looking at the cake. He was riveted on the smiling figure in a dinner jacket pushing the trolley.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Marcus Barclay, wheeled the confection into the room. The widower PM, now in his early fifties, was losing the figure of his youth. His eyes betrayed his workload and Guy knew that smarmy smile well. His job was to protect it - and its owner.
He had been the PM’s close protection officer for three, long years and in that time had travelled the world. He had guarded his boss through political intrigues and financial meltdowns. Now all he needed was a beautiful, gold-digging blonde tangling with Barclay. She could have worn a banner reading, “get your mid-life crisis here.”
He was part of SO14 at New Scotland Yard. When he hit forty he’d been moved from royal security to guarding politicians. They said the midnight capers of young royals needed a new kind of officer. He knew what they really meant. One of the blue-eyed young guns. The royals were a walk in the breeze compared to the back stairs shenanigans of Westminster. His life was spent next to the PM, or as close as he could get when his boss wasn’t chatting up some jail-bait beauty queen. Guy was his shadow and supposed to take a bullet for the boss. Some days he wasn’t so sure he would.
The blonde, Marie Montague, made her move, sweeping up to stand by Marcus Barclay’s side, her satin gown shimmering in the lights. Her full lips opened in an inviting pout and, as the trout takes the fly, the PM flung his arms around her and kissed her passionately, full on the mouth.
The paparazzo’s flash went off like a midnight fireball in the darkened restaurant. The celebrity couple gaped, a pair of startled birds of paradise gazing at the intruder.
A guest swore out loud.
The pap spun round, running for the exit, the throng parting like sardines before a shark. Guy Royce cursed and converged on her at the door with a masterly blocking maneuver, trapping her escape.
He didn’t have to ask her name.
“Henri Fox! I knew you’d try it. Don’t you ever give up?”
She looked up at him with a sly smile, her eyes wide. “Guy! It would have to be you.”
“Just your luck, eh? Camera please, Henri.”
She stood her ground, her jade-green eyes ablaze. “These are worth a fortune, Guy. Just this once?”
He was unflinching, his hand outstretched. “No invitation. No cameras. Hand it over, Henri.”
Henrietta Fox blustered, “it’s only a snap-shot. What harm can it do? Not like I’ve got an Uzi, is it?”
Guy Royce was unmoved. “It’s that or the nick, Henri. You want a trip in the meat wagon?”
She shrugged in defeat. Guy slipped the camera into his pocket. Henrietta Fox gave a contrite pout, heading for the door with a grin.
“You win, Officer Royce.”
He didn’t believe that for one minute. That was way too easy, Guy decided.