Murder at the Royal Wedding

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CHAPTER TWENTY

The procession on the Mall

12.30pm

The State Landau, clanking and creaking, drawn by the four Greys, turned onto the Mall. William, resplendent in Irish Guards scarlet and a Royal Air Force blue sash to display his wings, smiled shyly at the waving crowds. His new bride, Catherine, now the Duchess of Cambridge, beamed a full smile and waved excitedly at the throng who shouted out their cheers and good wishes. Wearing white dress gloves, William saluted a section of his regiment.

The 2nd Division of the Captains Escort of the Household Cavalry, flanking the couple, held back just enough for the spectators to see their happiness together. An Ascot open topped carriage followed, drawn by two Cleveland Bays. The Best Man, Prince Harry, chatted mischievously, with two tiny tot bridesmaids, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and Eliza Lopes and a young page boy, Tom Pettifer. The following Ascot held the bride’s radiant younger sister, Pippa, who travelled with the remaining, grinning young bridesmaids and a page.

Then came a resplendent Rolls Royce with the Duke of York and his daughters. Bringing up the rear were the last two carriages. The Scottish State Coach, the Queen in canary yellow and the Duke in scarlet uniform, and the Australian State Coach in which Prince Charles and Camilla accompanied the new bride’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton. The Queen waved a white-gloved hand and the crowds responded. At the barriers each Foot Guard stamped to attention as she passed and presented arms, each rifle and bayonet pointed vertically at the sky in a two-handed grip.

Commander Megan Stone tapped Guy Royce on the shoulder.

“I’m off, Guy. I’ll see them into Buck House.”

She ducked under a police cordon, nodding to the officers manning it, then she was gone. The Australian State Coach was last in the procession. As it drew alongside him, Guy paced himself easily to its speed, moving behind the crowds, keeping close to the dressed stone of the buildings lining the route. The Coach, he knew had been a gift to the Queen from the people of Australia on a royal visit in 1988. It had electric windows and air conditioning and he had been there on the tour when she received it.

He passed Matt Milton, still crouched under his Union Flag umbrella and he was pleased the royal fan had come back to the streets after his investigation. He still felt the guilt. He had been responsible for Milton’s probe although the little man would never know it. He smiled, giving him a wave, but the face, wrapped in a scarf against the sun, did not respond and so he moved on.

He missed his usual greeting. “Am I still Cat Strangler One, Mr Royce?” and regretted naming the innocent little man.

Guy was determined not to part company with him on bad terms after all the events they had shared together with Diana. He turned to retrace his steps. A word now would cost him nothing; they would never meet again.

*

Henrietta Fox focused carefully on Kate and William. They were tight in the viewfinder of her big Nikon. In the State Landau she saw them waving to the crowds. The Nikon rattled in her fingers and she zipped off three good close-ups.

Now she wanted a general view as the couple passed by. She focused again, this time including the crowds at the barrier as they cried out to the bride and groom. In her frame a familiar figure held her attention. In Union Flag colours he crouched beneath a flag umbrella. The man she had on the photograph in her pocket. The same Matt Milton that Guy Royce had talked of seeking at the Sherlock Holmes pub.

Now here he was at the royal wedding, standing first at the barriers. For a moment she focused just on him. Maybe one picture now might be worth money later, once she discovered why Royce was so interested in him? His scarf covered most of his face but there was something about him.

She was confused. Was this the man on the print in her pocket? His baseball cap, covered in royal badges, was reversed. The peak covered his neck, giving him a wider view of the royal coaches. It didn’t look like the same man at all.

The paparazzo looked around the crowd then saw Guy Royce striding along behind its edge, keeping up with the last carriage, the Australian State Coach.

She threw off her woollen hat waving it at him wildly, trying to attract his attention, shouting above the cacophony of voices around her.

“Guy! GUY!

*

The harnessed horses strained with the weight of the three tonne steel and aluminium Australian State Coach, their muscles twitching. The dominant Cleveland Bay was now beside Matt Milton. He didn’t move at the barrier. He stood motionless under his umbrella without a sound.

Somewhere, deep in Guy’s mind, the fire bell was ringing again. His instinct, honed by years on the streets, suddenly was screaming out at him. All his thousands of hours crowd-watching played back through his mind, a videotape of his past.

Every incident, every crazy coming from the pack at Diana, Princess of Wales - yet there were no telltale warnings. No surge of bodies, no raised voices. But something was wrong, he knew it. His fingers itched to feel his Glock 9mm but it wasn’t there.

His intuition shrieked at him and he reasoned out his fear. A Cat Strangler this close to the Queen would be waving madly, crying out in homage, hoping for that one royal glance that they lived for, yet Matt Milton did neither.

Then he saw Henri Fox, the paparazzo, at the barrier. Her red hair was ruffled out of shape by the wind and by her waving madly in his direction. He recognised her immediately, standing against the crowd in her leathers, gesticulating at him. He heard her screaming out above the din.

“Royce! Royce! That’s not Milton! It’s not him!”

Guy quickened his pace, moving into the packed bodies, trying to force a path. The pair of Bays were level with him now, steam rising from their flanks as their hard muscles bulged, drawing the Australian State Coach on its final lap to the Palace. Saliva dripped down around the bits in their pink, slavering lips.

He remembered that in identifying Milton he had made a fool of himself and it haunted him. Commander Stone would not accept another mistake. One blunder now and that would be the end of him for her.

Then he saw the gun!

The lead horse rider had reached Matt Milton´s side. Guy spotted a short, silver-muzzled revolver that barely peeped out under his umbrella.

He shouldered his way brutally into the crowd, all his old training guiding him. He scattered bodies between him and the assassin.

Men and women screamed out in protest around him but he heard nothing. He dragged young and old alike from his path. He cried out into his comms unit.

“Royce! Royce! Gun north side the Mall! Commander, he’s here!”

He was within five people of the weapon now, but Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, in the coach, was closer. Guy plunged headlong through the crowd, shouting, shouting out.

“Police! Get out the way! GET OUT OF THE WAY!” As he hurtled through the crowd he called again into his mike. “Megan. It’s Milton! Milton!”

He heard Megan Stone´s bark in his ear.

“All units! All units! North side of the Mall. Firearms attack. I repeat Code Red! Royce, get to him!”

He dragged an elderly woman out of his path, flinging her screaming against the barrier. He saw the great red and gold gilded wheels of the Australian State Coach turning, inches from his face, the coat of arms of Australia in green and gold emblazoned on the varnished carriage door.

He smelled the sour sweat from the horses, the clatter of hooves and creaking coachwork drowning out the yelling all around him. Then he saw the gun’s muzzle rising.

He tore at the fabric of the red, white and blue umbrella, tearing the images of Kate and William apart, wrenching it aside in two fists.

And Kenneth Thorne´s wild, cold eyes met his!

Guy went for the Smith & Wesson .38 Special, closing his grip on it over Thorne´s own hands. He pulled at the muzzle to turn it into his own body. If he could take the bullet himself he would. In his mania, Thorne found the strength to direct the barrel and Guy followed its aim, passed the face of the Prince of Wales in the window, to the woman in pale grey and champagne silk, sitting beside him, Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall.

And Guy couldn’t hold him!

In desperation Guy released one hand from the barrel hoping for time to palm-chop Thorne across the throat, praying the blow would incapacitate the gunman before his finger could pull back on the trigger. He felt Thorne´s spittle spatter his face as he knocked the air from the gunman.

Thorne´s eyes bulged then flickered and he lost the will to stand, his knees buckling. Guy pulled at the revolver, trying to tear the gun away from the assassin’s hands, crashing with him into the barrier. Thorne groaned once, a look of total disbelief etched across his face. As they tussled he gasped out. “Royce, she doesn’t deserve to live.”

Thorne’s hatred for the Duchess seemed to give him superhuman strength. He bent the muzzle toward the Coach window and the smiling Duchess who was oblivious to the life-and-death struggle taking place in the crowd. A Household Cavalry Captain of the 4th Division Sovereign’s Escort charged his mount at the struggling men, his sword mid thrust. As Guy grappled face to face the weapon’s point tore through Thorne’s neck, severing his carotid artery

With the force of his thrust the Cavalryman toppled from the saddle but he still held the blade firmly, the red blood splashing out onto his polished breastplate. Guy felt Thorne go limp and collapse onto the pavement. He said. “He’s dead, Trooper. No need for more.”

The trooper quickly withdrew but his coal black Cavalry mount reared on its hind legs and spun away rider less. In a clatter of steel plate hooves the Cavalry horse was loose and away, running between the troopers, heading alone on a familiar route back to the Horse Guards stables. Camilla, Charles and the Australian State Coach rolled on, unaware of the assassination attempt on the Duchess’s life.

Guy saw Henrietta Fox in her bikers´ leathers running behind the last Cavalry horse. He was blinded by a cannonade of flashes when she knelt to take his picture. Then she slid in to crouch at his side on the blood soaked pavement, her camera dangling from a strap around her neck. Her wild, red hair was stained with sweat in dark auburn patches.

“You okay?”

Guy’s jaw was clamped tight. He felt a muscle in his cheek tick.

“Guy, what happened? Tell me.”

He picked up the revolver by the trigger guard and carefully released the chamber with a thumbnail, making the gun safe. When he was ready he took a breath and spoke.

“The dead man’s name is Kenneth Thorne, Henri. An hour ago the cops found a body in Thorne’s burned-out Volvo. I suspect we’ll find the body is Matt Milton. Thorne planned this all along, using Milton’s identity to get onto the royal route. Poor Matt never stood a chance.”

Henrietta was pale, staring down at the lifeless, speared body on the floor.

“My God, he nearly got through. That’s how he got passed the checkpoints. Well done, Guy. You’re a bit of a star, my friend.”

“He was about to shoot Camilla. I did my job. I was unarmed and this man had a gun. The Trooper finished him off for me.”

Guy stood, calling to the pack of officers now pressing around them.

“Get crowd control round the incident area quickly. Tape it off. Get a tent over the body as fast as you can.”

Henrietta stood and moved back to his side. She held his sleeve, looking up into his face, the sunlight making her blink.

“When you’ve sorted out this mess, Royce, you owe me a drink in the Sherlock Holmes.”

Guy looked into her jade-green eyes and smiled.

“I believe I do. I’d like that, Henri. I’d like that a lot.”

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