Christmas of 1981 was the first one that Mary spent with all her family around her. Her parents came to stay and Ralph worked like a madman to decorate a bedroom for them to sleep in, and Daniel was at home in the third bedroom. Daniel had been asked back to Scotland and there was no doubt that had he wanted to go, and Mary and Ralph could have gone too, but he knew with a wisdom that was older than he was, that his mum would like best of all to have a Christmas at home this time, with her family.
Although he had stayed at home for Christmas, the summer holiday was very definitely Daniel and Jonathon, which Mary understood and was quite happy about. She and Ralph found that they could afford to take a real holiday away and had begun to try different places. This year, 1982, they were being a bit more adventurous and were going to tour New England. Mary of course had a thought for Philip's trip to America and was very frightened about the roads, and driving on them. Ralph calmed her as best he could and said if she didn't want to go then they could go to some other place but she knew how much he wanted to see a bit of America, bit her lip, and they went. She was glad that she did because she had a fantastic time and wished it had been longer.
The next two years were largely uneventful. Things almost settled into a routine, if life can ever be routine with a child whose intelligence puts him into the top five percent of the country. Daniel and Jonathon were as close as ever, sharing summer holidays whose exotic destinations were a constant surprise to Daniel. There were the usual annual salary hikes for Ralph and Mary who were enjoying their new responsibilities. Ralph discovered that he had a hidden talent for management, helped along by his odd knack of getting things done against all the odds - indeed it seemed that the longer the odds the more likely he was to get it done. Every Christmas they got an invite to Scotland and so they decided to alternate, one Christmas at home, one in Scotland. Paul and Alex were delighted and Mary was bemused that among her friends were Lord and Lady Steele. The fire of 1984 was the final event that more than any other bound the lives of Mary and Ralph to Lord and Lady Steele, or more accurately it bound Daniel and Jonathon together unequivocally.
It has been raining off and on for two weeks when at last the sun broke through. The dismal skies began to clear with patches of blue poking through white fluffy clouds. Had the fire occurred in the winter then it might have been more understandable, but to happen in the summer, even a wet one, was totally unexpected. The school was quite forward thinking which was hardly surprising considering its choice of pupil. It was also fortunate that it had the funding to do almost whatever it wanted to do and as a result of that there was a state-of-the-art fire detection system installed in all the buildings. Not least in the list of reasons for such a complex system was the historical significance of the Manor House. Daniel was now fourteen years old and Jonathon was nearly sixteen. Very soon Jonathon would be leaving Ashwood for University - it was quite usual for Ashwood students to enter higher education, much younger than was normal and the pupils were actively sought after by the country's top establishments. Both boys had matured considerably and were much more like young men than the boys there really were.
On the night of the fire all the lights were out and the boys were asleep. At some time in the night - the subsequent investigation managed to narrow the time down to between 2.30am and 3.00am, Jonathon woke up and flicked his light switch, wanting to put on his dressing gown and go down the corridor to use the lavatory. Instead of the light coming on Jonathon received an electric shock that threw him back, where he fell over his chair, banging his head hard on the edge of his metal bed frame, rendering him unconscious. The short circuit that had made his light switch become lethally live was caused by rodents knawing at the electrical cables. This kind of damage was a regular problem at the ancient buildings but the results usually led to a dead rodent, which was in turn revealed by a nasty smell as it decomposed. This time, a spark from the damaged wires ignited some dry debris inside the wall. The tiny fire began to spread and had taken a good hold inside the hollow wall before it broke out and the first smoke detector signalled an alarm. A call was made automatically to the local fire station and a fire engine was on its way as the Masters who were woken by the strident noise of the fire bells began to evacuate the building. Having practised the fire drill once a week for so long, everybody was outside and assembled for a roll call in record time. Looking around anxiously, Daniel could see that Jonathon was missing. Flames were now shooting through the roof of the boys dormitory throwing showers of sparks down to the ground. Dense black smoke billowed from windows that had been open for the humid night. Daniel ran around the group of boys, but he could not find Jonathon. Before a master could stop him, Daniel ran straight back into the burning building. The heat was very strong as he made his way up the stairs to the top floor and as he climbed it was getting even hotter. On the top floor corridor the fire raged like an inferno. The smoke was acrid where it had set fire to the carpet and some of the foam mattresses, making him cough and retch but he shut his mouth and went on, his eyes smarting and inflamed. By the time he reached the top floor the flames were licking from the walls of the corridor but still Daniel did not hesitate, reaching Jonathon's room and going inside. Although there was a lot of choking smoke in the room, the heavy old solid oak door was still holding out. Daniel grabbed the dressing gown from its hook on the door and dropped it to the floor. There was a jug of water and some glasses on the table so he grabbed the jug and poured it over the robe. Jonathon was laying quite still on the floor. Daniel knelt down and began to shake him. There was some water left in one of the glass tumblers so he threw that into Jonathon's face.
"Jonathon! Jonathon! Wake up!", he shouted at him and Jonathon opened his eyes groggily.
Daniel helped him to his feet and made him put and arm over his shoulders. He pulled the wet robe over the two of them, and opened the door. All they saw was a wall of fire and so Daniel ran right through, pulling Jonathon with him. The fierce heat was intense and Daniel felt it singe the fine hairs on his bare arms. They reached the stairs and a piece of burning timber fell onto the back of Jonathon's hand, a sharp nail stuck out causing it to stick there, blood pouring from the would, the skin on the back of his hand beginning to blister and burn, and he started to scream. They made it down a floor and Daniel stopped just long enough to pull the smouldering wood from Jonathon's damaged hand. He saw a fire bucket and upended it over the both of them before they descended that last flight of stairs in the burning stairwell. Daniel heard the sound of the fire engine that was racing up the drive, its bell ringing, and he half carried, half dragged Jonathon down the steps and out of the school. As they emerged from the blazing doorway like a fiery spectre, the other boys sent up a great cheer that faltered to yells of horror when they saw the flames coming from the two boys. The thin cotton dressing gown was on fire and so was the boys hair despite the water that Daniel had soaked them both with. A Master ran forwards and rolled both boys to the ground, beating the flames out with his bare hands even as the fire crew started to send great jets of water up to the roof of the burning building.
In the dawn light of the next morning the school's West wing looked like a smouldering shell. The entire wing was gutted, its roof gone, having fallen in on the top floor. A few charred roof trusses were still smoking and looked like the bones of a dead fish. Because of the house rules that kept the doors shut, the Manor House in the middle had suffered little damage, and the East wing, none at all. It was decided that there was ample room in the East wing and so with some temporary alterations, the boys and all classes could be moved there until the West wing was rebuilt. Daniel of course, was a hero and could not hide from his fame this time since the whole school had seen what he had done. Jonathon was in hospital and would need a skin graft to the back of his hand. When it healed the graft left a curious but very distinct and symmetrical diamond shaped mark on the back of his hand. When Jonathon's father was contacted and heard what had happened he walked out of a very important business deal and flew straight back to England, and the school. He had been in New York, and thanks to Concorde, was at the school four hours after he heard the news. It spoke well of the hard-nosed business men at the meeting that once they knew the reason for his sudden departure, they suspended their deal, and reached agreement the moment it was reconvened. It would seem that Lord Steele tried to do business where possible, with people who shared his values.
"Daniel", said Paul as he looked at the young man before him, shaking his head slowly "Daniel. What can I say? How many more times ? You could've been killed - from what I hear you damn nearly were. You saved Jonathon, again. There must be something very, very special about you. I can never, ever repay you. Your mother is too proud for her own good - do you realise what I could do if she would let me ? For you, for her and Ralph ? Anything, you could have anything at all. I don't know what to say to you young man, I really don't, except to thank you, with all my heart, thank you. If you ever need anything, anything at all...", he was lost for words, his voice trailed away.
"There is one thing", said Daniel hesitantly, his voice almost shy.
"Name it", said Paul instantly.
"Well, its just that Jonathon is due to leave Ashwood soon. I wondered, if he wants to that is, if he could stay on until I go next year - they say I can go to University when I am fifteen which is next year, after the holidays."
Paul looked at Daniel, smiled and said, "I am just going to the hospital now to see him. Why don't you come too, and ask him.? Anyway, I can't imagine now what he would do without you. Probably get himself killed", he said, and he was only half joking.
News of the fire and Daniel's foolhardy brave heroism was picked up by the local press, and the National press picked up on the story because of the history of the school and the special pupils that were taught there. They managed to find out the names of the boys involved, but the school closed ranks and no interviews were given. After a few days of trying to photograph the boys the press lost interest and the world moved on. The next year, 1985, Daniel and Jonathon left Ashwood. When they arrived at University together, Daniel was wearing his cream Fedora with the red hatband - it was the larger one that he had first worn having outgrown the made-to-measure copy that Jonathon's father had got made for him.
By this time Daniel had become very adept at programming his computer and was itching to get his hands on one of the new IBM Personal Computers that had recently come onto the market. At the moment they were way outside his league, or the budget of Mary and Ralph. When he was shown to the study/dormitory that he would be sharing with Jonathon he was surprised and delighted to find a brand new IBM PC sitting on the desk. There was a card at the side that wished both boys success and good luck, and it was signed by Paul and Alexandra. Both the boys were young by standard university age, Daniel was just fifteen and Jonathon would reach his seventeenth birthday by the end of the year - which was not such a remarkable age to be entering a University as was Daniel's. As the older boy, Jonathon was expected to look out for his young charge, Daniel. Getting the boys to study would never would be an issue. Jonathon had inherited his good looks from his father and Daniel was changing rapidly from fifteen year old boy to sixteen year old young man. It was to be expected that both boys would enjoy some attraction from the girls at the University and given the age of Daniel, Jonathon was required to keep and eye on that side of things too.
Daniel did not take long to get to grips with the new machine. Jonathon was not as interested in using the computer as was Daniel, so while the keyboard clattered away in the background, Jonathon's nose was buried in one book or another from the extensive reading list that they had been given. It was working on the computer, which was many times more powerful than the relatively simple Commodore machine that it replaced that led Daniel the last few steps to his lifelong career. At first he started the idea as a means of obtaining some real data to manipulate with the computer. He used the lists of share prices in ‘The Times' newspaper as a basis of his data and began to experiment with mock trading and projections, even as far as creating trading models that one day would be commonly known as ‘Futures Markets'. The whole thing started out because of his fascination with numbers, but the more he worked at the computer the more he discovered that he was getting data out of the machine that was often stunningly accurate. He began to use a little of the money that Mary and Ralph sent him in making real investments, based upon his models and very soon was seeing substantial returns. He increased his investments and although some were lost due to the random factor of the real world, most paid off handsomely. By the end of his first year at University he was financially independent and told Mary and Ralph that although he had appreciated every penny they sent him, he was now able to finance himself, and pay them back too.
Their University years however passed with no major events except for the fact that both graduated with First class honours degrees in three years. They partied, they went out with more than a few girls, though no serious relationships developed. During the summer they went all over the world with Paul and Alex Steele, and at Christmas were either at home or in Scotland (the latter being the place both of them liked best at that time of the year).
In September of 1988, Daniel received an invitation to study for his MBA at Harvard, in Boston , USA. The University was granting him a 100 percent funded scholarship but even if they had not, Paul Steele would have been there, even if unknown to Daniel. It was a very difficult time for Daniel because he really wanted to take the course, knowing that it would help him with his plans for the future, but Jonathon was set on moving into one of his father's companies. The boys talked right through a long night about it and in the end decided it was time to do their own thing - they would always be friends who met whenever they could but this was the time they needed to make the last step and grow up, on their own.
"I don't want you doing anything stupid and getting yourself killed after all my hard work", half joked Daniel.
"I promise I will do my best not to, but if I feel a mad moment coming on I will call you first. Ok ?", Jonathon replied, giving his friend a playful punch on the arm.
"Deal", said Daniel.
Daniel arrived at Boston's Logan airport on September 18th 1988. It was a Sunday and it was raining. The last thing that Jonathon's father had insisted on doing was to arrange a modest apartment for Daniel and for somebody to meet him at the airport. Daniel reckoned that he could easily finance himself now with the investments and share-dealing he was doing but this time Paul really dug his heels in with Daniel and with his parents, all of whom finally conceded, with deep gratitude. Leaving the baggage hall at the airport, Daniel walked through the doors to see a uniformed chauffeur bearing his name on a sign. He went and introduced himself and the driver reached forward, picking up his suitcase.
"If you would like to follow me Sir", he said walking away towards the exit.
There are two main routes that connect to Logan Airport, one is the highway 1A which travels North towards the districts of Revere and Lynn, and the other is the Sumner tunnel that connects to the South side of Boston. The driver took the tunnel and then turned back over the Charles River which took him into the Cambridge district which is where Harvard University is to be found. It was Daniel's first visit to New England and he was bemused by all the familiar names. As well as Cambridge he saw Newbury, Reading, Woburn, Waltham and a dozen more names from the Home Counties. ‘No wonder they call it New England', he thought. The driver went on past Harvard and after making a few turns, pulled up at an apartment building. "Here we are Sir. I hope you have a pleasant stay", he said to Daniel as he got his suitcase from the trunk of the car.
The apartment was not cutting edge luxury, Paul had been careful not to put Daniel in such a position that he might seem too advantaged. Many of the students at the University came from very wealthy families and the apartment Daniel had was up there with the best, but not ostentatiously so. Harvard was only a short walk away. Daniel unpacked his things and then called home to say that he had arrived safely. He had a long chat with Mary and a shorter one with Ralph. He wanted to stay awake for a few more hours so that he could get an early night to try and switch his body to the new time zone. After going out and finding a cosy Italian restaurant, he ate a small meal, then returned to the apartment and went to bed.
The next day Daniel walked to the main campus and presented himself as a new student. He merged into the University easily and his easy going manner together with his English accent that was nowhere near as common in the 1980's, brought him plenty of company. Within a week he resumed wearing his trademark Fedora which earned him a well intentioned tag of eccentricity. Before he knew it, Christmas was on the way and this year he wanted to treat his parents. He was doing very well with his investments now and so he purchased two air tickets which he sent over to Mary and Ralph with an invitation they could not refuse, to join him for a New England Christmas. Because of the season it was difficult to find any seats on a flight and so Mary and Ralph were flying into New York, where Daniel would meet them for some New York Christmas shopping first.
Mary and Ralph were quite excited about going to America to see Daniel. She had been before, six years ago when she had toured New England with Ralph - six years, where had all that time gone, but she was still nervous again. When she checked the tickets she thought what another strange coincidence it was that the flight number was the same as the one that Philip took, PA103. On 21st December they arrived at Heathrow well ahead of time, checked in their bags and collected their boarding cards. The Boeing 747 was already on the stand and through the dark glass of the gate area she could see the name of the aircraft painted along its side, ‘Clipper Maid of the Seas'.
The flight was due to take-off at six that evening but the airport was very busy and they finally took off at twenty five minutes past six, heading North up the length of England. Just before seven the aircraft crossed the border into Scottish airspace by which time it was at its cruising height of 31,000 feet, flying at a ground speed of around 560 miles per hour. Because of its entry into Scotland, Air Traffic control at Prestwick (in Scotland), made radio contact with the pilot, Captain James MacQuarrie. He replied, "Good evening Scottish, Clipper one zero three. We are at level three one zero."
Then First Officer Wagner spoke, "Clipper 103 requesting oceanic clearance."
Those were the last words heard from the aircraft. The aircraft was passing over a small Scottish village named Lockerbie when an estimated one pound of plastic explosive was detonated. There were no survivors, much of Lockerbie itself was destroyed by the stricken aircraft, and eleven residents of the village also died.
Daniel found out about his loss long before the authorities made contact when tracing relatives from the passenger list - he was watching CNN News when a news flash interrupted a follow up report to a Chicago Tribune story that as asking for a withdrawal of American troops in Europe. He was not seen on the campus for another week and when he did return he was still wearing his Fedora, but the hatband was black, and would always be black in memory of two people he had loved very much. After continually calling, Jonathon at last made contact with Daniel - he knew that Mary and Ralph were flying out to see him but he had assumed they would go to Boston. Because of the terrible event on the 21st he was calling his friend to make sure that his assumption was correct. When he heard the news from Daniel he was as shocked and upset as him. Somehow, Daniel found the will to carry on at Harvard. Eventually the house that Mary and Ralph were buying was sold and Daniel received just over eleven thousand pounds when everything had been settled. Over the course of the next year he invested and traded that and his own growing bank balance to almost sixty thousand pounds. That figure was clear profit - he had also covered all his own needs for the year.
The following year was even more successful and he transformed his stake into three hundred thousand pounds. During the Autumn Daniel was wandering in and out of bookshops in Boston, looking for a particular text that his Professor had told him he would find interesting. He had just left one shop located in a side street near to Quincy Market and decided to head in that direction for some lunch when somebody shouted, "Hey! Hey, Nathan buddy!", and he registered the loud shout but ignored it and walked on. He had only taken a few more steps when he felt an hand on his shoulder and the same voice saying, "Nathan! What are you doing in town ?" Daniel turned around to see a complete stranger, of about his age he guessed, who said, "Love the hat man! Its me, Steve, Steve Harris. You don't remember me do you buddy ? Jesus! We went to school together, that old man of yours he..."
Daniel held up his hand, "I'm sorry ? Steve Harris did you say your name was ?"
The man grinned back at him, "great accent, what, are an actor now, is that it ? Wow!"
"Acting ? This is my voice, I'm English. I went to school in Berkshire, in England"
"You really don't know me do you ?", said Steve seeing the blank look on Daniel's face.
"No, I really don't. I think you got me mixed up with somebody else."
"Unbelievable! You are the image of...hey can I take your picture. It will be a blast if I do meet up with Nathan sometime ?"
"No, I am sorry, I would rather you didn't", replied Daniel.
"Well okay fellah, but I tell you, if you ever met Nathan...."
"If I ever do I will tell him we met. Now I must be going, if you will excuse me ?"
"Yeah right, you have a good day."
Later that evening Daniel thought about the strange encounter, and it troubled him. He didn't know why it troubled him but it did, a lot. He left Harvard that Christmas, without completing his MBA.
It took Daniel another year to make his first million, at the age of twenty-one. On 16th September 1992, a day known in England as ‘Black Wednesday', an American speculator named George Soros made a killing when Britain withdrew from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Daniel made almost as much as George. By the time he was twenty eight he was worth one billion, and in 2005, at the age of thirty-four became the third richest man in the world with a personal fortune in excess of twenty billion pounds. Throughout this meteoric rise he had never given an interview and had used every possible means ( not all of them legal) to destroy any archive photographs or background information that might exist about himself. Even his school records at Ashwood and the state schools before it were obtained and destroyed. He became a legend, and an enigma, a man known in every money market of the world yet a man about whom there was nothing. The only part of him that was known was his trademark, his creme Fedora with the black hatband - the only identification of a ruthless man they called ‘The Financier'.
Long before the first billion, trading shares on the world's stock markets was little more than amusement to Daniel, a pastime in which he could play with people's lives, a deal here, a deal there, a company made, a company broken. He was trading companies as schoolboys trade picture cards. Every scrap of information that came from that terrible night of the 21st December 1988 made its way eventually to Daniel's desk. He was cold and ruthless when he thought he was dealing with any company that had a connection, no matter how tenuous, with the homeland of the suspected terrorists. With grim determination he would wipe these companies from the map, destroy them to the point of levelling the plots of land upon which their very buildings once stood. Nothing stood in the way of his revenge. Frequently he lost millions in this way, only to recoup his losses through his other more rational dealings. He made not one penny profit from those he chose to destroy. Soon, just the whisper that ‘The Financier' was on the prowl was enough to send shivers down corporate backs, enough to send a stock price soaring, or down to oblivion.
Daniel chose to base himself most of the time in Switzerland. Taxes were the least of his concerns - he had chosen the country for the simple reason that he like it there. The anonymity that his money and the Swiss attitude to privacy could ensure only served to enforce his choice of residence. Nobody in the picturesque Alpine village which he called home took the slightest interest in their most affluent citizen who they glimpsed from time to time behind the dark glass windows of his limousine. From time to time a helicopter would land on the heli-pad at the back of the vast Chateaux but even visits such as those went by without comment or interest. High up in the mountains there was a very exclusive clinic which Daniel had visited once out of curiosity. He had been surprised at how difficult it had been to actually get inside and when he had done so, was impressed by the immaculate and well equipped facilities. A member of the Clinic's board had given him a full tour, and Daniel thought it strange that there seemed to be no patients when he visited. He was further surprised to find that the clinic was not really interested in outside investment either. Never mind, it was only a passing thought in any case, he had satisfied his curiosity and joked that should he fall ill he would be sure to call them first. After that one visit he put it out of his mind.