The Peel Briefing Room
New Scotland Yard
Thursday 28th April
Commissioner Chambers wielded his baton, tapping at a plan of the royal route on a white board. Around him one hundred members of the Royalty Protection Unit, the Diplomatic Protection Unit and the Palace of Westminster Squad sat making notes. Guy knew the speech by heart but listened anyway.
“The dogs go in at eight. S.O. Thirteen will electronically scan the route for devices. Once the route is sterile I want it locked up tight.”
He paused, collecting up his notes.
“Commander Stone will take it from here.”
Megan Stone stood to address the officers.
“Three years ago a local villain named Kenneth Thorne went down at the Old Bailey. He got five years for GBH and assault with a deadly weapon. He viciously attacked a man in a public house with a bowie knife. The man’s only crime was he took the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, side in an argument. He was tried and sentenced.”
She scrawled his name on the white board with a black felt pen, underlining it with a savage sweep.
“Kenneth Thorne is out of prison, broken parole and on the run with a gun. Forensic found traces of gun oil on wrapping in his garden. He threatens to kill the Duchess of Cornwall at tomorrow’s royal wedding. You all have a copy of his CRO photo. Memorise it.”
She paused to let them study the picture before moving on.
“The Prison medical officer says Thorne is showing symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder. Possibly with paranoid tendencies. If he doesn’t take his medication he will hear voices and see visions. He could be literally a ticking bomb. Certainly he will think the world is against him - and that includes you, so approach him carefully.”
She covered the whiteboard.
“That’s it. All units in place tomorrow by six a.m. to relieve the night watch.”
She stood down, answering a call on her cell. She beckoned to Guy to follow her to the squad room.
“Switchboard has a call from Kenneth Thorne.”
“Let’s hope he wants to surrender himself.”
“No. He wants to talk to you!”
“He’s asked for you. Follow me. Keep him talking. Make him think you’re bartering with him, that he might get something from us. Give us time for the trace.”
Guy was puzzled.
“Megan, he has no money left. He took out three thousand when he emptied his account. Paid two and a half for the Volvo. That leaves five hundred.”
“He’s paying for rent, food for himself and petrol for the car. I suspect he has nothing left.”
“If he were determined to die tomorrow he doesn’t need anything.”
She held his attention and her voice softened.
“He’s stopped using the car, by the way. No sightings at all.”
Guy shook his head.
“That’s my point. There’s something wrong with our logic.”
She studied him quietly. “Go on.”
“He uses Chambers´ name and address to buy the Volvo, then drives it around London. He knows we’ll spot it on the cameras. Once we’ve had time to see it he stops using it.”
“Your point is he wanted us to spot him?”
“Yes. He needed us to know he was checking out the wedding route. Megan, he’s taunting us.”
“Challenging us to catch him?”
“Or he wants us all on the streets tomorrow. Your light’s flashing, Commander.”
She started. “What?”
“Your light, on your telephone. It’s flashing.”
She pressed a button, slipping the headset carefully over her brown hair.
The switchboard voice was breathless.
“Commander! It’s him. Introduced himself as Cat Strangler One. Asked to be put through to Guy Royce. I’ve routed it to you.”
She handed the master handset to Guy, raising an eyebrow as encouragement. Guy tapped at his notepad with a pencil and placed the handset to his ear.
“It’s Guy Royce here.”
The soft voice spoke casually.
“It’s you I want, Mr Royce. Her time is very close now. In twenty hours Camilla will be dead.”
Guy gripped the handset tighter.
“You’re talking about the Duchess of Cornwall. Listen, Kenneth. I know who you are. Tell me what you want.”
“So you know me now? I expected that, Mr Royce. I hoped you’d be in California chasing my tag. You’ve been very clever. What do I want? I want Camilla to pay!”
“That’s not your right, Thorne. Why commit murder? A crime against an innocent person, especially the wife of the future Head of State.”
“I nearly got you, Royce. You still have nightmares about me at Highgrove? A life for a life, Guy. I will get mine.”
“That’s melodramatic, Kenneth. Why should she die for you?”
“They are telling me to do it. It will be all over tomorrow and I will be glad.”
“Thorne, you’re talking in riddles. Who is telling you? What do you think the injustice is?”
“Princess Diana would be at the wedding tomorrow, with her boys if it wasn’t for that woman.”
“That’s very unfair, Thorne. She wasn’t driving the Mercedes in Paris. A drunk was. Give it up, Kenneth. We can discuss it. Maybe get the Commissioner to re-open the case. Have a new inquiry. Give up this threat. Let’s meet to talk.”
Guy shrugged to Megan Stone. She looked to her watch, whirling a hand in the air in encouragement.
“Talk! The Princess is in the ground before her time! Don’t make me laugh, Mr Royce. It’s finished!”
“Kenneth, it’s not too late. Your ex-wife doesn’t think you’re a threat. She told us so. How will you be remembered? As the man who killed the future Queen of England?”
There was a long silence and Guy prompted him.
“Kenneth? I know you’re listening.”
“Why is the sky so dark there?”
“Kenneth? I don’t understand. What are you saying?”
“I know we must. You must come, too.”
“Kenneth, is there somebody else with you? Who are you talking to? Speak to ME, Kenneth!”
“My friend tells me I must go now, Mr Royce.”
“No, Kenny, don’t go. Tell me why you telephoned me.”
There was a longer silence, and then his voice spoke distantly.
“Tell her not to attend the wedding. She shouldn’t be there. If the Duchess goes…”
“She must go, Kenneth, you must see that?”
The voice trailed away. Guy called urgently into the receiver. “Kenneth, take your pills. Take your prescription...”
Megan Stone slapped the table, chuckling.
“He’s gone. We must have a trace from that. Well done, Guy!”
“He’s raving. Talking to invisible people.”
“It won’t be long, he can have all the pills he wants soon.”
The receiver light flashed and she pressed her button. She demanded.
“You got him?”
“No go, Commander. The call came in from New Delhi.”
Slamming a fist on the table she rattled the receivers.
“What are you talking about! How come?”
She sat back, anger screwing her brow into fine furrows.
“He asked directory to find the Yard’s number then asked them to put through the call. At the switchboard they asked for Commissioner Chambers. It routed through a call centre in India.”
She threw down her headset, her lips compressed tightly. For the first time Guy saw her anxiety, how deeply she was troubled. He watched her confidence sap away before him. He felt her loneliness filling the empty squad room. Megan Stone spoke the words quietly, scanning his eyes, looking there for answers.
“Royce, we’re taught total security is impossible. That all we can do is make a difference. Narrow the odds. But there’s always the risk that one threat will get through.”
He tried to console her and sensed her fear.
“You’re doing all you can, Megan.”
She put a hand on his sleeve.
“Guy, could this be the one?”