Gunther Lecke had worked long and hard to get to the powerful position that he now held. For over twenty-five years he had laboured, relentless hours late into the night, week-ends that he should have been relaxing with a huge frothy stein of golden Bavarian beer. From the very first day he began working with Crown Inc as a field salesman in Europe, before the divisions grew so big that each county was pared off to stand alone, Gunther had laid the first spider web thin tentacles of another organisation. Crown continued to expand and as it did, so Gunther grew another secret company within, like a cancerous growth at the heart of the mighty conglomerate. His private venture began undetected by any audit. A resource diverted here, an asset lost there, and with infinite care and patience, the cancer grew. In time its web reached right around the world, and all the time, Gunther's star rose in the galaxy that was Crown Inc.
The more his power and influence increased, the bolder became his other business. When he began to hire his own people they worked in a Crown building, they were paid by Crown, but they were Gunther Lecke's employees, and owed their allegiance to him alone. The heart of any business is driven by an intangible - information, and Gunther understood that better than anyone else in the entire Crown organisation. Information allowed him to meet auditors with a warm smile, knowing they would find nothing. Information let him make the deals that all the figures said were impossible, extorting a heavy price from those he focused his sharp but weasely eyes upon. Like mesmerised rabbits, once caught in his gaze, there was no escape. He was cold and ruthless, destroying any obstacle that stood in his path no matter what the cost. Whole companies perished, who had the audacity to stand against him. Personal fortunes of men who had counted Gunther Lecke among their friends were wiped out at the stroke of a pen. He listened to no impassioned plea, gave way to no sacred cause, except the one cause that benefited himself. Minions that made the slightest error, and that was subsequently brought to his attention, were marched from the building, out of a job and often out of a home too, and he never even blinked when he gave the order. Those that pleased him enjoyed a standard of living far above their contemporaries, after all, Gunther could afford to be generous - it was Crown who picked up the bill.
Information - it flowed in and out of his office, as if it were the lifeblood being circulated by some massive beating heart, and if that were so, Gunther was the pacemaker that kept it beating. He had a file that was slowly growing now, and every now and then he would take this file out and review its contents. He had some concern over its contents lately, seeing an obvious pattern that none of his researchers, who never saw the whole file, could ever find. He read again the article in ‘Scientific American' and this time, he decided to make a telephone call, although even as he did so, he was pretty sure of what he might find. Nevertheless, it was an interesting detail and one that might yet become useful. When the telephone number he dialled was answered, Gunther replied to the pleasant New England voice with charm, much as he hated and despised all things American.
"Good day", he said in his clear but heavily accented English, "may I please speak with Doctor William Lawrence ?"
"Who shall I say is calling Sir ?"
"My name is Gunther Lecke, Chariman of Lecke GmbH".
"Excuse me", she replied, unfamiliar with the name of the German company.
"Lecke, Gunther Lecke", he repeated carefully.
"Oh right. Okay Mister Lecker, connecting you now".
"Hello, Doctor Lawrence speaking. How may I help you ?"
"Ah, Doctor Lawrence. I have been reading a fascinating article in ‘Scientific American', written by a Hannah MacKay of Edinburgh University."
"Oh yes, I remember Hannah. Is genetics your field", he asked with interest.
"No, not exactly, although my father...but no. I an interested in this anomaly that she discovered."
"Yes, I remember that well. A very odd finding. The subject is sadly deceased so I can tell you that his name was Nathan King, but then you already know that from Hanna's article".
"Am I correct in asking that his parents were Caroline and Tyler King, of New Hampshire ?"
"Well yes, that is correct. Did you know them Mister Lecker ?", he said, surprised.
"In a manner, yes I suppose I did. I was only calling to verify the information in the article. It is most distressing to learn that this family that I once knew are now dead." Gunther tried his best to tinge his voice with sadness.
"I am sorry to have to be the one to confirm your fears."
"Not at all, at least now I know, but you are quite certain that the DNA shows that the son could never have been a natural child of...my dear friends."
"Not a hope. My guess is that they adopted and for whatever reason, kept it to themselves. Funny thing though, I got interested in Hannah's work and did some digging around. Nathan King was registered as being born on the King's private island. They were a very rich family as I am sure you know. I even got a copy of the birth certificate, but I can't see how that is possible, given the DNA results."
"How very interesting. Could you perhaps fax me a copy of that certificate, it may help in my own modest research."
"It would be my pleasure Mister Lecker, if you could give me your number ?"
‘Lecker, they keep on saying! Can they not say Lecke ? Damned Americans! Still, very helpful', thought Gunther as he waited for the document to arrive. He looked at the other documents in his file, and in particular the latest piece of information that his researchers had delivered to him. They had no idea why he was interested in particular people, nor did they care, they just knew that he was very generous with bonus payments when they hit pay dirt.
He read the Police report from Crystal City, Texas. Mickey Garcia gutted like a fish. No money taken, no sign of a break in. Two regulars at the bar he owned (and more or less his only patrons), remembered a bum coming in and nursing a beer for a few hours. They tried to describe him, but the description could fit a thousand bums riding the railroad trucks, or walking the highways. It was no lead at all. Nobody came forward to claim the seedy bar or Mickey's effects, and so the state auctioned everything off. An Asian family bought it and turned it into a fast food outlet.
The next Police report was more interesting, from Saint Paul Minnesota. Benny Stone had gone to work at his Auto Mart, the same as he did every day, but he never came home. No trace of him has been seen since. He left no note, nothing. He was posted as ‘missing person', and his photograph was circulated right across the state. ‘That was much neater Nathan', thought Gunther in admiration, sure of what was going on now, and he turned his attention to the last Police report. Corey Young, found, parts of him found that is after the Lobster had feasted, handcuffed to his own boat with one knee shot away, at the bottom of Camden Harbour.
Three people missing in three different states. Two were murdered for sure, the other had just vanished from the face of the earth. The two who were dead had died in very different circumstances. The vague description that the Police had as a possible suspect could have been anyone. There was no link between the three cases so no computer picked up and matched the separate incidents. Each was handled within the state in which it had occurred, and only a curious small town Sheriff from Maine made any connection at all between the three crimes - and he was way too late.
The latest piece of information was the best so far. It told him that a writer named Nathan King had rented a holiday home, just north of Portland, Maine. Using his own name ? Was he that stupid, or did he reason that he might just as well, since he was dead ? Was it a clever double bluff ? Gunther had no doubts at all that this was Tyler's son, probably resting after what had happened in Camden ? Had he been injured perhaps ? Was he changing his mind ? How had he discovered the identity of the men he had sent ? Ah yes, information was the key. No doubt it had been expensive, but not impossible. Gunther toyed with the idea of sending some special people to deal with Mister King, but then decided no. If he is foolish enough to come, then let him. Who did he think he was, James Bond on a mission? His men would cut him down in a second, and how can you be charged with murdering a dead man ? If he is James Bond, then I am Ernst Blofeld, or better, Goldfinger, mused Gunther.
Following the events on Grand Augusta, the New Hampshire state had no choice but to take ownership of the King ranch, which was not owned by Crown Inc. The extensive lands were given over to the New Hampshire Parks authority and the ranch house remodelled as a tourist centre, complete with tacky gift shop. There was talk of some kind of theme park to be built at some time, but it was still at the planning stage.
With the blood-line control that ruled generations of Crown Inc now gone, the company was beginning to fall apart. Gunther had seized control of all the European holdings and by a breathtaking slight of hand, had merged Crown with Lecke. He owned it all, but still he drained money from Crown like the cancer he was. If he bled it dry he did not care. He had set out to destroy the vast company and had all but achieved that aim. If the dead son of Tyler King thought he could stop him, well he was more than ready for him.
The castle at Neuschwanstein in Bavaria is probably the most famous European castle in the world. It was created by King Ludwig II of Bavaria (the Mad King) and used as a model upon which Walt Disney based his castles. There was new madness in Bavaria now, and it resided in the mind of Gunther Lecke. He was diverting more and more capital into the transformation of the Schloss into which he had moved his operational base. By the time he was finished, the original castle would be encased in a new one to compete with anything ever dreamed up by Hollywood, and a third ‘castle' was being created inside the original to provide Gunther with every luxury that he craved for. This was to be no dark and dreary mediaeval monstrosity, but more like a six star hotel, only the very best of everything. It was becoming increasingly obvious that Gunther was a least a tiny bit deranged. He chose to play the jolly Burgermeister to the press who were always welcome, providing he liked what they were going to write, but when they were gone he acted like the Fuhrer incarnate, a man he had seen only once as a six year old boy when he travelled to Berlin with his father for his father to be personally decorated. He remembered how proud he had been in his Hitler Youth uniform as his father was awarded his Oak Leaves and Swords to go with the Knights Cross he already wore. What a great day that had been! The Fuhrer bending down to speak to him, then holding him right up in the air to the crowd! Had his father lived, he would have achieved such things as he could not even imagine, but the Americans had put and end to that. Well now he was putting an end to them, Lecke GmbH was rising like a phoenix from the tarnished shell of Crown Inc. Glorious times! Times he would remember for the rest of his life!
A month later, October 1993, Gunther received a fresh piece of information. It was picked up by one of his team whose main task was to monitor air traffic - not every passenger which would require a huge resource, but just certain specific people like the six remaining men from the island team, or Nathan King who was on vacation in Maine. Nathan was no longer on vacation. He had been picked up by name only, boarding an private jet in Portland Maine. His destination was London. Gunther thought for a moment of warning the two men who were there, but then he thought it would be much more amusing to see what happened. If luck was really on his side, then Mister King would never leave the English Capitol, if he did, well let us just wait and see. Gunther had no intention of interfering with Nathan for the time being, he just set up a small surveillance team of four men to watch and report. This was good sport! He was almost excited as he waited to see what would happen next. The two Englishmen were probably the best two men on the team - one of them had been the free-fall expert who took out the radar station. How would Nathan King fare against them ? He wasn't a gambling man, but Gunther felt that the odds might be even money, he was developing a grudging respect for Nathan's skills. If only he could build an arena and have him fight to the death.
There was just one more thing now that Gunther needed to do. He looked at the fax of the birth certificate and read the name of the Doctor, Simon Merrick of New Hampshire. Pressing a button on a console in front of him, he summoned a researcher. "Find the number of a Doctor Simon Merrick in New Hampshire, USA. Get the man on the telephone and call me back when you do". He barked the order and flipped the switch back without waiting for a reply - the could be none, he had issued his decree. It will be done! Because it was late afternoon in Bavaria, the call to America had been made very quickly indeed. Just ten minutes had passed when Gunther's telephone rang back. As he picked it up he made a mental note to ensure that the man responsible received a good bonus.
"Hello ? This is Doctor Merrick. I understand you would like a word with me Gunther ?", said the American in a familiar tone.
"Excuse me ? Have we met ?", asked Gunther in surprise (cancel that bonus, the idiot had not checked).
"Oh no, but as the personal physician to dear Mister and Mrs King for so long, such a sad loss, I got to know a few of the names in the business. You run the German end, right ?"
"A tragic loss", Gunther agreed, "I now run all of Europe", he added.
"Congratulations. So, what can I do for you ?"
"I am calling about Nathan's birth certificate, which I understand was signed by you?"
There was a distinct pause as the Doctor thought fast, "it may well have been. It was a long time ago."
"Oh it was Doctor, I am reading it now."
"Well, there you are then, I did. So what is the problem ?", asked the Doctor, his voice sounding worried.
"You still claim that you were present at the birth of Nathan King, and that his mother was Caroline King ?"
Doctor Merrick decided to try the indignant tack, "now look here! I don't quite know what you are trying to imply, but as you well know, Nathan King is now dead, so I fail to see what can be achieved by going back over this now. Let the man rest in peace!"
"Excellent Doctor!", laughed Gunther into his telephone, "such righteous outrage! The point is, as you well know, that you did not deliver any child at all at the time and place you claim to have done. You falsified the birth certificate so that Tyler King could keep a ridiculous clause in the articles of Crown Inc, to pass control down a male bloodline. Without such a child the company would be finished. That is the truth is it not, Doctor Merrick ?"
"You can't prove a thing. The boy is dead."
"You think so ? No body had been confirmed. But that is of no consequence because you see, I have evidence of a DNA test that proves without any doubt whatsoever that Nathan King was never a part of his mother or his father. I sought only your confirmation of this detail." Gunther sounded triumphant as indeed he was.
"A DNA test ? What DNA test ? There never was such a test ! What are you trying to pull here ?"
"Ah but there was such a test. It happened when the boy broke his leg, that adventure he had chasing a Bear. You must remember that ? The hospital took blood from Tyler and Caroline, but they also took DNA from all of them. Tell me Doctor, are you yet familiar with the Internet ?"
"The Internet ?", said Doctor Merrick in surprise, "yes I know what it is. What has that to do with it ?"
"The Massachusetts General is a very forward thinking hospital you know. They put all their data on line so that other academics might make use of it. Did you know that ? A student in Scotland stumbled upon the Tyler's data and wrote a paper about the odd case of Nathan. I am really most grateful to the young lady."
"Okay Gunther, yes, you're right. But nothing can be gained now. Crown is all but falling to pieces. What did you mean when you implied that Nathan may still be alive ?" The Doctor's voice sounded tired now. He was beaten and he knew it.
"We will have to wait and see about that, but if he does show up, you and I both know that he can claim nothing, do we not Doctor ? I may need you to repeat that one day for me, and if that is the case, I will be very appreciative. Do I make myself clear ?"
"Yes, Gunther, I hear you, and damn you to hell!", said Doctor Merrick as he slammed his receiver down.
Gunther put all his papers back into the file and then locked it in his desk. He was a very happy man now, so happy that he decided to overlook the researcher who failed to checkout the good Doctor first - such a minor error that this time it could be forgiven.