Murder at the Royal Wedding

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CHAPTER ONE

The Goring Hotel

London

Wednesday 27th April

The DJ straightened his bow tie and grinned, trying hard not to study Henrietta’s legs.

“You in fancy dress or what? You a stripper?”

She eyed him carefully.

“This is the Goring Hotel. They don’t do strippers here.”

The DJ shrugged, disappointed. His sound system boomed as he set the sound levels.

“It’s a party, luv. Wedding night preparations. They do what anybody else does, let their hair down.” He laid out a box of CDs, checking out her chocolate-brown bikers’ leathers, from her Mandarin collar to her steel-tipped boots.

Henrietta Fox was tall, raw boned and lanky, and the skin-tight leathers emphasised her hip bones. She tugged her wild, carrot-red hair loose from the collar and it curled wherever it wanted.

“You look like Miss Whiplash in that outfit. What are you called?”

“I’m not a stripper! I’m a paparazzo.”

He was aghast.

“Oh, Christ! How’d you get in here, then? They don’t allow that. Security see you?”

She cast a furtive glance around the room. A group of roadies in jeans and jumpers were moving tables and chairs out of the centre of the opulent reception room. She wished the place would fill faster. She wanted to disappear into a crowd. The hotel staff, smart in claret uniforms, polished the tables. An aluminium roller shutter clattered up to the ceiling, exposing the bar. Spotlights blinked on to illuminate regiments of liquor bottles that lined its mirrored shelving.

At the door a smiling brunette began instructing new arrivals as they drifted in with suitcases, boxes and dozens of flowers. The DJ fiddled with the matt black turntables. He spoke through the corner of his mouth.

“Watch out. Tall goon in the middle? Jacket done up and tight haircut? He’s security. And the fair one by the door. What’s your name, luv?”

“Henrietta Fox. Call me Henri. Thanks for that, Ray.”

“How’d you know my name?”

“Says so on your security label. I haven’t got one of those.”

Ray slapped a sticky label onto her chest and she resisted an urge to kick his shin with her bikers´ boot.

“MegaMusic Systems. It’s my company. Might fool them. I suppose you’re after Kate Middleton? They all are, although I fancy the sister myself. You got some bottle being in here, Henri Fox. Well, good luck to you. That’s how I started in the music business. I’ll show you how the turntables work. Then you can fit in.”

Henrietta watched him setting the mixers on his Prodigy FX workstation. He loaded on some Arctic Monkeys and added some Foo Fighters on the second turntable. For a moment the sound system flooded the room. He shut it off abruptly. Ray said.

“Early doors Saturday, Prince Harry and his team will come back here for a tear up. They’ll soon have these off, double quick. By the early dawn, when they’re all pissed, it’ll be Tinie Tempah and the Kings of Leon. Mark my words.”

He strode away and she called after him.

“Hey! Where’re you going?”

“Check out the bar, luv. You know how to work it. I just showed you. Don’t touch the mixers.”

Left alone, Henrietta felt for the tiny Lumix camera she had pressed beneath her breasts, squeezed in tightly under her leathers. She rehearsed again. When she saw Kate Middleton she would unzip with her left hand, pull the camera to fire with her right.

With the flash disabled she would hold the Lumix steady, get a natural light shot of the royal bride-to-be arriving without being seen by security. Then she would make a quiet exit, out the back, to her Yamaha Virago motorbike, parked with the caterer’s vans. She would be away, silent and discreet. No one would even know she was there.

She had been a paparazzo since she was eighteen. Frustrated with office life, she bought a camera and joined a paparazzi pack on the London streets. Eleven years later she made good money snapping celebrities. Any good, off-guard shot of Catherine, the royal Duchess-in-waiting, always made money in a press obsessed by celebrity. Today she felt lucky. The DJ was a bonus.

At 11a.m. the double doors to the Goring Hotel swept open. Pippa Middleton, carrying a vanity case, moved into the entrance, followed by her mother, Carole and dad, Michael Middleton. Their son, James, toted a suit carrier. The family arrived to a tumult of applause from the staff. Pippa wore a simple, black jacket over a matching skirt, her mother Carole elegant in a white jacket and black skirt.

Pippa’s long, auburn hair fell around her shoulders. She greeted the staff with a studied, shy nod then burst into a wide smile. Surrounded, she disappeared from Henrietta’s view in a scrum of admirers. If Kate wasn’t coming yet then Pippa would do. Her role as Kate’s much loved sister had brought her rapturous reviews in the heavy papers but it was her smile and her slim, elegant poise that got her into the tabloids. The paparazzi now followed her everywhere.

Henri Fox had stalked her from Buckleberry, the family home and now she had reached the hotel unchallenged. She intended to make her intrusion pay.

Then her flash went off in a blitzkrieg of light. The family froze, rooted to the floor, gazing into her viewfinder, their mouths agape. Someone on the staff hissed. Henrietta screamed. “Fuck it! Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!” She spun round and legged it towards the door. The staff parted in waves before her, willing her out.

All except one. She crashed into a man’s chest and bounced off him, leaving her breathless.

A pair of chilled, water-ice eyes held hers, unblinking. The Royal Protection Officer from SO14, the elite cops of New Scotland Yard, said.

“Now where might you be going, eh?”

She stood her ground, her jade-green eyes looking for a fight.

“What’s that to you? Get out of my way.”

He was unflinching.

“Got an invitation, have you?”

Henrietta blustered, feeling with her finger for the latch lever under the tiny Lumix camera.

“I’m the hotel photographer.”

His lips tightened.

“Then you won’t mind giving me the camera.”

She only wanted one second more to release the memory card and slip it away. She would swallow it if she had to. She lied,

“I need to see the pictures – to select the best for the Management magazine.”

A second hand snaked in from behind her and closed over the camera, ripping it from her grasp. A fair-haired royal protection officer was standing close behind. He whispered in her ear.

“Perhaps we could see you out, miss? Just follow me.”

A hand in her back, she was marched to the exit, protesting.

“Listen, guys. These snaps are worth ten grand to the tabloids. We could share it? Three grand each?

The officer raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

She shrugged. “No, I thought not...Adolf.

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