I was watching Sky News when BREAKING NEWS was announced: ”Scotland Yard are tonight investigating fresh reports that Princess Diana was murdered by an SAS hit squad…”
And while they say truth is stranger than fiction, the next day’s headlines seemed to have been torn from my royal conspiracy thriller, The Power Behind The Throne.
If you’re new to the story, here’s what you need to know:
The reign of Queen Elizabeth is finally drawing to a close. Three of the UK’s most powerful men, members of a secret organisation called Sceptre, will stop at nothing to protect the monarchy.
Sceptre is on a mission to murder Jack Hollander, an innocent victim of circumstance – and the one man who can prevent Prince Charles from fulfilling his destiny.
After a botched assassination in Canterbury Cathedral, Sceptre Chairman Sir Gerald Akehurst sends for former SAS man, Tobias Martin. He can be trusted to get the job done.
Here’s what happens next:
Tobias Martin was handsome enough to be a movie star. He dressed smartly enough to pass for an investment banker. He sounded posh enough to read the news on the BBC, and his fingernails were beautifully manicured, which made Bell deeply suspicious. ‘I know you’ve worked with Gerry and Robert before, but so far, no-one’s got round to telling me what it is you do. Are you the chap who’s been trying to keep the Duchess of York out of trouble for us?’
Martin’s laugh was as dark and brown as his mischievous eyes. ‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise I was meant to bring my CV along. Here, have one of these.’ He offered Bell a Turkish cigarette. ‘If I could take the credit for that particular good deed, then I’d be the wrong man for the job that needs doing now. Don’t you think?’
Akehurst laughed, too. Bell responded with a scowl. The bloke was obviously a smart-arse, and a patronising smart-arse at that. ‘Will someone kindly tell me who the fuck you are, and what the fuck you’ve done?’
‘No need for you to be so confrontational, Barry. Mr Martin’s credentials are impeccable.’ Akehurst sounded almost reverential. ‘Are you comfortable with me explaining your previous involvement with Sceptre?’ he asked.
‘By all means. So long as the gentleman understands that if he ever repeats what he’s about to hear, then I’ll be obliged to kill him, too.’ This time, Tobias Martin clearly wasn’t joking. The remark was delivered in the same, mellifluous tone as before, but the brown eyes had turned to stone.
‘Mr Martin has worked for us on one previous occasion,’ Akehurst stepped in quickly, before Bell caused any further trouble. ‘The incident was officially designated Fatal Road Accident, 31 August 1997, 00:30. In Paris. Does that ring any bells with you?’
‘Jesus Christ!’ Bell looked as if he’d seen a ghost. ‘Of course it does. So you’re the man who ruined my thirty-first birthday.’
Now it was Martin’s turn to look surprised.
Bell explained, ‘I’d hired a place on the Isle of Wight. Two dozen of us had gone over there for a weekend party. As soon as we heard the news about Princess Diana, we just sat and watched television for whole day. A Sunday, wasn’t it.’
‘Indeed,’ said Martin. ‘I’m sorry about your birthday.’
‘Fuck me sideways. I’m sorry about my language. And for taking the piss just now. So Princess Diana was murdered. By us. By you, I mean. How the fuck did you do it?’
Martin’s explanation was as succinct as it was mind-boggling. It had been a three-man operation. One of them planted in the thick of the paparazzi pack that pursued the doomed Mercedes from the moment it left the Ritz Hotel, forcing the chauffeur away from the busy Champs-Elysées and ensuring he took the riverfront road that led to the Alma tunnel. Martin himself at the wheel of a white Fiat Uno lying in wait on a parallel road, the Cors Albert 1er.
‘The car looked inoffensive enough, but it was a actually a Turbo IE, one of the few vehicles powerful enough to out-accelerate the Mercedes.’ Martin had the look of a man who enjoyed fast cars at all times.
He’d entered the expressway at the last possible moment, taking Diana’s driver by surprise, making him slam on the brakes and skid as he entered the tunnel. And then hurtle even faster towards disaster when he felt his vehicle being nudged by the Fiat. An ideal spot, the Alma, with its curve and dip configuration, its absence of guard rails, and its thirteenth, deadly, support pillar. No need to use the back-up vehicle. And it had taken the bogus photographer just a couple of seconds to reach inside the wreckage and inject the dying driver through the roof of his gaping mouth with a hypodermic syringe, so that the posthumous blood tests could reveal he’d been full of drink and drugs. The Fiat Uno gobbled up by a crusher long before morning. And the other two members of the team? They’d both died – accidentally – by the end of that year. Anything else you’d like to know?
‘How come you’re still alive?’ whispered Barry Bell.
‘Let’s just say I took out sufficient insurance before I agreed to carry out the operation.’ Martin lit another of his stubby, brown cigarettes. He smoked almost as much as Bell.
Like millions of others, Barry Bell had always been a little in love with Princess Diana. He’d even stood there, outside the gates of Kensington Palace, with his single red rose. But it seemed wise to keep quiet about that.
‘So shall we proceed with the Hollander briefing?’ Akehurst produced his laptop computer and booted it up.
It was going to be another long night.
Does Tobias Martin claim another royal victim? Download The Power Behind The Throne and find out!
Fifty-six four and five star reviews. Lots of praise. And two people who seem to believe I should be arrested for treason.
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