Ten Downing Street
As night fell Guy walked with the Commissioner of Police. They left the security gates striding towards Number Ten, Guy’s impatience growing.
“What’s this all about, Jeremy? Who’s this woman?”
Commissioner Jeremy Chambers waited him out. The cop at the door gave Chambers an impressive salute.
“You’ll see. Don’t mention the newspapers. Follow my lead.”
Guy frowned. “He’s plastered all over the front pages kissing that woman. He can hardly have missed it.”
“I might ask how you missed it, Royce.”
“I had her camera. The girl must have switched it.”
“I don’t pay you to be conned by a paparazzo. Perhaps this is all too much for you, Royce.”
“If she had an accomplice, Commissioner, I never saw him.”
Which was quite true. Life up against Henri Fox was never dull. She was often in his face at a demo or sneaking backstage at a premiere. How she knew where to be was as much a mystery to him as when she had slipped out the memory card from that camera. It could have happened to anyone.
The frontage was the least important part of Number Ten. Guy knew the east of the house well where it spilled over into plain, brick offices. It was where he usually spent his time. At the rear it connected with another, much larger house, its garden looking out over Horse Guards Parade.
Ushered across the chequered marble floor, they passed a black, hooded Chippendale chair that stood in the entrance hall. Ahead of them, through twin doors, was an inner hall and corridor. A Benson clock ticked beside a portrait of Pitt the Elder. They walked up the Grand Staircase, under a gallery of black-and-white portraits of past prime ministers. At the Pillared Drawing Room, PM Marcus Barclay stood beaming, hand outstretched.
“Commissioner! What a pleasure. I know you enjoy our little gatherings.”
Chambers smiled in return. “Prime Minister, thank you for inviting me. It’s hardly a little gathering, now, is it? Enterprise Night at Number Ten is the top ticket in Britain, I would say.”
Barclay grimaced, keeping his voice low. “I’d change it for a Cup Final ticket any day, Jerry. You know Marie, of course?”
Marie Montague, was slim and chic in a silver cocktail dress buttoned in mother of pearl to her throat. The dress was cut to expose her pale shoulders. She gave them a smile full of perfect white teeth and studied Guy for a moment. “He’s never happy. Look around you. Sportsmen, industry bosses, artists, actors. He wants to watch Manchester United on the telly.”
Barclay grinned. “What does an actress know about the European Cup?”
She slapped his arm and false whispered to them. “Take no notice.”
Barclay slipped an arm through the Commissioner’s. “Come and meet David Beckham. Now he was a proper footballer, Jerry. I’d make him Minister of Sport if I had my way.”
Barclay hadn’t acknowledged him once and Guy knew he was being punished.
The blonde touched Guy’s arm. “Officer Royce, I got you here under false pretences. Please forgive me.”
He found it hard to look away. He knew this blonde could have whatever she wanted. She was trouble that smelled of Chanel No5 and now he had to protect her, too.
She had fine, high cheekbones in a face that was a perfect oval. She was immaculately made up, with thin, defined eyebrows that made her eyes look like a doll’s. Her long hair reached her shoulder blades but he was disappointed, in all her perfection, with the merest sight of a few dark roots. The silver dress she wore fitted snugly at the waist and he noticed the tight, satin fabric pulling across her breasts as she breathed.
She asked. “Would you mind leaving the reception to come with me?”
As if he had a choice. He never usually got passed the front door.
They were back on the Grand Staircase once more with her pointing to the picture gallery.
“Marcus will be up here when he leaves.”
Guy smiled, he knew that, but she became serious.
“You may have a new boss to protect. Who knows in politics, Officer Royce? It is an election year.”
He knew that, too.
They passed the Duke of Wellington who stared blankly over the gold carpet in effigy.
“This is the Cabinet Room. No one will disturb us here tonight. Please sit.”
The long, boat-shaped Cabinet table filled the room. She walked between the Corinthian columns and selected the PM’s walnut chair for him from the twenty-two that surrounded it.
She sat beside him and he could smell the Chanel. “May I call you Guy?”
She could call him Jack the Ripper if she would come to the point.
“I asked Jeremy Chambers to bring you. I have a problem. A personal one. I wanted Jeremy to find a discreet, reliable man to help me. He chose you.”
Guy’s mind was firing questions. He interrupted. “Miss Montague, the Prime Minister has a huge security service at his calling. Specialists of all sorts. You have only–”
She embraced him with her eyes, stirring him uncomfortably.
“–No! Marcus and the Commissioner must never know what I’m asking you to do. You can be discreet? Jeremy Chambers says you are well trained. A Diplomatic Protection Officer?”
“Yes, I work for SO14 at the Yard.” If she knew his past record she might not be so welcoming. Or was that why he was here?
“Jeremy says you’re the man.”
Guy was getting nervous. Was this the Commissioner’s revenge for the indiscreet picture spreads in the tabloids? Henri Fox had really dropped him in it!
She opened her evening bag and he knew she had him figured out already. She fingered a snapshot. “This is Nikki, my sister. I want you to find her.”
The girl in the photograph was in her twenties, another beauty but with shoulder-length, coal-black hair. She was riding a horse that looked much too powerful for her, laughing into the camera, holding the reins lightly in one hand. Now Guy was confused. And that’s all? A job for Missing Persons Bureau?
“When you find Nikki you must get her away!”
Guy thought she might crash a fist onto the table-top. She quickly composed herself.
“Just find Nikki, Guy. We’ll decide then what to do.”
Guy turned over the picture. “Any clues where she is? Addresses?”
Her face hardened. “Look for Ibrahim Tolman and you will find Nikki.”
“And he is?”
“He owns a Fund. Anyone in the City will tell you. Now I must go upstairs. This is my first hosting for Marcus and I have duties. We have over a hundred guests up there.”
Guy delayed her. “I still don’t understand. Why’s this so secret you can’t tell him?”
She held his arm, her long fingernails sharp through his sleeve. “Guy, I’m relying on you. You must swear to me you will tell nobody!”
“Of course, you have my word but why, Miss Montague?”
She fixed him with a look that made him take a breath. “Marcus is up for re-election. It’s not a natural state, over the generations, for a Liberal Democrat First Minister to be in here. Should any word get out, Marcus and his Cabinet would be severely embarrassed. Now of all times.”
A walnut clock, between two silver Queen Anne candelabra, delicately chimed nine.
He wanted to say word get out about what?
She continued. “He got in here by being tough on corruption. Marcus is the best thing that’s happened to this country, Mister Royce. I can’t jeopardise that.”
She paused to grip his arm fiercely. “You must find Nikki.”