As he had hoped, the lift ascended to the floor chosen by the bodyguard. When the doors opened he stepped out, gambling that this was indeed to correct floor and not some other stop due to somebody else having summoned the lift. He was pretty sure about that because from the corner of his eye he could just see the indicator panel and noted that they were travelling to the top floor. Nathan moved aside, expecting his bodyguard to take the lead, as he should, and followed him along the plush carpeted corridor to a suite at one end of it. The man spoke into his headset again, he was good, this one, did everything they way it should be done, "Principal and one. Coming in", and then he inserted a key-card into the electronic lock that opened the door.
The door opened and at once it was evident that the suite was empty. Rapidly and professionally the bodyguard pushed open each door, checking that nobody was in hiding, waiting for them, whilst at the same time maintaining a cover on his ‘principal', Nathan, who acted the part as best he could improvise, moving only as he was told to do so. Satisfied that they were alone, but still with that nagging doubt about his man, the bodyguard spoke into his microphone again. "Two, report status. This is One, I am in house with the principal", he said. Nathan was unable to hear the reply, but at that time it did not matter to him. He was where he wanted to be for the time being, his only intent to speak to the man he had so very nearly executed. He could guess the nature of the radioed reply from the immediate response that the bodyguard made, "No Two. I repeat, I am in house with the principal".
"What ? What the hell is going on. Are you compromised?", asked the bodyguard whose call sign was ‘Two'.
"Negative, I repeat, negative. Situation is secure. What is your location ?"
"We are just leaving the contact's suite and I have the principal with me. I say again, I have the principal with me."
‘One', looked again at Nathan and then it hit him. Why had he not seen it before, after all, he had enough experience, but then again, no experience could be enough for a situation such as this one - it was so strange as to be surreal. This man, this ‘principal' was the exact image of his employer in all bit one detail. Then he looked even closer and noticed that the man's Fedora looked almost new, as if it had been creased and trampled upon in an effort to make it seem well worn and the hatband wasn't black at all, it was a very deep blue. In itself those details were minor, no, the give-away that he should have spotted immediately was much more obvious than that, so he trained his weapon with great care on Nathan and said, "I think you had better take a seat, Sir, until my employer returns", and he gestured towards a comfortable looking armchair. Nathan was more than willing to do so. Knowing that he was going to meet his ‘target', he could at least relax now and not try to keep up the pretence that he was somebody else. "No problem", he said in his usual voice, "I only want to see the man." The bodyguard raised an eyebrow in surprise, "American ?"
"Yeah, afraid so. Did my voice give me away ?", asked Nathan with an easy assuring smile.
"No, you hardly said a word. Neat trick. You nearly pulled it off. So who the hell are you ?"
"Well I think I would rather wait to meet your Boss, if that's okay with you ?"
"Stand up, turn around and lean on that wall with your arms outstretched, please Sir", instructed ‘One'.
Nathan did as he was asked without a second's hesitation and he was quickly and expertly searched before being told to return to his seat.
"I honestly mean no harm", said Nathan, but the bodyguard could see much more now and having patted down his body, he had felt the iron physique that the loose but well cut clothes concealed. Until this situation was resolved he was taking no chances at all. There was a double rap on the door and he moved over to open it, all the time keeping his weapon steadily trained on Nathan.
Gunther Lecke was still prostrated on the floor as Daniel turned on his heel and left his suite. Only when he heard his door slam shut did he stand up again, ashen faced, shaking uncontrollably. His urine had pooled on the floor with the spilled wine, and there was a sharp smell of ammonia now in the room. Mixed in with that smell was the tainted coppery smell of blood and the more astringent odour of cordite, from a weapon recently fired. A few feet away, Lukas lay dead, a puddle of blood, a great deal of blood, seeping from his head. The shots had blown most of the back of his skull away, spattering bone splinters and greyish cerebral cortex tissue across the Damask settee. What was he to do ? His three best man were all dead, all within a few hours of each other. Gunther had no doubt at all that Albrecht was dead even though as yet, he had no evidence. Who was it who had shot Konrad ? It was obvious that Konrad was hit by accident so the marksman must have been aiming for this, Daniel Preston. Was he really called that or was King having one last dreadful joke with him ? The man had sounded so English, right down to the way he handled his exit, but his appearance - goddamn it, he was identical, and yet not so. There was just one thing while Gunther sat, a very large Brandy in his hand as he tried to calm himself, one detail that was wrong. Oh sure, the voice was the big give-away, but until the bastard began to speak, Gunther was convinced that he was Nathan King, come to wreak his revenge. Who the hell was he, this Daniel Preston ? Was it conceivable that he was in fact related to Nathan King ? Now there was a fanciful piece of speculation. Gunther was well aware of the fact that Nathan had no bloodline to his ‘parents', a secret that he had only discovered some time after he had arranged their liquidation. That idea would have to wait. The immediate problem faced him now, in this very room. So it would be expensive and difficult too, but never impossible. The few men he had left at the castle were of no use to him here, but he had the Munich telephone number of another that he could call, to deal with all of this, whilst he decided that the best thing he could do would be to get back to the castle straight away. He would drive the BMW he sent Lukas and the others in to the airport himself, and leave it there. It was only a car after all. With any luck he should be back in the castle by the evening. One telephone call to arrange things here, and then home. Daniel Preston or whoever he was could go fuck himself. There would be another time for Bolivia - that business wasn't going anywhere. As for Nathan King, his time would come too decided Gunther. He had heard of a particularly reliable man, an American too as it happened, who had an awesome reputation in matters such as these. ‘The American' he was known as, he knew that much from his telephone contact in Munich. Maybe it was time to put a contract out on Herr King and end this nonsense once and for all ! The Brandy had done its work well, he felt much better, anger replacing fear as he dialled the number.
The door opened and a bodyguard was the first man to enter the room. He took one quick look and could see that everything was under control and then his amazed eyes swivelled back to the man sitting calmly in the armchair, a gun trained unwaveringly upon him by ‘One'.
"Fucking hell!", he exclaimed before he could stop himself, and then Daniel entered the room. Nathan had no idea about what he was going to say to the man that he so very nearly shot dead a short while ago, that is assuming he got a chance to say anything at all. For all he knew, he might find himself thrown out on his ear, or worse, handed over to the Zurich Police. All he knew is that he just had to meet him, and his moment had arrived. Seeing him for the first time, Daniel showed no shock or even surprise at all. He simply walked over to the armchair, smiled very warmly and said, "I always knew you were out there somewhere."
Nathan looked up, as if into a mirror - the likeness was so true, "you knew ?"
"Yes, I knew. I think we have a lot to talk about. Edward ?" said Daniel turning to face the man who so far Nathan had known only as ‘One', "I want you all to leave us now. Don't worry, I shall be perfectly safe, and I want you to call Doctor Seifert and have him come here straight away."
"Seifert ?", interrupted Nathan "you said ‘Doctor Seifert' ? Would he be the same Doctor as a guy who ran a clinic around here someplace, a few years back ?"
"I imagine so. Why, have you already met him ?", Daniel replied in surprise.
"Not yet, but I hoped to some time. You said you always knew I was ‘out there somewhere' ? What did you mean ?"
Daniel crossed the room to a large desk upon which sat a very expensive hand tooled leather briefcase. "Its okay, you don't have to sit there if you don't want to", he said as he opened the case and took out a small aluminium box. The brushed metal case was 10cm long by 3cm deep and 6cm wide, a compact though precision engineered container made specifically to hold and safeguard just one worthless item . Daniel opened the case and nestled in the rich blue velvet with which it was lined there was a white ceramic plaque. One side of the plaque was chipped badly revealing the cheap pottery from which it was made, and in each corner there was a small decoration of a few summery flowers. A round hole that had obviously been used to secure the plaque to a door was at each end, and the neat pale blue script that ran across it read ‘The Twins'. He took it out and showed it to Nathan who had left his armchair so that he could see what Daniel was doing.
"When I was very small I often had dreams of a twin brother. This used to be fixed to my bedroom door. I used to ask my mother and father about it and they told me that I did have a twin, but that he was stillborn. What is you birthday by the way ?"
"That's a good question. I have two birthdays; one in December that I always believed was mine, and then, much later I discovered that I was born on..."
"August the eleventh, 1971", Daniel finished for him "naturally."
"That's your birthday too, right ?"said Nathan, although he already knew the answer.
"Correct. You know, we haven't introduced ourselves yet. My name is Daniel Preston."
"I don't know who I am, but all my life I have been Nathan King. How exactly does Doctor Seifert fit into this, Daniel ?"
"There used to be a very exclusive clinic in the mountains, not far from where I now live as a matter of fact."
"Yes, I know that".
"What, where I live ?", said Daniel in surprise.
"No, about the clinic, but its all gone now. Been turned into some kind of a hotel ?"
"Yes, I was on my way there today."
Nathan was no longer smiling, "yes Daniel, I know that too" he said, his voice suddenly serious, but Daniel failed to pick up his sombre tone.
"The clinic was run by Doctor Seifert. It was a huge scandal when it got closed down. I visited it just once out of curiosity. Anyway, the Clinic had what they called ‘an arrangement' with a number of susceptible Doctors in quite a few countries. The set up was painfully simple, if rather callous too. The Clinic would make it known what they required, sex, skin colouring, you know, that sort of thing. They only ever took from multiple births. The reasoning was that the mother would be overjoyed with her child and that it would be far easier to persuade them not to see the ‘damaged' stillborn twin, or sometimes triplet. I grant you it was a flimsy line, but imagine, a new mother holding her healthy child, then sedated and told the next day of the sad loss of her other...well it always worked."
"How did you find all this out ?", asked Nathan, shocked at the extent of the corruption.
"Doctor Seifert. Oh the man's is a bounder, but when he faced ruin I arranged to, shall we say, clear the way a little. I retain him as my personal physician - he is really quite good. I wish he had been here today instead of that idiot that came earlier, but he is away in Paris. However, he should be here in the morning."
"So you think I am your twin brother, spirited away by this Clinic ?"
"Don't you ?" replied Daniel looking directly into Nathan's eyes, daring him to think otherwise.
Just then there was another double knock on the door. Daniel was clearly irritated by this interruption, having giving strict instructions that they should not be disturbed, but he went to the door and opened it a few inches. Another man was standing there, somebody that Nathan had not seen before. He was Daniel's man whose station was at the airport and so Daniel asked him what he was doing here, and why he had interrupted them.
"I thought you might like to know that the man you met, Gunther Lecke, drove to the airport and took the next flight out to Frankfurt. He left in such a hurry that he just dumped the car he was driving at the drop-off point, left the keys in it and ran. Looked like he was being chased by the devil himself", said the bodyguard as he handed a set of car keys to Daniel.
"Where is the car now ?"
"In the hotel car park Sir, I'll get a taxi back to the airport", grinned the man.
"Okay. You may as well check in here for now. I don't expect any more visitors", said Daniel as he closed the door.
While this exchange took place Nathan was thinking hard about what Daniel had just said to him. This was a huge step for Nathan, a vast dark chasm to be bridged. Tyler King had died telling him that he was not really a King at all, now this. Then he looked again at Daniel and could not think of any other possibility. "This might sound crazy, but do you know your blood group ?"
"You're wrong. I don't think that is a crazy question at all. Amongst Doctor Seifert's many talents is his knowledge in DNA analysis - something of a hobby for him when he worked at the clinic, and its why I have summoned him. To answer your question Nathan, my blood group must be the same as yours, AB negative ? I'm right, aren't I ?"
"Yeah, you're right. Does Seifert remember you specifically ?"
"He doesn't need to. He is a Swiss, meticulous records and all that. Its all written down. When we get back to my house I'll show you."
"Did you never think to turn such information over to the authorities ?"
"And ruin how many lives ? Five million dollars you were, they all were. All the babies that passed through the clinic went to rich homes. None grew up poor. What would it do to them to discover the truth now ? Would it do any good do you think ? What about their parents too ?"
"Are your parents still alive, Daniel ?"
"Our parents. No, sadly they were onboard the Lockerbie plane, you know, the one that was blown up over Scotland."
"Don't be. It was some time ago now. Time heals, and I have made more than a few people pay the price over the years. What of yours ? Who are they ?"
"They're dead too, its one of the reasons I am here."
"One of the reasons ?"
"Its a long story", Nathan replied.
"We have a lot to catch up on, so until the good Doctor arrives, lets talk", said Daniel.
Outside in the corridor, the bodyguards had taken up station in some comfortable chairs that they had foraged from one of the other rooms on the rented empty floor. Fifteen minutes after Daniel had returned to his suite and ejected them, Gunther Lecke slunk out of his room, paid his bill, and drove to the airport. "When did you figure it out Ed?" said call-sign ‘Two'.
"When I saw the two of then together for sure, but I was lucky then, I had already patted the Yank down."
"Yeah, he was just too damn healthy, wasn't he ? When did you ever see the Boss with any kind of a suntan ?"
"I should've spotted that right off. But apart from that, Christ, they look like twins".
"Maybe they are. Wonder what they are talking about."
"No idea, but that Yank, he has some physique I can tell you" said Ed, "and I get the feeling he knows how to handle himself too. When I drew my weapon he didn't bat and eyelid. Now most people, even the innocent ones, are terrified of a gun, but he just ignored it, like it happened every day."
"You know, I had a thought too" said ‘Three' who until then had been reading a newspaper.
"Do you think the Yank could have been our sniper ?"
"Its a thought, but that being the case, how come now he is inside chatting with the Boss as if they really are long lost brothers ?"
"Is he now?", replied Three, his tone clear.
Ed pushed an ear to the door and listened for a few minutes, "yep, yapping away. Looks like it might be a long night, guys."
A couple of hours later, and checked with an ear to the door at regular intervals, Daniel and Nathan were still talking. Room service had delivered food and what looked like a cleaning company had gone into Lecke's suite, cleaning away every trace of Gunther's presence and of Lukas' death. When they left they pushed a cart on which there was a large bundle wrapped in strong plastic. All the bodyguard's guessed what that was. The evening dragged on and there was no sign of the two men stopping, their talk now punctuated with laughter every now and then. Daniel was telling Nathan about his holiday with Jonathon, the one when they sailed to Sardinia.
"Honest to God Nathan! I had only been swimming properly for two bloody weeks. I must have been mad. I jumped right over the side of the yacht and to this day I remember thinking to myself, ‘Christ! Its a long way down'. "
"But you did save your pal ?"
"Well, sort of, I got him back to the surface", he said modestly.
"Do you still see him ?"
"What, Jonathon ? Haven't seem him for years, business, you know...?"
"You should always make room for your friends, Daniel."
"And for you brother, but I'm sorry, that dreadful accent has to go!", he said laughing again.
"Why can't you be American ?", asked Nathan in mock indignation.
"What ? Are you mad ? So anyway Nathan, what happened to your parents, an accident, illness..."?
For a long time Nathan was silent, so silent that the door opened a fraction and Ed's head appeared to check that everything was still okay, only to be shouted at to shut it again and leave them alone. In the end, Nathan began his other story, the one that began on that Pacific Island and so very nearly ended here, in Zurich. It was a long and difficult tale that he had to tell and he spared Daniel no detail, now as sure as he was that they the two of them were indeed brothers. Oh yes, Doctor Seifert could still do his DNA test, but they both knew what it would say. Parts of his story brought tears to his face and Daniel could see the enormous burden that Nathan carried with him. How he had ever changed from vengeful son into contract killer, he could not fathom, but they both knew that those days were over. It was dawn before he finished talking, having revisited the ranch in Colorado that he still owned, in his mind, and ending right where he started, with Gunther Lecke.
When he had finished Daniel was quiet for a long few minutes while he thought about the story Nathan had told him and then he said, "its obvious that greed was a prime motivator with the things that Lecke has done, but he did not need to...to....well, murder your family. In business there are many ways to get what you want without doing anything as obscene as that. Could he have had another motive, do you think ?"
"That's an interesting question. I had reason to waste a lot of time over the past few years and I spent a fair amount of it in public libraries, trying to research my own family and also people like Lecke, whose name I finally got from one of the, the others shall we say ?"
"What did you learn ?"
"About my family, or rather the King dynasty ? Nothing I didn't already know, well almost nothing" added Nathan without elaborating, "about Lecke ? Something or nothing. I'm not sure, but I suspect that there could be another motive - I can't be certain".
Daniel was intrigued, "well come on then. You can't tease me like that and then not finish it!"
"And if I'm wrong ?"
Daniel looked at Nathan in amazement, "if you're wrong", he repeated, "do you really give a damn!"
"All the same, I need to ask him, face to face. I have to know. Can you understand that ?"
"Of course I do. So the answer is obvious".
"It is ?", asked Nathan, puzzled.
"Let's go and ask him ?"
Nathan laughed out loud and then shook his head, "yeah right. Just knock on his door and say, Hi Gunther! We just dropped by for a beer and a chat."
"Well, not quite. Tell me Nathan, have you ever watched the British TV series, Blackadder ?"
"Have I what ?", replied Nathan in disbelief.
"Have you seen Blackadder ?", Daniel persisted.
"Was that the thing with that guy Ronald Atkinson ?"
"Rowan, his name is Rowan. Well, I have a cunning plan."
Nathan laughed again, "now that line I do remember. So what is your plan ?"
"Why don't we take his car back?" said Daniel waving the BMW keys in front of Nathan, "one of my men picked it up at the airport."
"They'd never let us in", Nathan replied with disbelief.
"I'm sure a creative chap like you knows how to dye his hair maybe, or how about coloured contact lenses too, you know, a disguise. What a hoot! Can you imagine his face ?"
Nathan looked at Daniel with a different kind of insight, "you know, deep down inside there, you're as crazy as I am."
"How can I not be ?" said Daniel, all serious again.
"Aren't you at all scared ?"
"With you around, and we'll take Edward too, just in case?"
"Okay then. Let's do it" said Nathan, making up his mind that the crazy idea might just work.
Daniel held up his hand, "one condition though."
"Which is ?"
"No more killing. You have to promise me that. There are a hundred legal ways to destroy a man like Lecke without killing him. Men like that, all they live for is money and power. Me ? Yes I have money, a very great deal in fact because it is what I do - it comes with the job. Take that away from Lecke, make him lose everything, leave him destitute on the street and he will beg you to kill him. We can do that, you and I ."
"Alright Daniel, I won't try to kill him, yet. I just hope we can do what you say before the cops come for me....". Nathan's voice trailed off.
"I don't think that is going to cause you a problem, after all, nobody has any idea who you are in any case and even so, I, shall we say, know a few people - that goes with the job too", replied Daniel somewhat enigmatically.
Both men fell asleep in their chairs, the quiet prompting another check around the door. This time Edward came back into the room and covered each sleeping man with a blanket. A few hours later he burst back in with his weapon drawn, alarmed at the noises that he heard. He found that Daniel had raided the bar in the suite and set up nine spirit bottles as pins. Nathan was trying to teach him to bowl, using glass ashtrays because they were the only round object that he could find. Both men were laughing like schoolboys. It was a scene that Edward would never have bet on seeing - he had never known Daniel to relax and just have some fun in all the years that he had worked for him, and here he was, messing around on the floor of a fairly well trashed luxury hotel suite. Just at that moment, the concierge called to say that a Doctor Seifert was in reception, and Edward told him to send the Doctor right up.
Doctor Seifert was not at all what Nathan had imagined. He was a tall man, painfully thin with silver hair that was as impeccably groomed as the charcoal grey pinstriped suit that he wore. He wore a pair of glasses that had a thin gold frame, and below his sharply angled nose there was a pencil line sliver moustache which complemented the pointed Van Dyke beard upon his long chin. Behind the clear lenses of his spectacles, his eyes were a steel grey, sharp and bright, almost twinkling. He held himself with a stiff, almost military posture, and when he spoke to Nathan his English bore no accent at all.
"Herr King ?", said Doctor Seifert, extending his hand in a handshake that Nathan grasped, and found the Doctor's grip surprisingly powerful. " I am sure that Herr Preston has told you all about The Clinic. I can only offer you my most humble apologies for what happened there. It was a dreadful enterprise driven, I admit, by my own greed. If I can do anything at all to help you, as I have tried with so many of the others that I have traced over the years, then I will. I hope that one day you may find it in your heart to forgive me."
"Doctor Seifert does mainly voluntary work these days" explained Daniel, "sponsored by me of course. It is his way of trying to make amends."
"I try", agreed the Doctor, unable to meet Nathan's unfaltering stare.
Nathan took a good long look at the man who had traded in innocent babies, had broken the hearts of so many mothers and fathers who had to face the loss of a child, and he could not feel the same forgiveness as did Daniel. "Daniel says that you can run a DNA test quite quickly ?"
"That is true. I have access to a laboratory here in Zurich. I can have the result in a matter of hours. All I need is to take some swabs, if you would both be so kind ?"
The Doctor took his samples which he sealed with great care, explained that he would call both of them within a few hours, and then he left.
Daniel called Edward into the room and explained what they wanted to do. Edward laughed at the idea, thought it was ‘insane', but like Daniel, thought it could also be a very funny thing too. With his help, both men were transformed. Daniel insisted on his hair being made jet black, and face paint was used to apply a faint tan, whilst Nathan inserted a pair of blue contact lenses and had his hair cut into a tough looking crew-cut. A change of clothes for both men into ‘T' shirts, denim jeans and leather jackets saw them transformed. As a last minute detail Daniel, who was revelling in the theatre of it all, had a very realistic thick moustache applied with a strong gum adhesive. Then Daniel had an inspiration that saw one of his men sent running around a few jewellers shops. The clip-on gold cross ear-ring that he returned with was Daniel's final touch. Nathan told him that he looked very butch, which creased all three of them up in laughter. Only Edward carried a weapon - he refused point blank not to, and said that he would prevent them going at all if he did not accompany them, armed just in case. The three men took the lift down to the Hotel's basement car park, got into the BMW saloon, and headed for Frankfurt.