"Except a few," said the Matarese grandson.
"As I mentioned before, you were all chosen because I found vulnerabilities that served my purposes, the carrots and sticks, I believe I said. There were others I approached, perhaps giving away more than I should have. They were violently opposed to my supplications, stating that they would instantly expose any moves the inheritors of the Matarese might make.. .. They are three, two men and one woman, for the Baron had ten grandchildren outside of the Church. So we go from the abstract, the global, to the personal. To those three extremely influential individuals who would destroy us. Therefore, we must destroy them first. Here, you can all be of service.. .. Gentlemen and dear lady, they must be eliminated before we make our moves. But killed ingeniously, leaving no traces whatsoever to any of you. There was another, not of our bloodline, an old man but so powerful he could have crippled us the instant we started to rise. He is no longer an obstacle, the others are. They are the only ones left who stand in our way. Shall we get down to basics? Or are there any who care to leave now?"
"Why do I have the feeling that if we did, we'd never reach the road to Senetosa?" mused the woman.
"You ascribe to me more than I ascribe to myself, madam."
"Go ahead, Jan van der Meer Matareisen, visions are my business," said the cardinal.
"Then envision this, Priest," said Matareisen.
"We have a schedule, a countdown, if you like. Only a few months away, the beginning of the New Year. That is our target for global control, Matarese control."
The Hamptons, New York. August 28.
The East End of Long Island is less than an hour from Manhattan, depending upon the type of private aircraft involved. The "Hamps" will forever remain the imaginary province of the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, at least certain sections where private aircraft are involved. It is rich and pampered, replete with grand mansions, manicured lawns, glittering blue pools, tennis courts, and serrated ranks of English gardens in stunning bloom under the summer sun. The exclusivity of decades past has been swept away by the wealth of the meritocracy.
Jews, Italians, idolized blacks and Hispanics-all previously excluded-are now the grandees of the East End, peacefully, even enthusiastically, coexisting with the still-shocked WASP inheritors of ancestral prosperity.
Money is a unique equalizer. The various clubs' dues are reduced by the influx of the pretenders, and their generous contributions to the improvements of the numerous premises gratefully, enthusiastically accepted.
Jay Gatsby forever lives, with or without Daisy-and Nick, the conscience of an era.
The polo match at the Green Meadow Hunt Club was in full fury, ponies and riders drenched in sweat as hooves pounded and mallets swung viciously at the elusive white ball that kept veering dangerously out of reach beneath the stampeding horses and across the flying turf.
Suddenly, there was an agonized scream from one of the riders. He had lost his helmet in the heat of the chase. His head was a mass of blood;
the skull itself appeared to be cracked open.
Everything came to a halt as the combatants sprang off their mounts and raced to the fallen rider. Among them was a doctor, an Argentinean surgeon who parted the bodies in front of him and knelt beside the unconscious figure. He looked up at the expectant faces.
"He's dead," the doctor said.
"How could it have happened?" cried the captain of the Red Team, the dead man's team.
"A wooden mallet might have knocked him out-we've all experienced that-but not crush his skull, for God's sake!"
"What struck him wasn't wood," said the Argentinean.
"I'd say it was far heavier-iron or lead, perhaps." They were in an alcove of the enormous stables, two uniformed patrolmen and the local Emergency Medical Services unit having been summoned.
"There should be an autopsy, specifically concentrating on the cranial impact," continued the doctor.
"Put that in your report, please."
"Yes, sir," answered one of the patrolmen.
"What are you suggesting, Luis?" asked another rider.
"It's pretty clear," answered a patrolman, writing in his notebook.
"He's suggesting that this may not be an accident, am I correct, sir?"
"That's not for me to say, Officer. I'm a doctor, not a policeman.
I'm only offering an observation."
"What's the deceased's name, and does he have a wife or relatives in the area?" interrupted the second patrolman, glancing at his companion and nodding at the notebook.
"Giancarlo Tremonte," replied a blond rider, his speech born of the old crowd.
"I've heard that name," said the first policeman.
"Quite possibly," continued the light-haired player.
"The Tremonte family of Lake Como and Milan are very well known. They have considerable interests in Italy and France, as well as over here, of course."
"No, I mean the Giancarlo part," broke in the patrolman with the notebook.
"Not always in the more respectable ones, although his own reputation is splendid-was splendid."
"Then why was he in the papers so frequently?" asked the second policeman.
"I suppose because he was terribly wealthy, attended many social and charity events, and liked women." The leader of the Red Team looked pointedly at the patrolman.
"That's grist for third-rate journalists, Officer, but hardly a sin. After all, he didn't choose his parentage."
"I guess not, but I think you've answered one of my questions.
There's no wife around, and if there were any girlfriends, they got the hell out of here. To avoid those third-rate journalists, of course."
"You have no argument with me."
"I'm not looking for one, Mr.. .. Mr.? .. ."
"Albion, Geoffrey Albion. My summer house is in Gull Bay, on the beach. And to the best of my knowledge, Giancarlo has no relatives in the area. It's my understanding that he was here in the States to oversee the Tremonte family's American interests. When he leased the Wellstone estate, we were, of course, delighted to accept him into Green Meadow. He is-was-a very talented polo player.. .. May we please remove his remains?"
"We'll cover him, sir, but he has to stay here until our superiors and the medical examiner arrive. The less he's moved, the better."
"Are you implying that we should have left him out in the field in front of the crowds?" said Albion curtly.
"If so, you will have an argument with me. It's tasteless enough that you roped off the area where he fell."
"We're just doing our job, sir." The first police officer replaced the notebook in his pocket.
"Insurance companies are very demanding in these cases, especially cases where injury or death is the result. They want to examine everything."
"Speaking of which," added the second patrolman, "we'll need the mallets of both teams, of everyone who was in the match."
"They're all on the wall over there," said the blond player with the precise if slightly nasal speech. The wall referred to held dozens of two-pronged colored racks from which the polo mallets hung like wooden utensils.
"Today's players are in the red section, the farthest on the left," he continued.
"The grooms hose them down but they're all there."
" The first policeman took out his note' Hose them down?
"Dirt and mud, old boy. It can get messy out there. See, some are still dripping."
"Yes, I can see that," said the second patrolman quietly.
"Just water from hoses? No dipping in cleaning solutions or anything like that?"
"No, but it sounds like a fine idea," said yet another rider, shaking, then nodding, his head.
"Just a minute," interrupted the patrolman, walking to the wall and studying the mallets.
"How many are supposed to be here in the red section?"
"It varies," replied Albion cond
"There are eight players, four to a team, along with replacements and reserve mallets. There's a movable yellow peg that separates the current match from the members not playing that day. The grooms take care of it all."
"Is this the yellow peg?" asked the patrolman, pointing to a bright, circular, snub-nosed piece of wood.
"It's not purple, is it?"
"No, it's not, Mr. Albion. And it hasn't been moved since the match began this afternoon?"
"Why should it be?"
"Maybe you should ask, why wasn't it? There are two mallets missing."
The celebrity tennis tournament in Monte Carlo drew dozens of recognizable performers from films and television. Most were American and British who played with and against the socialites of Europeminor royalty and wealthy Greeks, Germans, a few fading French writers, and several Spaniards who claimed long-forgotten titles but insisted that the word Don preceded their names. Nobody took much seriously, for the nightly festivities were extravagant, the participants gloried in their brief spotlights-televised, of course-and since everything was sponsored by Monaco's ruling house, a great deal of fun-and publicity- was had by all while charity thrived.
An enormous buffet was held under the stars in the huge courtyard of the palace overlooking the harbor. A talented orchestra held sway, playing in a variety of musical styles, from opera to nostalgic pop, as internationally known singers took turns entertaining the crowd, each receiving an ovation as the elegant audience rose from their elegantly dressed tables under the spill of roving spotlights.
"Manny, I want my gig on Sixty Minutes, you got that?"
"Got it, babe, it's a natural!"
"Cyril, why am I here? I don't play tennis!"
"Because there are studio heads here! Go up and recite something in your dulcet tones, and keep turning right and left. Your pro feel chap!"
"That fucking bitch stole my song!"
"You didn't copyright it, darling. Do "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' or something!"
"I don't know all the words!"
"Then hum and push your tits into their faces. The record boys are here!" And so it went; altruism will out.
Among the congregation of great, near-great, non-great, and never great was a quiet man, a modest man of wealth with little or no pretense. He was a research fellow, a scholar committed to the study of cancers, and was in Monte Carlo as one of the contributing sponsors. He had requested anonymity, but his largess prohibited it in the eyes of the Grand Committee. He had agreed, in the name of his Spanish family, to give a very short speech welcoming the guests.
He stood behind a courtyard screen, prepared to walk out to the podium when his name was called.
"I'm quite nervous," he said to a stagehand who stood beside him, ready to tap him on the shoulder when it was his time.
"I'm not very good at speaking in public."
"Make it short and thank them, that's all you have to do.... Here, have a glass of water, it'll clear your throat."
"Gracias," said the genuinely titled Juan Garcia Guaiardo. He drank, and on his way to the podium he collapsed. By the time he was dead, the stagehand had disappeared.
Alicia Brewster, Dame of the Realm by decree of the Queen, emerged from her Bentley in front of the family residence in London's Belgravia. She was a medium-sized, compact woman, but her stride and the energy it implied made her appear much larger, a force to be reckoned with. She let herself into the colonnaded entrance of the Edwardian house, only to be greeted by her two children, who had been summoned from their respective boarding schools and were waiting for her in the large, polished hall. They were a tall, clean-cut, muscular young man and a shorter, equally attractive girl, he in his late teens, she a little younger, both anxious, concerned, even frightened.
"I'm sorry to have called you home," said the mother after briefly embracing each child.
"I simply thought it was better this way."
"It's that serious, then?" asked the older brother.
"That serious, Roger."
"I'd say it's long overdue," said the girl.
"I never liked him, you know."
"Oh, I did, very much, Angela." Alicia Brewster smiled sadly while nodding her head.
"Also, I felt you needed a man around the house-" "He was hardly tops in that department, Mother," interrupted the boy.
"Well, he had a tough act to follow, as they say. Your father was rather overwhelming, wasn't he? Successful, famous, certainly dynamic."
"You had a lot to do with it, Mum," said the daughter.
"Far less than you think, my dear. Daniel was his own man. I depended a great deal more on him than he depended on me. The saddest part of his passing, I always think, is that it was so prosaic, so banal, really. Dying in his sleep from a stroke. Merely the thought of it would have driven him to his gym, swearing."
"What do you want us to do, Mother?" asked Roger quickly, as if to stem the flow of painful memories.
"I'm not sure. Moral support, I guess. Like most weak men, your stepfather has a vicious temper-" "He'd better not show it," the strapping young man broke in.
"If he even raises his voice, I'll break his neck."
"And Rog can do it, Mum. He won't tell you, but he's the Midlands interscholastic wrestling champ."
"Oh, shut up, Angie, there wasn't any competition."
"I hardly meant in the physical sense," interrupted Alicia.
"Gerald's not the sort. It's all just screaming tantrums with him. It'll simply be unpleasant."
"Then why not have your solicitor take care of it, Mother?"
"Because I have to know why."
"Why what?" asked Angela.
"To keep him more occupied and, I suppose, to enhance his selfesteem, I put him on the finance committee of our Wildlife Association, made him chairman, in fact. Irregularities began to appear, allocations to nonexistent entities, that sort of thing.. .. The bottom line is that Gerald stole over a million pounds from the association."
"Jesus Christ!" exclaimed the son.
"But why? He's never been stony since you married him! Why did you marry him?"
"He was so charming, so alive-on the surface in many ways like your father, but only on the surface. And, let's face it, I was terribly depressed. I thought he had strength until I learned it was only false bravado.. .. Where is he?"
"In the upstairs library, Mother. I'm afraid he's drunk."
"Yes, I assumed as much. You see, I did use my solicitor, after a fashion. I'll make up the money, but I can't press charges or anything like that-the publicity could harm the association. He was told to pack his bags and be ready to leave at once after confronting me. I demanded that. I'll go up now."
"I'll go with you."
"No, dear, it's not necessary. When he comes downstairs, put him in his car. If he's too drunk to get behind the wheel, call Coleman and have him drive Gerald wherever he wishes to go. I suspect to his new girl in High Holborn. They're quite thick."
Alicia climbed the circular staircase rapidly, purposefully, a vengeful Valkyrie wanting answers. She approached the door of the upstairs library, Daniel Brewster's defiled personal study, and flung it open.
"Well, well!" cried the apparently inebriated Gerald, slumped in a dark leather armchair, a bottle of whiskey on the table beside him, his half-empty glass weaving below his lips.
"Lady rich-bitch detective arrives. Sorry about everything, old girl, but you see, you are getting old, and you're not terribly inviting any longer."
"Why, Gerry, why? I've never denied you a shilling when you asked for it! Why did you do this?"
"Have you ever lived as nothing more than a useless appendage of a rich bitch who wouldn't even assume my name? No, of course not, because you're that rich bitch!"
"I explained why I kept the name Brewster and you agreed," said Lady Alicia, walking over to the chair.
"Not only for the children's sake, but I was honored in that name. Also, I never treated you shabbily, and y
ou know it. You're a sick man, Gerald, but I'm still prepared to help you, if you'll seek help. Perhaps it is my fault, for you were once so much fun to be with, so concerned with my grief, I can't forget that. You helped me when I needed help, Gerry, and I'll help you now, if you'll let me."
"Jesus, I can't stand saints. What can you do for me now? I'll spend years in prison, and then what?"
"No, you won't. I'll replace the money and you'll leave England.
Canada or America, perhaps, where you can get counseling, but you cannot stay in this house any longer. Take my offer, Gerald, it's the last I'll give."
Alicia stood over her husband, her eyes pleading, when suddenly he lurched out of the chair, grabbing her skirt and yanking it above her hips. A syringe appeared from beneath his trousers, as he clasped his hand over her mouth, and plunged the needle into her hosed thigh. He held his hand brutally in place until she collapsed. She was dead.
A totally sober killer walked over to the telephone on the library desk. He dialed a coded number in France, which was rerouted to Istanbul, then Switzerland, and finally-lost in the computers-to the Netherlands.
"Yes?" answered the man in Amsterdam.
"Good. Now play the distraught husband, the anguished guilty man, and get out of there. Remember, do not use your Jaguar. A perfectly normal London taxi is waiting for you. You'll know it by the driver holding a yellow handkerchief out the window."
"You'll protect me? You promised me that!"
"You will live in luxury for the rest of your life. Beyond the reach of any laws."
"God knows I deserve it, after living with that bitch!"
"You certainly do. Hurry up now."
Lady Alicia's second husband raced out of the library, weeping copiously. He plunged down the circular staircase, nearly losing his footing, his tears apparently blinding him, as he kept wailing, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I should never have done it!" He reached the huge polished hall, rushing past the Brewster children, to the front door. He crashed the door open and ran outside.
"Mother must have read him the riot act," said Roger Brewster.
"Mum told you to check on his getting into the Jag. Make sure it's safe for him to drive."
"Fuck him, little sister, I've got the keys. That bastard's out of here."