MI6 made a deal to cut him loose...
Now they want him back.
A physics defying gemstone.
A catastrophic prediction.
A man born of legend.
Dan Wildman is no stranger to corruption.
Some of the most ruthless international concerns have him on their radar.
They want two things from him; a trove of damning evidence, and a crystal that could catapult them into a new global role - the world's number one superpower.
Can Dan decode his grandfather's journals and find the leverage to protect those he loves?
Can his sister, Mary, keep the legacy safe from agents of the state, or will ministers shake the foundations of the British Isles, until tragedy strikes?
Grab the next book in the series, and follow Dan into the callous underbelly of worldwide espionage.
In the midst of despair...
A series of shocking revelations come to the fore...
Leading Dan into the hands of a ruthless group.
A rogue agent leaves a trail of destruction, pointing the finger of blame towards Dan.
Can he find Phebe's Journal of Prophecies...
before the nuclear catastrophe kills him and thousands more?
The elevator juddered to a halt at the bottom of the mine shaft, kicking up a choking dust cloud all around them. Before they could lift the concertina barrier gate, a low and deafening roar, rumbled in their ears. The walls shook, twisting the layers of rock until fragments spilled down through the bars. A second cracking noise followed, and a boulder the size of a small car fell. It crashed and skittered on the metal struts of the elevator roof, crushing the safety bars inches from their heads.
Dropping to the base, they watched the massive rock slip and grind against the railings above. Shielding themselves in terror, they knew that there could be no protection from its final descent. Felicity muttered a prayer into the heavens, between terrified sobs. Dan looked up from his crouched position, as the cage creaked and buckled beneath its weight. A sudden lurch, and the boulder wrenched open a gap in the framework, wide enough for him to squeeze through.
With the whole structure shaking around him in convulsive spasms, Dan hoisted himself from the elevator wreckage and stretched his leg down to the floor of the cavern below. His companion, cowered in the remains of the mangled lift. More debris rained down, provoking hysterical squeals of dread. Dan reached in to grab her, clutching at her wrists and pulling her through the opening between the wire work. As he lifted her free from the wreck, a shower of sparks from the control panel threatened to ignite their clothes. There was a loud fizzing noise and then complete darkness. The power failed.
Groping between the sharp rocks strewn across the cavern floor, they heaved themselves along the steel banister rail away from the immediate danger.
"Have you got your mobile phone with you?” Dan yelled above the clamour. “Use the light to guide us."
Blubbering, and fumbling in her pocket, Felicity retrieved the device and switched it on. The bright beam from the screen gave them enough illumination to scramble free from the falling masses and towards the far wall of the open cavern. Within a few moments, the shuddering walls ceased to move. The tremors subsided. "I don't suppose there is a cell reception down here?"
Felicity shook her head. Tear tracks smeared trails through the powder coating her face.
Dan slipped his hand around her shoulders and pulled her close to him. "Shush, it’s okay." He whispered. "We'll get out of this alive, you'll see." He rested his lips against her forehead and held her tightly against his chest.
Another tremor and the rock face above them cracked wide open. The rush of water spilling through the fissure in the walls, was deafening. The surge gushed across the floor space sending them scurrying to higher ground. Clutching their only light source, Felicity directed them to a high ledge at the side of the cavern. Dan boosted her on to the narrow shelf, and scrambled up after her. As they huddled against the frigid temperatures, the swirling mass of water lapped and splashed against their legs.
All his life’s goals, his hopes of a legacy worth remembrance, his dream of starting a family, faded with the light from her phone. There would be no more happy occasions, no summer beach picnics, no weddings or christenings. Nothing but an empty cold death. Her cries of fear wrenched at his guts as the icy liquid seeped higher up their bodies.
"I never thought it would end like this."
The blond Parisian glared at the commuter standing on the platform next to the doorway. She pouted, and jutted her hip out to one side. The businessman shuffled sideways, allowing her to step up into the carriage. Dan gestured for the businessman to board next. He gave the man a wry smile, and hopped on after him, carrying their coffees and balancing a newspaper beneath his elbow.
The intercity train was packed out and yet she managed to secure a forward-facing pair of seats, with a table. Dan handed his girlfriend her coffee and sat down. He tucked his elbows in to his side, providing a clear aisle for the remaining passengers. He took a sip from the travel cup and winced. The liquid scalded his tongue. Prising open the plastic lid, he blew onto the coffee, cooling its surface. A familiar vibrating noise emanated from her handbag. She rummaged inside and retrieved a mobile phone. Dan unwrapped the scarf from his neck and folded it neatly onto the table top.
"Allo, this is Constance Cadot speaking."
Dan watched the one-sided conversation, as she listened intently to the speaker at the other end of the line. A short time later, her speech descended into rapid French. Dan could not understand a word spoken. He observed the other passengers as they watched the attractive woman gesticulate and argue in a most ferocious manner, and commandeer the attention of everyone in the carriage. As her conversation ended, she pulled the phone from her ear, pressed the screen to close the call and made several text messages without conferring with Dan. It was clearly another work day for Connie.
Cheap cologne and stale garlic, wafted throughout the airways. As they rounded a long bend in the track, their direction shifted, aligning with a break in the clouds. A beam of sunlight shone directly into their eyes. Connie delved into her bag for her sunglasses with one hand, while punching out another e-mail using only her thumb. Dan's spectacles immediately reacted with the sunlight rendering the lenses a darker shade of grey. It did not prevent him from squinting, and averting his eyes. Most of the other passengers wore suits of varying expense. It was that odd time of the year, when dressing warmly in woollen blends for chilly mornings, turned out to be a poor decision as the day wore on. One of the commuters at the end of the carriage facing Dan, looked as if he regretted his choices already. Perspiration built on his high forehead, making him loosen his collar and tie.
"Will Mary be meeting us in London?" Connie asked, pausing in her correspondence and peering up at him.
"No, she said that there was some kind of emergency. She was called into work, if you know what I mean?" Dan said, angling an eyebrow towards his girlfriend.
"Oui, I understand."
“She wants me to ask the solicitor about this.” Dan slipped his hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out a golden brooch. Its sleek lines supported a black gemstone that glinted in the morning radiance. He held it in a cupped palm for Connie to see.
“That is beautiful. It is Mary’s, is it not?”
“Technically, it belongs to us both. Our great, great grandmother had it made.” He leaned in and whispered. “There is a chance that a man lost his life over this brooch; Mary’s jeweller friend in Brighton. She asked him to examine it, and the next thing you know, he gets stabbed in the chest, just hours after a gem symposium in London.”
Connie’s face lit up. “Really? You think it could be a good story for me to investigate?”
“I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t want to be responsible for putting you in harm’s way again. Besides, it was part of Pip’s legacy, and that appears to be tangled up in some way with the British Government. Don’t go rocking boats.” He gave her his sternest frown.
Connie gently plucked the jewel from his hand, turning it over and tracing the shape of lambda, within the circle of gold. “A Greek letter, oui? Most unusual.”
“It is. Academics use lambda in mathematical equations to represent wavelength.”
She gave it back to Dan, with a little smile and touched his hand. She watched him rub at his eye to mask the build-up of saline in his lids.
“This is very difficult for you, I think.” She said. “So many memories of Pip. He was much loved.”
“He was, but I wish he had been less guarded with his secrets.”
They let their conversation drift into the ether, their gazes drawn to the countryside whizzing past the window. For the brief time in which Connie’s phone was silent, she grasped his hand and squeezed. A moment of consolation in her fast world.
Dan finished off his coffee, and spent the remainder of the hour-long journey, reading his newspaper. Connie made extensive notes on her tablet PC for her latest exclusive report, checking periodically for a return in the mobile signal. The hydraulics rasped and snorted as the train rattled through the final points in the track and came to a jerked halt at St Pancras Station. The commuters gathered in the doorways, each on their starting blocks, ready for the speed walk to their underground connection.
Connie tidied away her belongings and edged across to Dan’s vacant seat. They were almost the last people to disembark. The second her foot landed on the platform, her phone sang out with a loud and incessant jingle. She turned to Dan with a finger poised mid-air. “One moment…” She swiped the accept call button on screen and listened. He watched patiently, as her face transformed through multiple emotions; the frown of suspicion, followed by a closed eyed concentration, then an elation that pulled every muscle in her face towards the heavens. Her final expression was a piteous look at her boyfriend.
He could read her as well as the books in his shop. That look spelled disappointment - his, not hers. She scurried along the platform and slid her arm beneath his elbow.
“That was the editor at The Guardian newspaper. He wants me to see him as soon as possible.”
“An interview for a salaried position.”
“Uhuh.” He knew what was coming next. The main offices for that particular broadsheet was a short walk from St Pancras. He suppressed a sigh, turning the urge into a slow exhalation.
“Would you mind if I went now, and caught up with you later?”
“It’s your career, Con, and important to you. What kind of man would I be if I kicked up a fuss? Of course you should go.”
The remainder of their discussion was left unsaid, but it still hung like a black fog between them. Her support in his time of grief was sketchy at best, unlike his encouragement of her career progression. They walked in silence through the shop lined concourse, past the Eurostar departure lounge and customs desks towards the stairway to the Tube.
Connie stood on tiptoes and planted a dry kiss on his closed lips. “You are the best. See you later. I will text you when I am on my way.” Not, thanks for being so understanding… I love you, he reflected with calm resignation. She was never likely to say those words, as much as he wanted to hear them. Sucking in his lips and setting his jaw, he nodded through her farewell and watched her skip out of the exit and hurry towards Kings Cross.
Merging with the crowds, he turned and took two steps at a time into the lower concourse, filtering off at the signs to the Northern Line, heading south to Bank. It took a little while to gain his bearings, following the bright red connections leading him to the central line, before taking an east bound train to Chancery. Squashed into a heaving carriage, he caught the eye of a sweating commuter. The same man in the woollen suit Dan observed in the train with Connie. He nodded recognition to him, with a raised brow look of exasperation. The man glanced away. Miserable sod, Dan thought.
Pushing between the straining shoulders, Dan alighted at Chancery, and made his way up to street level. Here, he fished in his back pocket for a folded piece of paper which Connie had printed from Google Maps. Orientating himself, he stepped into the maze of tiny courtyards and hidden gardens of London’s legal quarter. A cut through took him to Chancery Lane, where he crossed the busy road and walked some five-hundred metres, until he found a narrow alley at the side of a cafe. Though clearly signposted, its dark length gave it an ominous feel. He looked at his watch, and then again at the map. A detour would make him late for his appointment. He would just have to hope that there were few muggers about at this early hour.
Tucking the map back into his pocket, he took a fortifying breath and marched down the oppressive alley as fast as his long legs could carry him. At the end, there was a minor kink, before the passageway opened into another small garden. He found himself at the entrance to the Bunyan Building, an incongruent new structure, tightly packed between the old Victorian Chambers either side. Dan scaled the steps and opened the glass and steel door.
The receptionist gave him a benign smile. “Good morning, sir. How may I direct you?”
“I am expected. My name is Dan Wildman.”
“Yes, of course, sir. One moment please.” She grabbed the phone, punched out an extension number on the keypad and in a quiet voice growled into the handset, “He’s here.” She replaced the receiver and folded her hands together on the desk. “They are on their way, sir. May I just say how very sorry I am for your loss?”
Dan was taken aback by this gesture of kindness. It took him a second or two to reply. “Oh, yes. Thank you.” Absently smoothing down his hair, he spun around at the sound of clicking heels on marble flooring.
The skirt of her navy suit ended at her knees but inched up her thigh as she descended the stairs. Dan forced his eyes up to her smiling face, leaning forwards to take up her outstretched hand.
“Lovely to meet you, Mr Wildman.” Her grip firm and business-like.
“Dan will do just fine.” He said, captivated and a little intimidated by her intense gaze. She was sizing him up. “And you are?”
“Felicity Bunyan. We are meeting upstairs…” She turned and gestured for him to follow. “Would you like some tea, or coffee perhaps?”
“No, but thank you.”
Within two flights of open plan stairs, they reached the board room. The door was open. Dan rested his hand on its surface, stepping aside to allow her to enter the room before him. An act of chivalry which provoked an uncomfortable smile on her part. Inside more modern sleek lines of glass and steel confronted him. At the end of the long table, an elderly man sat in a wheelchair. His thin mottled skin conveyed the seriousness of his condition. Dan paced over to the man, offering his hand in greeting.
“I would greatly love to stand and shake your hand, sir, but as you see…” His voice was as frail as his body. It crackled and fizzed between strained breaths.
Dan took care not to be too rough with his welcome. “Thank you for seeing me, Mr Bunyan. I am sorry to have put you to all this trouble.” He pointed to the chair next to the old man. “May I?”
Bunyan covered his face with a cotton handkerchief, coughing and nodding his assent. When his bronchial state had calmed, he continued. “Can I begin by expressing our deepest sympathies with regard to your grandfather’s passing. We all share in your grief. Pip was a most extraordinary gentleman, who shall always be in our thoughts.”
Dan slipped his hands beneath the desk and pressed his thumbnail into the palm of his opposite hand. The pain was enough distraction to prevent him from losing his composure. “Thank you. You are very kind.” Felicity strolled to the old man’s side, placing her hand on his shoulder.
“It is clear to all that I am not in the best of health, so I am placing all Pip’s affairs, with your permission, into the hands of our very best litigator and conveyor.” He raised his weak hand and patted hers. “Felicity is my granddaughter, Mr Wildman. She will not let you down, of that I can solemnly promise.” He paused once again, to clear his lungs. Felicity switched on a valve connecting a face mask to a cylinder of oxygen mounted to the rear of his wheelchair. Bunyan took a few breaths from the mask, and lowered it again.
“I am glad to have made your acquaintance. I never imagined that I would out live…” he trailed off, his eyes glistening. They each looked down to the table. A moment of solace. “Your grandfather made extensive arrangements for how we should proceed. Felicity has already begun the process of organising transportation as soon as he is released from Secret Service laboratories. I hope that is satisfactory to you?”
“Yes, it is, and thank you again.”
“With regards to his estate, may I ask you precisely how much he told you about his affairs?” Bunyan tipped his head to one side, analysing Dan’s responses.
“Next to nothing, I am afraid. It was a complete shock to find out that in addition to being my godfather, he was also my grandfather, and it was through him that I discovered my sister, just a few months ago.”
“Did he ever talk about his diaries, for instance?”
“He didn’t, but Mary and I found one of his journals in a safe at his house in Brighton. Another was released by MI6 into my care. It was on his person when he was…killed.”
“I see.” The old man, looked up at his granddaughter. They exchanged a meaningful glance. Dan could not tell whether this was some prearranged signal or simple pity.
“He mentioned nothing about his status or dealings?” Felicity chipped in, eager to get to the crux of the matter.
“Status? You mean all that nonsense about him being titled?”
“If only it were nonsense, Mr Wildman.” The old man wheezed. “You inherit the peerage. You are the Ninth Earl of Sedgewell, from one of the oldest noble families in all of Christendom.