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Taunton Barr

TAUNTON BARR

A Novel By

BRIAN CAIN

Taunton Barr

Copyright @2017 Brian Cain

Shakespir Edition

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For Squecknes.

Previous works on Shakespir by Brian Cain

Previous novels by Brian Cain

The Sword And The Dagger

 

Previous novels in this series

Circles of Fear

Vigilante

Once Upon A Time In Australia

In The Name Of The Mother

Jodi Ann

Bella Elizabeth

The Hunt For Rose

Louise Legrande

Roselyn Victoria Fleming

Checkmate

Greywolf

Seven Days

 

Children’s series;

Larco and the Quog

Larco Builds a Bok Bok

Return of the Wizard

The Cave of Knowledge

Larco and the Dictionary

Larco the Wizard

The Dark Hole Of Rainbows

 

This Series;

Flaxmead

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY NINE

CHAPTER FORTY

CHAPTER FORTY ONE

CHAPTER FORTY TWO

CHAPTER FORTY THREE

CHAPTER FORTY FOUR

CHAPTER FORTY FIVE

CHAPTER FORTY SIX

CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN

 

PREFACE

Winston Blake was once a fearless merchant banker, part of a financial empire built on risk and speculation. He suddenly retired to look for his daughter missing for some years in Australia, he had an idea. He would find a horse that could win the Melbourne Cup, an event he knew his daughter was fond off, he had attended the event with her, he liked it. He wished his efforts would bring her from her hiding place, or at least he felt better trying. Years of gut feeling and indulging in risk beyond reverence he found a foal in Ireland, destined for nothing he observed what he considered to be traits of a champion. Not exemplary bloodline, or majestic majesty, but a sparkling eye, fearless posture, stout indignation and an air of determination. He purchased the foal and put his years of negotiation to work on convincing the right people to become involved. The horse, ‘Flaxmead’, became the fastest stayer on the planet and brought a nation together as a petite young female teenage jockey eventually took the black beauty to a crushing win in the Melbourne Cup.

A key part of Flaxmead’s success was his initial trainer, a horse whisperer, Blake’s neighbour in the town hamlet of Flax Burton in Somerset England. His name was Roger Palmer, it was some years since ‘Flaxmead’ had retired. Winston Blake looked no older than he did a decade back. He was somewhat lost and in need of direction, horses were still trained by Blake’s organisation now the biggest on the planet, it was a business run by Palmer’s daughter Kalika, well that’s whom she thought she was. Roger Palmer would again become the catalyst to bring down the establishment, a battle to control something Palmer and Blake detested, the British Grand National. In a heartbeat, the task falls on Blake’s shoulders. An epic battle of cat and mouse to put a champion with a petite woman on it’s back between the starting markers of the most controversial horse race on the planet, the British Grand National. One would think that murder mystery and mayhem moves among the most maligned members of society, as the cards play out on the table, Blake faces his biggest foe, his past.

CHAPTER ONE

Winston Blake sat quietly on his porch, he ran his hand through his grey collar length hair, the sun was just up on a glorious summers morning in Somerset England. His porch overlooked the training track built over a decade ago, he could watch horses gallop the perfect grassy surface as he read his news paper, he picked up the paper himself from the local newsagent, he had done for over a year now. He was a distinguished looking gent, a crisp white shirt, black tailored trousers with a knife edge crease, patent shoes you could see your face in. Although a warm summers day Winston found the breeze quite crisp, years in Australia producing wine, fostering a champion and becoming involved in other things he attempted to forget had dulled his tolerance of the English weather. He had brought a partner with him, Gail, an Australian horse trainer and breeder, she had passed away from cancer like his first wife Jacqueline many years gone, Gail had passed just a year back. Sitting on a wooden chair by the porch table, he occasionally nodded in support and grunted, or shook his head in disgust at some of the things he read in his paper, stopping now and then lowering the paper and sipping his tea. At times he gazed into space taken by flashbacks, he re focused every time knowing despair was a dangerous emotion, his eyes welled up and he looked down back up, then toward the sky and gave a big sigh. He harboured no anger over his misfortune nor did he think it would have been a good thing to have been taken rather than his partner, for she would be sitting there instead and he wished that on no one.

He jumped with fright as he heard the yelling from the edge of the stables. ‘Winston, please come quickly, its father.’ Winston stood squinting at the figure that had shouted to him, it was Kalika Roger Palmers daughter, daughter of the man whom had made ‘Flaxmead’.

He brought his hands to his mouth and made a cone shouting back at her. ‘What’s the matter?’

She screamed out again. ‘Please come quickly, to the meadow, bring the Range Rover!!’

Winston was puzzled. ‘Roger is in Taunton, he called me two days ago saying he would be there a week.’

‘Winston please, he was running over here to see you from home and has collapsed in the meadow!!’

Winston mumbled in shock. ‘Oh my god, what the..’ He fumbled in his pocket, he had the keys to his Range Rover, shuffled down the steps from the porch to his vehicle parked along side. He struggled with the key into the ignition, started the motor and turned the vehicle toward Kalika with squealing tyres. He skidded to a stop beside her and she climbed in, he took off before she could close the door, round the barn, he could see a horse and someone in the middle of the meadow. ‘Is that him there.’

Kalika grabbed his arm. ‘Its one of the jockeys, he saw father fall and raced over to him then came and got me. Father is white, he struggles to talk and is asking for you.’

‘Calm down, we’ll be there in a jiffy.’ He lined the vehicle up with the horse and smashed straight through the white wooden fence at speed, accelerating all the time.

Kalika held her hands over her mouth. ‘Ohhh, the fence..’

‘We can get another fence, your father is irreplaceable.’ He skidded to a halt next to Roger laying on the ground with the jockey leaning over him, the horse was startled by the vehicle and reared up galloping away toward the barn. Winston lent down next to Roger and the jockey. ‘What happened do you know?’

The cockney jockey immediately replied. ‘I was running the bay round the track like, I thought it was a bit strange when I saw what I thought was Mr Palmer running across the meadow here from his place, I sort of kept an eye out like, then I saw him fall. The bay cleared the fence for me and we got here pretty quick. I have my mobile with me and called an ambulance, its on its way. He asked for you and Kalika, I knew she was in the barn so I raced over and told her, now you’re here, would be about five minutes he’s been down, he’s not good Mr Blake.’

‘Thank you, thank you very much.’ He looked into Rogers face, he knelt down and lent over him. ‘Roger can you hear me.’ He opened his eyes as soon as he heard Winston’s voice.

He coughed, spluttered, pulled Winston down toward his mouth. ‘Winston, I found him.’ he coughed.

Winston looked puzzled in a major squint, he lent over Roger muffling his voice directly to his ear, shielding the conversation without intent. ‘Found who?’

‘Flaxmead, the next Flaxmead.’

Winston shook his head. ‘You got yourself into this state you need to settle down an ambulance will be here any minute.’

Roger grabbed Winston’s collar and drew him nose to nose. ‘You must listen to me.’

Winston hesitated but then agreed. ‘Yes, I’m listening.’

Roger began to stutter wheezing at times. ‘Only you would understand.’

‘Yes, I understand.’ Winston was relieved as Roger settled slightly.

Roger hunted for breath. ‘Go to Taunton.’

He agreed with Roger encouraged by the fact it settled him. ‘Yes, Taunton, you were there.’

‘Barr, little place by the river Tone, Oldbury Lodge in Barr.’ He mumbled a few more things Winston concentrated.

Kalika looked over her father crying into her hands, she could not hear the conversation, it was as if her father purposely shielded her from ear shot and Blake spoke to softly to be audible. The sound of the ambulance grew louder, Blake suddenly raised his voice. ‘The ambulance is here, we will have you on your feet in a trice.’

Again Roger grabbed Winston’s collar. ‘Pr… pro…promise me you’ll go there, dark brown chestnut, looks like he’s had white paint thrown over him, foal about six months, only you will understand.’

Winston swallowed hard. ‘Yes, I promise, right after you get to the hospital.’

‘I’m numb and cold Winston.’

The ambulance pulled up, Winston held Rogers hand as the jockey briefed the medics. Winston had to stand back, he watched as they talked to Roger but he made no reply, Kalika clung to Winston, as they loaded her father into the ambulance and closed the doors, she attempted to climb in but was stopped by one of the medics.

‘I’m sorry, you will have to follow behind.’

‘It’s my father.’

‘Your father is in a serious condition Miss Palmer, we must get to the hospital as soon as possible.’

‘You know who he is.’

‘Of course, please we must get going.’ The Ambulance left in haste.

There was a sombre silence as Winston and Kalika followed the ambulance to St Michaels hospital in Bristol. The eerie silence continued in the waiting room of the emergency department, they both looked drained, pale, deeply holding on to hope.

A doctor entered the waiting area, he bent down and spoke softly to them. ‘Could you come this way please.’ He led them to an open door, a small room with table and chairs and adjoining doors that were closed, they sat down. The doctor removed his cap. ‘I’m doctor Ramsgate, duty emergency surgeon, Miss Palmer I’m afraid your father was dead on arrival.’

Kalika looked straight ahead, her face etched with despair. ‘He was talking to Mr Blake.’

The doctor half smiled. ‘So the medics informed me, he suffered a massive heart attack, the effort he put in for his last words are rare. Must have had something very important to tell you. We are talking about a man that was already dead. I’m terribly sorry, he was a wonderful man.’

Winston shook his head and spoke softly. ‘Just like that,’ he looked down at the floor. ‘gone in a heartbeat, his words have so much more relevance to me now.’

‘If one of you would be so kind as to verify its Mr Palmer, it can be done later if you like.’

Winston blew a big breath through his lips letting out a sigh in the process, he looked at Kalika. ‘You em, up to this.’

‘I need closure,’ she shook her head, ‘other wise I will expect to see him coming down the drive.’

Winston rubbed his forehead with his right hand as he stood up, he offered his hand to Kalika and she took it standing up as she did. ‘Lead the way.’ The doctor opened one of the adjacent doors and led them into another small room, there was a hospital trolley bed with a sheet pulled over what was obviously a person. The doctor pulled back the sheet revealing the bodies face, there were two other people in the room holding paper work. Winston looked down at Roger, he wore a slight smile and gave the impression of fulfilment and solace with his sleep. Winston nodded. ‘Yes that’s Roger Palmer.’

Kalika touched his forehead and stroked his hair back. ‘That’s my father, my life with him was wonderful, I don’t cry but rejoice in being so lucky as to have him as my dad.’

‘We have some people you can talk to if you feel you need to.’ said the doctor but they left the room in silence and the doctor closed the door.

It was half way back home before Kalika spoke. ‘What did my dad say to you, I couldn’t hear him, I was so scared, I’ll cry forever, but not in the presence of anyone, my dad wo… I refuse to disappoint him.’

‘Your father is very proud of you Kalika, you are a champion, Roger fostered many champions but never was so proud of what you did and who you are. I too will cry alone, and hope he doesn’t see me.’

‘I don’t think its really sunk in yet.’

‘When we lay him to rest will be the hardest day.’

‘He wants his ashes spread on the meadow.’

Winston looked around at Kalika. ‘You spoke of this.’

‘Not the first time he’s had heart problems for a while, I knew what was wrong when I saw him laying there.’ She turned to him. ‘You haven’t told me what he said, I would like to know.’

Winston raised his eyebrows and looked out the drivers side window then back at the road. ‘He asked me to go to Taunton.’

‘Why?’ Winston hesitated, ‘Please, I want to know.’

‘He said I should go to Barr a small hamlet just outside Taunton next to the River Tone.’

There was silence. ‘And.’

‘A property called Oldbury Lodge.’

‘For what reason.’

‘He said I’d find a horse there, six month old chestnut brown with markings of white like someone had thrown white paint on him.’

‘Why is this horse important.’

‘He said I’d understand.’

‘Understand what.’

‘That the horse could run as fast as ‘Flaxmead.’

She sat looking at him with her mouth open. ‘Now I understand, only something like that would excite him to the point of no return.’

‘Why did he not drive over to see me.’ Kalika dropped her head and looked away, tossing her long fair hair to one side. ‘Kalika, why.’

‘They took his licence away last week, he had been having dizzy spells to the point of passing out.’

Winston took his right hand of the steering wheel and rubbed his chin with a puzzled look on his face. ‘How did he get to Taunton.’

Kalika pouted and shook her head. ‘I don’t know, someone took him I suppose.’

‘Was he home last night.’

‘No.’

‘Then he must have come back this morning, you see anyone drop him off.’

‘No but I wasn’t looking.’

‘Why didn’t he get dropped off at my place then I take him home, that strange he should suddenly run across the meadow witnessed by the jockey.’

Kalika raised her eyebrows. ‘That is a bit strange, what if he didn’t want the person or persons dropping him off know that he was going to talk to you.’

‘Taunton is two hours drive south of here, if he was in Taunton he must have left before sun up to get here when we found him.’

‘Maybe he wasn’t in Taunton, came from somewhere else close by.’

‘He told me a couple of days ago on the phone he would be in Taunton for a week.’

Kalika shook her head and rolled her lips. ‘Bit confusing, better find out what’s happened. We should find this little horse, must be a reason he was so excited, maybe it is another rocket.’

‘I’ll drop you off, change car and head down to Taunton.’

‘You can change car, you made a nice mess of the front of this one, wonder the police haven’t pulled us over, you can take me with you.’

‘I could be there for a few days.’

‘Then so will I.’

‘I think its best you stay home, this is a hard day and will sink in soon.’

Kalika folded her arms in obvious fashion looking straight ahead. ‘If my father wanted us to look at a horse and gave his life for the information, I think we better look at this horse. Anger is far more usable emotion than despair, wonder who taught me that.’

Winston nodded reluctantly. ‘Huh, lord preserve.’

As Winston turned from the main road toward Flax Burton a police patrol coming in the opposite direction turned its lights and siren on, then u turned, Winston saw the commotion and pulled over just around the corner. The police vehicle pulled up behind him. Winston prepared his licence from his wallet as an officer approached his drivers side window. ‘Mornin sir, the front of your vehicle is extensively damaged, been driving through fences have we.’

‘Yes as a matter of fact I have.’

‘You have your licence there sir, you have a passenger as well have you considered the safety of…. oh Miss Palmer sorry never noticed first up.’

‘I don’t know you.’ she replied.

‘Your picture in the news on telly and magazines.’

‘Oh I see.’ Blake handed the officer his licence.

‘Winston Blake, ohh, you own the race horse show just down the road here.’

‘Yes.’

‘What happed to the front of your car.’

‘Your suspicions are correct I drove it through a fence.’

‘Been drinking sir.’

‘Drinking what.’

‘Alcohol sir.’

‘No, just came from the hospital. Miss Palmers father was admitted.’

‘Roger Palmer.’

‘Yes.’

‘Have an accident did he.’

‘No, a heart attack.’

‘A heart attack, we stopped him earlier this morning near Barrow Gurney, he was speeding sir.’

‘What, he had his licence suspended a week ago, how early this morning.’

‘First light sir, just before six.’

‘What did he say.’

‘He was heading home from the airport.’

Kalika interrupted. ‘He has no vehicle, he lent it to a friend when he lost his licence.’

‘Vehicle he was driving wasn’t his.’

‘What vehicle was it.’ asked Winston.

‘Bentley sports, black one, he was doing near hundred miles an hour.’

Winston was dumbfounded and shaking his head, Kalika’s eyes the size of dinner plates. ‘A hundred miles and hour in Gurney, I don’t believe it, did he say where he had been.’

‘He was coming from the airport, hence being at Barrow Gurney, makes sense, turn off before Bristol and come up to the main road.’

‘Why didn’t you arrest him.’

‘We asked him to step out of the vehicle but he roared off.’

‘Why did you not go to his place.’

‘A patrol did check the premises out but no one was there, besides we found the vehicle at the airport about half an hour ago, maybe he’s done a runner.’

Winston looked down swallowed hard and coughed before looking back up. ‘Roger Palmer passed away about two hours ago at the hospital.’

The officer rubbed his hands up and down the front of his upper trousers. ‘Goodness me, I’m terribly sorry.’

‘You sure it’s not a case of mistaken identity.’

‘I would strongly suggest not, I have had a bit to do with Roger in the past, pretty certain it was him.’ He looked across at Kalika. ‘I’m terribly sorry Miss Palmer.’

Kalika bent slightly so she could see his face. ‘That’s bizarre, he had a heart attack in the middle of the meadow not two hours ago.’

‘Whom owned the vehicle you allegedly saw him in.’

‘I cant give out that information, you should come to the station and tell us what you know.’

Winston shook his head with a deep pout. ‘We can tell you nothing more than you already know, we just found him, he was apparently already dead. A doctor Ramsgate at the hospital will be able to tell you more, I must get Kalika home things are just beginning to sink in.’

‘I understand, we may need to talk to you in the future when convenient.’

‘Would appear to me that the damage at the front of my car was not the catalyst for stopping me.’

‘I can assure you sir it’s just coincidence, Mr Palmer was speeding and you have a damaged vehicle that should be off the road.’

‘I will be parking it up immediately, excuse us we have some delicate arrangements to take care of.’

‘Of course, my condolences, unfortunate and terrible incident. Bit clearer to me now that Mr Palmer may not have been in his rightful mind, please accept my apologies.’

‘No need to apologise about due diligence in your job, have a good day.’ Winston started the Range Rover and slowly pulled away onto the road. ‘What the hell was that all about, you think that was your father he really saw.’

‘Must have been, the times line up, the officer said he had dealt with him before.’

‘For what, I never ever recall or had mention by him that he dealt with the police.’

‘We have had attempts to steal from the property, you were never here.’

Winston let out a sigh. ‘Would appear I am lacking in my own mind, such a close friend and I left him.’

‘You gave him a meaning in his life, he yearned to find another horse like ‘Flaxmead’.’ Kalika put her hand on his shoulder. ‘You’ve suffered much loss in the last two years, I expected this, you didn’t.’

Winston pulled his vehicle up by the workshop next to the barn. A man in grubby overhauls came out of the workshop door cleaning his hands on an oily rag, as Winston and Kalika alighted he surveyed the damage, he as the jockey was a cockney. Winston stood next to him. ‘Will have to go to the panel beaters like, nasty business I heard what happened, Roger is okay I hope.’

‘Roger passed away.’

The balding man’s face changed to that of alarm and surprise. ‘Blimey, just like that a, I’m terribly sorry Kalika.’

‘We will be needing another vehicle, we will be in Taunton for an unspecified time can you arrange for staff to proceed accordingly. Inform Jenny our office secretary to liaise with the hospital regarding arrangements for Roger and get her to call Pigeonberry our lawyer in Bristol, he has Rogers will in his safe, I am the executor, tell Jenny to inform Pigeonberry to prepare all paperwork in line with his will, they will need the death certificate from the hospital. Make sure you tell Jenny everything is to be done by word of mouth, I want no calls about small change, she is to attend Pigeonberry’s and the hospital personally, lease by word of mouth and carry the documents on her person, can you repeat that to me please.’ The mechanic repeated the information perfectly. ‘Excellent, we will need the old Land Rover, is it running okay.’

‘Yes, fine like, not the best vehicle to travel to Taunton in like.’

‘Never the less could you bring it to the porch entrance of the manor please.’

Winston walked away toward the manor and Kalika followed beside him. ‘The Land Rover, why not the Rolls or Jaguar far more comfortable.’

‘Something is not right Kalika, several reasons, the vehicle will attract little attention. We drive a Rolls if we find this horse the price will go up two hundred percent. We may need to traverse rough ground off established roads. You look fine dressed in your riding pants and long boots, you will blend in. I however need to change into something a bit more down to earth, bit more acceptable to the entire cross section of Taunton residents.’

‘That’s really weird.’

‘Fast horses have been known to attract fast money, fast people and the odd ratbag.’

‘What’s a ratbag and only my father would know when he sees a champion.’

Winston nodded with a smile. ‘Yes and others know that, that’s why they watch him.’

They reached the porch, Kalika stopped and stood thinking with her weight on one leg tapping her chin with her index finger. ‘Mmm, the man with the noisy red car in Australia that looked after Flaxmead, John, reminds me of him.’

Winston raised his eyebrows and turned around to her mid way up the steps. ‘We tend to think of making things easy for ourselves, don’t go there. If we have to call on such people, we have achieved nothing. John is a very close friend of mine, I would like to keep it that way although he of late only exists in my memories, he was here when Gail past, but only for a short time at the church. Should we have to call on him, we have failed. I ask you don’t speak of him again.’

Gail shrugged her shoulders. ‘Okay, just came to mind that’s all.’

‘Mine too, your dad had spoken of something for a long time, my guess is I’m about to find the key to his dream, I’ll just change the Landy is on its way leave the motor running I’ll be a couple of minutes.’

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Kalika had time to think although it was only a couple of minutes, she had questions but as the old Land Rover powered out on to the main road her thought train was interrupted by common presence. ‘This thing is making a funny growling noise and is fearsomely fast, what’s been done to it.’

‘Things are sometimes not as they appear. looks like an old beat up Land Rover, nothing could be further from the truth. The old chassis drive train and motor finally gave out quite some time ago. Mechanic found a V8 Discovery that had rolled over, the body was a mess but the drive train and engine were new, he engineered this old body onto the new chassis. He looks like a bald man in grubby overhauls, you would be wrong to brand him as such because of his appearance, he loves messing around with things like this. If a person loves what they do they will never work again. mechanic tinkers with things like this all day and night, he is a very clever man in his own field. He was in the army, he did volunteer work when he left the army for people who couldn’t afford to have work done on their vehicles such as single mothers. I gave him access to the workshop to do his volunteer work, that was before the place was modified to its current standard, he never left and has worked there ever since as I saw his work first hand and offered him a job.’

‘I didn’t know that.’

‘You never needed to, you were puzzled when I gave him delicate information to handle, I could see it in your face. Things a little clearer now.’

‘He drives that lovely old car, its always spotless, shines like a new one.’

‘Mk one Jaguar, perfect example, was an absolute wreck when he got it, bought it for ten quid as the owner didn’t want to pay to have it towed away. He spent several years, took the thing to little pieces and rebuilt it to its present glory, wins every show it enters. A man with utmost attention to detail, I have never had to tell him how or what to do with things, he tells me and appreciates the fact I trust his judgement.’

Kalika was then drawn by Winston’s choice of clothes, he had changed into different garments that didn’t even match each other and fitted poorly. ‘You look a bit ordinary Winston, do you not have some older clothes that at least fit properly, you look like a horseman’s boy on a fox hunt.’ She chuckled, ‘really is quite amusing.’

‘Your focus is on the future, dwelling on the past would currently be a source of despair.’

‘It’s there in my mind, but you’re right, this is keeping it at bay. What was my dads dream you spoke of, I cant remember him talking to me about any dreams or goals he was always busy as a bee.’

The Land Rover speared on toward Taunton, as the crow flies about sixty kilometres but the country roads are slow, through St Georges, Highbridge, Bridgewater and on to Taunton. Pleasant surroundings on a summers day but steady progress. Winston tried to steer away from the subject of her fathers dream but she persisted. ‘He never spoke of it to you because it was such a sore point of conversation, something you have detested all your life, from a child you hated a certain race.’

‘Race of people, I don….’

‘Huh no, a horse race.’

Kalika glared at him. ‘The Grand National.’

‘Yes the grand national, a race Flaxmead could not win, he was not the right horse at the time.’

‘I hate that race, horses put through the worst expectations by people with no other emotion than narcism.’

‘Then we need a narcissistic nag of poor breeding ridden by a girl.’

Kalika was shaking her head wide eyed. ‘Such a horse could never win the race, a girl could not go through the terrible path and gruelling conditions.’

‘You are missing the point, your father had a terrible hatred of the race and the people involved, to win the race with such a horse and rider would rock the establishment, would be as popular as a turd in a swimming pool.’

‘Is that a good comparison, not sure I would consider such a horse and rider turds.’

‘If you were in this so called squeaky clean pool in most cases kept clean by noxious chemicals, you would have to lump it or get out.’

‘I never thought of it that way.’

‘To change anything you must become involved, Flaxmead brought half the world together, we need that desperately again. Turning your back on something you despise will only go the way of the perpetrator.’

‘I’m just trying to fathom the depth of the task, I see where my dad is coming from, he would expect me to stand up and be counted. I wish my dad didn’t have to die for me to hear of this, I’m ashamed.’

‘Without a horse that could tackle the job, engaging in planned conversation is just a dream, unless one day you find what you have been looking for, was unfortunately too late for your father, but not for you.’

‘Is against every single value I posses, this must have been important to dad. I wish he had talked to me about it.’

‘I’m sure he was about to, somewhere every year a horse is born that wins the Grand National, you just have to find it. A horse that is physically and emotionally tuned to gruelling environments, with absolute disdain for its opposition, that loves a child within an instant.’

‘Sounds like Flaxmead.’

‘I wouldn’t take him there, he’s not the right horse.’

‘I love him so much I just want to look at him.’

‘So does everyone, that’s what he does now, just gets looked at and the people are reminded of how he brought us together. Soon he will be lost like your father, we need to win the Grand National.’

‘I hate it but I’ll do it.’

Winston had a good look round, the speed limits fell. ‘Here we are, outskirts of Taunton.’

‘Horses everywhere.’

‘Nice day for a ride. How many horses do you think are in this area, hundreds thousands.’

‘I don’t really know.’

‘Nobody does, you have to find out. Just as bigger chance of finding a horse here as anywhere, in fact the blood line here may favour jumpers, there are riding courses all over the place that feature fence jumps.’

‘Maybe that’s why dad came here allot.’

‘Ahh, first sign I have seen that points to Barr.’ Winston turned right and trundled down a narrowing roadway toward the little Hamlet of Barr. ‘Horses everywhere.’ Winston had put the address in his GPS when they left home, he followed the directions through Bishops Hull and eventually down narrow back lanes pulling up outside Oldbury Lodge, a majestic two story Georgian period home with freshly rendered walls. There were vehicles in the driveway. ‘Mmm, well the place is here, I see no horses around.’

‘Looks like the fields back onto a river.’

‘The Tone, real estate information tells me this place has eleven acres, hardly an area of complete indulgence but plenty to house a horse.’ He noticed the curtains move in the lower level window by the main door, he got out went through the gate and approached the buildings main door, he was meet by a distinguished elderly greying gentleman with a refined plum in mouth accent.

‘Can I help you, lost your dog or something.’

‘No,’ Blake extended his right hand. ‘Winston Blake, glad to make your acquaintance. The man reluctantly took Winston’s hand but his handshake was limp and weak. ‘I’m actually looking for a horse.’

The man stepped outside. ‘Ah, you own the damn thing do you, cant catch it, eating my grass and plants.’

‘No, I’m not the owner but if it is the foal I think it is I would be interested in purchasing it.’

Winston was led toward the fence along the side of the property, in the far distance he could see a foal, its exact markings were indistinguishable at the distance. He began to climb over the fence. ‘Don’t go in there damn thing will chase you, bloody lunatic, had the police here trying to find out who owns it had a go at them.’

The foal broke into a gallop heading straight for Winston, he walked forward into the field a few paces and held his ground. The foal stopped and reared up only inches from him then steeped back looking straight at Winston. It grunted and clawed at the ground with its front hoof, paraded around in circles kicking and whinnying, piece of turf hit Winston in the face. He smiled. ‘Well I never, the heart of a champion.’ The foal was a dark chestnut colour, long powerful looking thoroughbred legs and body but a large head similar in lines to a draught horse but slimmer. It looked as if someone had got a pot of white paint and a paintbrush and thrown daubs of paint all over him. Winston had noticed his long instep gallop stride when running toward him. ‘Well you are a mix up little fella, now for the big test. Winston stood on the top rail of the fence and called out to Kalika, she alighted from the vehicle and walked toward them. Winston jumped down and talked to the gentleman over the fence with his back to the horse, the horse didn’t like it and put on a hell of a show. ‘Now for the main event sir.’

‘Not sure what you mean.’

‘Watch the birth of a lifetime friendship.’

Kalika got to the fence and held the top rail with her hands, the foal caught sight of her and stopped dead, he just gazed motionless, Kalika was spellbound, she hastily climbed the fence and they just looked at each other. The little horse walked silently up to her and put his head on her shoulder. The gent was amazed. ‘Well I never would see the day, there was a man here yesterday, did the same thing to him.’

‘His name was Roger Palmer.’

The gent looked at him. ‘Yes, how did you know.’

‘That’s his daughter Kalika.’

‘Good god that’s Kalika Palmer, thought Id seen her before its her pictures are everywhere, gold medallist in Olympic showjumping.’

‘And what did Roger say to you.’

‘Nothing, was here for an hour or so, had the horse doing all kinds of things, then he just left.’

‘What was he driving.’

‘Who are you.’

‘Winston Blake.’

‘Did you work with Winston Hornswaddle and Bartholomew Fothrington in Bristol.’

‘Yes, was a while ago now.’

‘I remember your name on some of my documentation, they did my books for me.’

‘And you are.’

‘Lord Mulberry.’

‘I don’t remember you, sorry.’

‘Well, I never did go there.’

‘The vehicle Roger was in.’

‘He was in a vehicle like you have.’

‘He wasn’t driving a black Bentley Sports.’

‘No, haven’t seen a vehicle like that in these parts, was a Land Rover, like yours except it was green.’

‘Have anyone with him.’

‘Cant say didn’t look. See that tractor working in the field there adjacent to our property, he may be able to tell you more. Damn thing was in his field and attacked him whenever he got out, he chased it over here and it clean jumped the fence into my property, police are trying to find out who owned it to get rid of the damn thing.’

‘Jumped the fence, its six feet high.’

‘I’m telling you it jumped the fence, clean jumped straight over it.’

‘How long has it been here.’

‘Nearly a week.’

‘Then you are legally the owner of the horse, detained beyond four days without being claimed makes you the lawful owner.’

‘Mmm, didn’t know that, must be worth a quid if your after it.’

Winston was enraged but remained calm, he dug deep. ‘Lord Mulberry, coming back to me now. You were involved in an offshore hedging fund far as I remember. I believe you were warned of the consequences of dubious actions and you eventually took your accounts elsewhere.’

‘Meddling in other peoples affairs can get you into a lot of trouble.’ He looked menacingly at Winston. ‘Don’t know when your well off minding your own business old boy.’

Winston glared at Mulberry. ‘If I have to get involved in someone else’s business to get that foal so be it.’

Mulberry became agitated, he took off his glasses and cleaned them nervously. ‘I want ten thousand pounds for it.’

‘I have no problem with that.’

Mulberry chuckled, ‘You are willing to gamble ten thousand pounds on that nag, you must be mad man.’

‘Lot of difference between a gamble and a calculated risk, just like the one you are taking demanding ten thousand pounds for someone else’s property.’

‘Your the expert you say I’m the legal owner of the thing now.’

‘During the course of the transfer information has to be supplied to several bodies, one the police, local council, bailiffs association.’

Mulberry put his glasses back on with a stern look. ‘Bailiffs association.’

‘Yes I’m a registered Bailiff for the horse acquisition, part of my race horse training business. All kinds of information may end up on the desk of all these controlling bodies.’

‘You threatening me.’

‘Yes, and enjoying every minute of it, would you like to call the police you can use my phone.’

An elderly woman approached in silence until she was behind Mulberry, Winston could see her smiled and nodded. ‘George who are these people.’

Mulberry jumped out of his skin turned to address his wife. ‘Emm people just come to pick up this damn horse Mildred.’

‘Oh wonderful, its trampled all my Rhododendrons into the ground to say nothing of the everything else.’

Winston addressed Mildred. ‘Just talking to George about the costs involved in the bailiff operation to remove the horse.’

Mulberry put his hands on his hips. ‘Costs.’

‘Yes sir, horse floats, paperwork, travelling long distances mounts up you know. I give an estimation of around twenty thousand pounds.’

‘Twenty thousand pounds are you serious!’

Winston folded his arms. ‘Yes very serious. George Mulberry, the first name has stirred the inner sanctums of memory.’

‘Would you take the horse for no charge.’

‘Yes I think I can do that. I advise you go back in the house and hide there like you have been doing for the last twenty years.’

‘Yes I’m feeling a bit drained could do with a nap what.’

‘You don’t own this place I did my homework on the way here, its rented. Perhaps some people would like to know you’ve moved.’

‘Take the horse and go.’ Mulberry and his wife shuffled away.

Kalika was lying down on the ground along side the foal just short of the fence, Winston chuckled as he looked down at them. ‘My father has touched this horse I can tell.’

‘Yes he was here yesterday, the horse is ours, been here for nearly a week, I’ll do a bailiff possession.’

‘That would make the horse owned by the people who own this property. What did they say.’

‘They don’t own the property they rent it, the owners live in a small cottage not far down the lane here, not sure who owns the property they live in but my guess is we know them.’

‘That’s why you had me look all that up on the way.’

Winston activated his mobile phone, there was an answer. ‘Mr Blake.’

‘Mechanic, get Belvedere to leave with the float immediately, destination Oldbury Lodge, Barr near Taunton.’

‘Just making a note, that was Oldbury Lodge, Barr near Taunton, on the GPS map sir.’

‘Yes.’

‘Will you be there.’

‘Yes, I or Kalika.’

‘On his way.’

‘Thank you mechanic.’ Winston looked at the fence to the adjoining property, he could see the tractor tiling the black soil. ‘The foal jumped that fence.’

‘Kalika sat up and looked round. She looked back at him startled. ‘That must be six foot, impossible.’

‘Apparently not, Lord Mulberry here has no reason to lie about such things. I’m going to see the person driving that tractor over there, just go and climb through the fence to the other side.’

‘I want to stay here with the foal.’

‘I have a hunch he will follow you.’

Kalika got up and the foal immediately shot to its feet ears pricked up. She walked to the fence followed by the little horse, she climbed through the wire and stood on the other side of the fence. The foal went mad, ran back and forth along the wire then took of toward the middle of the field, turned and gallop full speed toward the fence. Kalika put her hands over her mouth. ‘No, please, no.’ The little horse cleared the fence and her coming down just beyond where she stood, he turned walked to her an put his head on her shoulder.

Winston chuckled in disbelief. ‘Good god Roger, I do understand.’ He walked out of the garden got into his vehicle and drove into the same field Kalika and the tractor were in, the gate was open to the roadway, he pulled up beside the tractor coming on the unploughed side. The tractor stopped and a big man with a trench coat, herringbone cap and steel cap boots climbed out, he was unshaven and blinked allot. Winston extended his hand and the man shook it nearly crushing Winston’s hand in the process. ‘My name is Winston thank you for stopping.’

The man had a wide northern accent. ‘Oh arr, no problem sir, I see you and the lady lookin at the little horse there.’

‘You are from the north.’

‘Oh arr I sir, north Yorkshire sir.’

‘Long way south for you.’

‘Man who owns this farm gave me a job here sir, owns that place there too sir.’

‘Ah, I see, the occupants of the lodge never mentioned that.’

‘Just between me and you sir I don’t like that man in that there house.’

‘I could understand that.’

‘Don’t see much of him and he’s very rude, I don’t think Mr Barton will renew his rental lease sir.’

‘And your name.’

‘Ohh arr, Wilfred sir, Wilfred Smith.’

‘What can you tell me about that horse.’

‘I been worried about him sir, he rolled up here from nowhere about a week ago sir, he likes to play, I couldn’t go anywhere without him wanting to follow me.’

Winston nodded with a smile. ‘I could understand that perfectly, have you ever seen him jump that fence.’

‘Oh arr I, every day sir, he comes and goes as he pleases. I give him some chaff and water every day, man here yesterday asked me to guard that horse with his life.’

‘Was his name Roger.’

‘Oh arr I was, how would you know that sir.’

‘That’s his daughter with the little fella now.’

‘Well blow me down, he said he was coming back today to get that little horse, when he told me that I was so happy. He saw the horse jump the fence when he was driving past and ran straight over to him. The horse took to him like you wouldn’t know, they spent a couple of hours here together, is he with you sir.’

‘Unfortunately no, Roger Palmer died of a heart attack this morning, the last thing he did was inform us of the whereabouts of this horse, we are from Flax Burton.’

‘Good lord that’s taken me back sir.’

‘Was anyone with Roger.’

‘Yes there was sir.’

Winston wore a look of deep interest, he squinted. ‘What did he look like.’

‘Oh no was a lady sir.’

‘A lady.’

‘Ohh arr, dressed up like that girl you have with you, like she was going to ride a horse.’

‘What was her name.’

‘I didn’t talk to her sir, just saw her at a distance.’

‘What colour hair did she have.’

‘Red sir bright red, very long hair she was only tiny.’

‘Mm, look Wilfred could you call me Winston.’

‘Ohh arr I could do that sir.’

Winston noticed a little girl in a pretty blue dress, would be no more than five standing in the lane looking at Kalika and the horse. ‘That little girl, you know her.’

Wilfred looked over then bowed his head kicking the dirt around with one of his boots. ‘Yes, you don’t want to know sir, very sad sir, she comes and plays with the horse every day.’

‘Why is that sad.’

‘Oh that’s not sad sir, the rest of her life is a sad story.’

‘Tell me more.’

‘Oh I don’t want to go into that sir just make me even sadder sir.’

‘Winston.’

‘Sir Winston how about that.’

Winston raised his eyebrows. ‘How long have you been round here.’

‘Thirty five years sir.’

‘An you still have such a strong northern accent.’

‘The wife and I don’t get out much sir, go down the pub once a week, our son visits once a month other than that we keep to ourselves sir Winston.’

Winston sighed then smiled, he handed Wilfred a card. ‘Should you need anything at all just call me.’

‘Oh Mr Barton takes good care of me sir, want for nothing really.’

‘I could understand that, I’m going to the police to see about this horse, anyone else be able to help trace its background.’

‘Oh arr, that little girl, she knows where its from.’

‘Where can I find her parents.’

‘I strongly advise you don’t go there sir, very sad sir.’

‘Mmm, where does she live.’

‘The big place down by the river sir, watch the dogs sir, there nasty bits of work.’

Winston looked at his watch. ‘How long will you be here.’

‘Till dark sir.’

‘That’s another nine hours.’

‘I.’

‘When did you start.’

‘First light sir.’

‘Good lord.’

‘Well we have only a short window to get the fields ready.’

‘Its mid summer.’

‘There’s only me sir Winston, I like it that way.’

‘I will drop in and say hello to Mr Barton, would you watch over Kalika and the horse until my float gets here.’

‘Oh arr protect her with my life sir Winston.’

‘And I will protect you with mine should it ever become necessary.’

‘Thank you very much I will remember that sir Winston.’

‘You have a grand day.’

‘I already have with you taking that little horse and making him safe.’

Winston shook Wilfred’s hand and he got back in the tractor and chugged away.

Winston drove over to Kalika, he spoke to her through the window of his vehicle, the little horse was quite settled nudging Kalika with his muzzle while she spoke she laughed with joy occasionally. Winston looked at his watch. ‘ Belvedere will be here in less than two hours, I have a couple of people to see before we leave hope I have enough time. Did you see the little girl.’

‘Yes, she ran off when I began to walk toward her with the foal.’

‘Mmm, not sure about who she is but old Wilfred on the tractor said she would know where the horse came from, he may know he’s been round here for thirty five years. Wilfred will be looking over here while I’m gone.’

‘We’re fine, never seen a foal jump so high, he got excited when he saw the child.’

‘All very confusing, going to the police station to see what I can find out then the Barton’s whom apparently own this property.’

‘Okay will call if need be.’

Winston drove off toward Taunton, the only police station he could pinpoint on GPS was in the upper high street in Taunton, would take him half an hour each way. The journey was cut short when on the outskirts of Bishops Hull he pulled over being a police vehicle, a Land Rover discovery, he felt sure it would be the more rural officers in charge of the vehicle. An officer was walking back toward his vehicle after talking to a motorist, he noticed Winston beckoning to him as he climbed out of his vehicle, they meet at the front of Winston’s Land Rover. ‘I wonder if you can assist, I have been out at Barr and found an abandoned horse, we are in the process of a bailiff acquisition and I wonder if you could assist with finding the owners.’

‘We have a lot of horses go missing and or lost around here, can I see some ID.’

Winston fumbled around in his wallet and produced his driving licence. ‘Winston Blake, Flax Burton,’ the grey haired sergeant was in deep thought. ‘Where is this horse exactly.’

‘Oldbury lodge, in Barr.’

‘Just hang on.’ the sergeant walked to his vehicle and climbed in, less than a minute later he returned and handed back Winston’s licence. ‘Mmm, patrol was out at that area last night, not related to any issues about horses. Nothing listed, however I cover this area from the station in Taunton and over the last week has been complaints about a small horse roaming free out that way. You are a horse bailiff, yes.’

‘Yes, have had the accreditation for some time we have often had to rescue horses and thought the best way was to cover the legal side as well.’

‘Far as I can make out by your background you would certainly be that person. You were out that way.’

‘Just came from there.’

‘Did you see any children.’

‘Yes as a matter of fact I did.’

‘Teen with a green dress.’

Winston shook his head. ‘No, little girl no more than five, she was wearing a blue dress.’

‘Mmm, could you lead the way and spot the exact place you saw her.’

‘Yes of course.’ Winston headed back to the lane and pulled up outside the field, the tractor was still working away. Winston stood at the spot he saw the child and the sergeant plus another officer joined him. ‘She was standing right here.’

‘How long ago.’

‘Oh, half hour.’

The sergeant spoke to his partner. ‘Send a text to central, positive sighting of Kristy Ballard, give location and estimated sighting half hour ago.’

‘Right sarg.’ The officer made haste to his vehicle.

‘Kristy Ballard.’

‘Yes, that’s her name.’

‘She a missing person.’

‘No her mother is wanted by police, have a warrant for her arrest. Would you have seen a green Land Rover round here similar to yours, woman driving it, she has red hair usually dressed in horse riding apparel.’

‘I haven’t but Wilfred over here on the tractor saw her yesterday.’

‘Wilfred, works for Barton, see or hear nothing off him, seen him in the local pub once.’

‘Well that checks out, may I ask what this child’s mother has done.’

‘Her husband was murdered last week, she is wanted in relation to the non payment of traffic fines.’

‘Well that’s hardly serious.’

‘No but we cant keep her safe on the loose. You have some powerful friends Mr Blake, what brings you down here.’

‘The woman with the horse, her father was here yesterday and brought the location of the horse to our attention.’

‘Would we be able to speak to this man he may have seen something that is of value.’

Winston looked down at the ground. ‘Unfortunately not, Roger Palmer died of a heart attack this morning. However I can tell you Wilfred tells me she was driving Roger Palmer around here yesterday.’

‘We know she’s here, we just don’t know where.’

‘Wilfred appears to think the big property at the end of the lane.’

‘Really,’ the sergeant shook his head. ‘Last place I would have thought of looking.’

‘Look the horse, have you heard of any reports of a horse with this description missing, stolen, lost.’

‘No, doesn’t mean there isn’t any, if I hear of anything I’ll let you know. You’ve been very helpful, people don’t say much round here. Oh, did you deal with the people in the Lodge here.’

‘Yes, its not owned by them they just rent it.’

‘Did you get there names.’

‘Yes I did, George Mulberry, Lord Mulberry if you ask him.’

‘I’ve knocked on the door of that place twenty times over the last six months and no one has ever answered the door.’

‘I could understand that.’

The sergeant chuckled, ‘I’ll probably be here when your float gets here, I suppose its on its way.’

Winston looked at his watch. ‘Fifty minutes away or close to it.’

‘We will probably still be down the lane here, will sign your paperwork for you, the horse has obviously been here for more than four days. Catch up with Barton he’s your best bet.’

‘I’m heading there now.’

‘Okay.’ The sergeant walked away and drove off in his vehicle toward the end of the lane.

Winston drove down to the cottage opposite the field Wilfred was ploughing, he drove up the short drive and as he got out the cottage door opened. A man, senior in years greeted him under the porch veranda. He had a strong hand shake, Grant Barton and you are.’

‘Blake, Winston Blake.’

‘I see you meet Wilfred my father.’

‘Your father.’

‘Yes, he owns the place.’

‘He didn’t mention that.’

‘No, he would be embarrassed.’

‘Mmm, I tended to feel that’s how he would be.’

‘Dad has driven a tractor all his life, he loves it.’ There was some old chairs and a table under the veranda, solid wood carved into ornate patterns, Grant gestured toward them. ‘Please sit down.’ Grant was wearing a worn dressing gown and slippers. ‘What brings you here, the little horse for one.’

‘Yes, I was wondering if you could direct us to the owners or had any idea of the history of the little fella.’

‘Rolled up here just over a week ago, has a mind of its own and can get quite aggressive if you try to get it to do things its not interested in. Horses like that are pretty useless to riding stables, the place is crawling with them, could have come from anywhere round here. They need docile plodders, this little fella is far from that so I guess someone exiled it during the night in our lane rather than find a home or pay for its disposal.’

‘Your father seemed to think the little girl knew of its background, Kristy Ballard.’

Grant sat back in his chair. ‘Look it could be, her father was killed here only last week and her mother runs a riding stable, the police have been here several times over the last week looking for her. Turning into a pretty sad story.’

‘She was here yesterday, she has red hair wears riding apparel and drives a Land Rover like mine.’

‘True, my father said he saw her yesterday with a stranger looking at that horse.’

‘That stranger was Kalika Palmers father.’

‘The show jumping Olympian.’

‘Yes, she is currently over there with the little horse.’

‘Really, wow a celebrity of that status in our lane.’

‘Is this little girl living in the big place at the end of the lane by the river.’

‘I would say yes, but if you want to go into that place I must warn you, the sooner the police raid the place the better.’

Winston smiled at Grant. ‘Well you never know.’

There was a few loud bangs from the end of the lane, shouting and screaming. Grant stood up and looked toward the end of the lane way. ‘What an earth is that, usually very quite round here to say the least.’

‘I’d say it was SCO 19.’

‘The special services of the police, what are they doing at the end of the lane.’

‘I would have thought you would know more about that than me.’

‘Good lord I hope the little girl is okay.’

‘I’d say she’s fine.’

‘What makes you think that.’

‘She’s standing over there next to your father by the tractor.’

‘Good lord so she is, well I never noticed her come along the lane.’

Winston got up and walked to the edge of the veranda, he looked across at the pair talking by the tractor, he studied the ground around the cottage and noticed tyre marks leading into the garage adjacent to the house, he recognised them as army Land Rover pre sixties. ‘Grant you are not exactly telling us what you know I feel.’

‘You have your horse that’s why you came.’

Winston turned around leaning on a veranda post looking back at Grant, he looked concerned. ‘I legally have the horse, morals have not yet been established, they are far more important to me than legalities.’

‘You had something to do with that famous horse, came over here from Australia and won a big race here.’

‘True, the Epsom Derby to name one, supposedly the best flat horse race in the world, I would dispute that after having one horse win many including the Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup.’

‘What is so valuable about that little horse.’

‘Your father would understand, perhaps you should ask him. You have something to do with horses.’

‘Not really.’

‘You must or my name would not be familiar nor the events I have mentioned. You are very familiar with Kalika Palmer.’

‘She is an Olympian her picture is everywhere, many horse products are endorsed by her.’

‘Indeed.’ The float rumbled past the cottage and pulled up along side Kalika and the little horse. ‘If you would excuse me, I have to go.’ Grant Barton watched Winston Blake reverse from his drive and trundle down to the float some hundred metres away, he then went inside and closed the door.

Whilst Kalika loaded the little foal up the ramp into the float, Wilfred walked over to watch, he was accompanied by the little girl Kristy. They got there just as the ramp was going up and the foal was now safe. ‘That’s a fine lorry there Mr Blake.’

‘Yes Wilfred makes travelling very easy.’

‘What will happen to that little horse.’

‘In two years time he will win the Grand National steeplechase.’

‘Oh arr the one where they jump over them fences.’

‘Yes.’

‘I didn’t think you were a character that would approve of such things.’

‘I don’t, this foal does, important difference.’

‘I understand what you mean sir Winston.’

‘Nice of you to help Mr Barton keep up with his mortgage payments.’

‘Oh he has no such thing sir Winston sir, he came into allot of money many years ago and bought this place and a few others around here.’

Winston bent down to the little girl. ‘Kristy, that’s a pretty dress you have there, you like horses.’

‘Yes Mr. You taking my horse.’

‘The horse is yours.’

‘Yes.’

Wilfred interrupted. ‘She thinks all horses around here are hers, oh arr yes, loves em.’

‘Does your horse have a name.’

‘No, I just call him horsy.’

‘Well he does now, his name is Taunton Barr and he’s going to make you very proud.’

Wilfred smiled. ‘Taunton Barr, that’s a grand name, oh arr, would never have thought you know.’

The police sergeant arrived, he climbed from his vehicle and spoke to Winston. ‘Your paperwork, don’t have much time.’

Belvedere handed it to Winston, he passed it on to the officer, he knew exactly where to sign the documents, he handed them back. ‘We found no one, I can’t take Kristy its her mother we are after.’

‘You’ll find her in the cottage.’

‘The sergeant looked sideways at Winston. ‘Grant Barton’s place.’

‘Yes.’

‘That’s a really strange suggestion.’

‘Not from where I’m standing.’

Winston bent down to Kristy again. ‘Where is your mummy Kristy.’

‘In the little house.’

Winston stood up and looked at Wilfred. ‘What kind of car does Grant Barton drive.’

‘Oh he doesn’t drive sir Winston sir, he never has, why do you ask.’

‘How does he get around.’

‘Taxis, would be the best customer Taunton taxis has.’

‘You have a car Wilfred.’

‘Oh no sir, I use the tractor have no need for anything else really. I walk to the pub once a week.’

‘But a vehicle, four wheel drive with similar tyres to an army Land Rover uses the garage regularly, there are multiple fresh tyre marks on the ground. I saw them myself.’

‘I don’t know sir Winston sir, I have to go back to work, come on Kristy.’

‘Okay grandpa.’ The pair walked off toward the field.

The sergeant chuckled under his breath. ‘Take your horse and you can go home, I will have three weeks of paperwork by the end of the day, suppose I better go get a couple of warrants, at least I have the manpower ready.’

‘The fearsome mansion house at the end of the lane, was empty no doubt, owned by Grant Barton no doubt. I want to know where this horse came from.’

‘Yes, not a stick of furniture, like I said, if I find anything out will call you. Not sure who owns that mansion.’

Winston held up his phone to the sergeants face. ‘Lands data base, dialled it up when I got here.’ The officer studied the screen.

‘He owns areas of Glastonbury as well, and just about every property within two miles of here.’

‘I think you’ll find Wilfred has a surname, Barton.’

‘Only ever known him as Wilfred.’

‘I have to get going, will be keen to hear what you find out about this horse.’

‘Okay, will be busy for a couple of days but soon as I dig something up will call.’

Winston banged the back of the float with his fist and it slowly pulled away and made its way down the lane, Winston got in his vehicle and followed along.

CHAPTER THREE

And the little foal was housed within the Blake racing stable complex at Flax Burton, further delegation was required and Winston sat on his porch for a few days in deep thought. He watched Kalika tend to Taunton Barr, a lifelong bond developed, Kalika even slept with the foal for the first two days as he was wide eyed and unsettled with his new surroundings. Gaps in managing general every day track work and personnel began to show, Kalika’s focus was suddenly elsewhere, the operation would require further control, but from whom.

Winston sat by his phone, he waited diligently for a certain call, from where did this little horse originate, was the information that would be of such value be forthcoming, he decided to proceed with registration of the horse void of history. This he realised would be a difficult task, registering horses with TBHA The British Horseracing Authority was usually an easy process. Winston Blake was a top registered breeder and trainer and had been for many years but without background information on the foal registration would be difficult, he figured he had two years, more than enough time to get to the bottom of the horses bloodline. Today unbeknown to Kalika three of the top equine vets in the country would be attending the stable to register and micro chip the foal. Winston was no fan of TBHA and they were no fan of his, bringing an overseas horse into the country and making off with some of the most coveted trophies the equine nation had, in a manner they deemed unsportsmanlike, had injected an indelible memoir in the minds of the aristocracy.

With overbearing prominence and ingenious negotiation he got three of the top equine vets in the nation to micro chip the foal without statement of bloodline. The registration now identified the horse, its markings and its birth date, calculated by expert opinion amongst the vets. They all took blood to match DNA data bases in search of the animals bloodline, he instructed them to carry out tests immediately regardless of cost. Two of the vets left leaving his regular vet from Temple Meads, Winston asked a simple question, they were in the barn by the door leading out to the training track. ‘In your opinion what is the health of the foal.’

Equine vet Trevor Hocket put both his hands on top of his herringbone cap and stretched his neck backwards then looked at Winston with a half smile. ‘Where the hell do you get them from, it has the heartbeat of an elephant, bone structure of a giraffe, and the temperament of a terminator. Healthiest horse I’ve seen for as long as I can remember.

‘Roger found him.’

‘Rogers de… how.’

‘He gave us the location of this horse with his last breaths.’

‘Surely Roger would have known we need to know the bloodline.’

‘Mmm, I’m working on it.’

‘I don’t think he’s a thoroughbred.’

‘We’ll see, to do what he has to do he has to run fast, jump high and long. Thoroughbred or not, makes no difference to those things, they are reality in its true form.’

Trevor was packing things into his bag, he stopped and looked up. ‘Jump, can mean only one race, a race you despise.’

‘Indeed.’

‘This thing the grand national, you must be joking.’

‘What if I told you Roger Palmer found a horse that could jump a six foot fence at six months.’

Trevor continued to pack his bag and chuckled. ‘Hmmph, I’d say you were hallucinating, taking some kind of mind enhancing drugs, or just plain bullshiting.’

Kalika was in Taunton Barr’s stall with him. ‘Kalika bring him out with and hand the bridle to me.’ She looked puzzled but obliged. ‘Now walk out across the track to the inner field and keep walking directly away.’

‘Why.’

‘Please if you would.’ Kalika shrugged her shoulders and walked toward the first wooden track fence, she had to walk to one side of a newly installed area of the fence, another tier had been built on top of the white wooden railing and was far too high to scale. She walked out across the training track and beneath the rail on the opposite side then began walking backwards to get what she thought would be further instructions. Taunton Barr began to rear up as she walked further away.’

‘Things a lunatic Winston, you willing to gamble all this money on a nag like this.’

Winston struggled to hold him and shouted at Trevor as he let him loose. ‘I’ve told you many times Trevor, there is a marked difference between a gamble and a calculated risk.’ this foal broke into a gallop heading straight for Kalika, only the high part of the fence was in line with her and he being reunited. Kalika realised what Winston was doing and put her hands over her mouth.

‘Oh no!’

The foal cleared the extended fence then the inner railing and was reunited with Kalika. Trevor wore a face of serious surprise. ‘Jesus Christ.’ Kalika grabbed him round the neck laughing.

‘Taunton I was shitting myself.’ The foal muzzled her and grunted.

‘Any more questions Trevor.’

‘No, I’ll get onto that DNA.’ He left shaking his head.

There was a purpose in everything Winston did, he knew Trevor was a terrible gossip, he planned the demonstration on his behalf. As soon as Winston had obtained the foal he had applied for the horses name through the TBHA, Taunton Barr had shown up as a name available because no other horse had ever been called that. He also knew he had some pretty smart enemies within the aristocracy.

Winston settled down on his porch by his phones and waited.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Seventy five, High Holborn, London WC1V 6LS, UK, the main office complex of The British Horseracing Association. Near Covent Garden and at the other end of the scale the infamous Soho district. William Ashby had been head of the organisation for five years, he had been part of it for over forty, he knew Blake personally and had one of his horses embarrassed by a horse called Flaxmead in the Epsom Derby some years ago. Also a member of some of London’s most exclusive clubs he was one of the most connected people in the horse racing industry in the UK. His horses continued to be trounced by rockets from the Blake stable, he had a mixed feeling of admiration and hatred for the man. In his late sixties, white hair, high collard white shirts and tweed suits Ashby lived in a world of his own, history had shown one must be extremely discreet and diligent when handling Blake, Blake had his supporters. Ashby often stood at the window cleaning his glasses and looking at the people passing below in the street, he liked looking down on people was one of his favourite pastimes. His popularity in social circles was due to nothing more than his access to interesting information, and he had certain members of his staff tuned to the smallest scrap of information that could be of outstanding value. His direct line to his secretary buzzed, he sat down at his desk and answered it. ‘Yes.’

‘Beaker is here to see you sir.’

‘Ahh send him in.’ He put his phone down and the door opened, in walked a small thin young man in his late twenties, sporing a short back and sides haircut, he wore glasses that looked similar in stature to the bottom of burgundy bottles, beaker was a brilliant oxford schooler, mathematics and business strategy was his forte. ‘Ah Beaker sit down boy.’

‘Thank you sir.’ Beaker sat uncomfortably in front of Ashby moving around in his seat prone to poor nerves. They both spoke with broad plum in mouth accents.

‘You must have something important or you would not be here.’

‘Absolutely sir.’

‘Now remember Beaker, you are being considered as business planner for this years Christmas party, you’ll have control of the budget what, and you know what that means boy.’ Ashby chuckled as he spoke. ‘Lot of field work down in Soho finding out where all the action is every lunch time what, he he. Now what is it you wanted to tell me.’

‘Well sir, as you know Blake registered a name here few days back.’

‘Yes, I already know that man, what was the name now.’

‘Taunton Barr.’

‘Means nothing to me man, he registers names every week.’

‘Well this name has similarities to the suffix Flaxmead.’

‘I have told you before not to mention that word in here, damn thing came through here like a cyclone.’

‘Sir I think you need listen.’

‘You have thirty seconds Beaker.’

‘The horse was named after the towns of Flax Burton and Temple Meads for Blake’s personnel reasons associated with Hornswa….’

Ashby interrupted. ‘You are trying my patience Beaker.’

‘Taunton and Barr are places in Somerset, Barr being a small Hamlet within Taunton.’

Ashby sat back in his seat and folded his arm. ‘Go on.’

‘Trevor Hocking was at Blake’s stable today with two other vets, he tells one of our ears in the area after the visit he saw a horse jump a six foot fence.’

‘Not unusual man.’

‘A foal of six months.’

‘Ridiculous.’

‘The private investigator that covers Blake’s operation was watching from one of his hiding places, he confirms a foal jumped what looked like to be a six foot fence adjacent to the main barn complex. This information was very expensive.’

‘Blake knows he’s watched, why would be put on such a display in front of everyone.’

‘Sir there’s only one race a horse like that would be good for.’

‘The Grand National.’

‘Sir I think Blake is training a horse to enter the Grand National.’

‘That’s extraordinary, Blake hates the race.’

‘Sir your entire business plan for the next ten years revolves around the Grand National, an area Blake’s horses are of no risk.’

‘Hmmmph, Blake will have to train and run the horse for seven years man before its eligible, we could all be dead by then.’

‘Blake isn’t that silly sir.’

‘What are you suggesting Beaker.’

‘Blake is being purposely public, indeed the foal can jump, what if he has another horse that is ready to run. What if he intends to dominate the steeplechase industry, what if the centre of the aristocracy believe in him to say nothing of the public.’

Ashby put his left arm across his chest supporting his right elbow and rubbed his chin with right hand, he played with his high collar. ‘Damn the man, he has powerful friends, I wouldn’t put it past him. The walls have ears beaker, say nothing. Get someone down to Taunton, go to the pub in Barr if one indeed is there, see what we can find out.’

‘Exactly what I was going to suggest sir.’

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Kalika put Taunton in the meadow and joined Blake on the porch of his house. She was agitated, obviously concerned about something. Winston had made tea for them and some cucumber sandwiches, she sipped her tea and looked troubled. ‘Okay, what is it Kalika, we have something that needs to be discussed by the look.’

She looked down into her tea cup and swilled the contents around. ‘I don’t understand, my father knew he was ill and had not much more time. Why would he look for a little foal to attack such an insurmountable task as winning the National. I agree Taunton could be such a horse but I will struggle to carry the seven years to success.’

‘Some things we need not know and currently you don’t need to know.’

She stood up smashing her tea cup on the table. ‘For goodness sake Winston I am not a child stop treating me like one.’

Winston hesitated. ‘Sit down please.’ She sat down shaking her head. ‘Till just a few days ago you had no idea your father wished to infiltrate the steeplechase industry. He knew you can get no inside information or change anything without being involved and contributing, complaining in the corner of the pub achieves nothing. I still believe you need to concentrate on training Taunton.’

‘I want to know what’s going on and don’t tell me its nothing. Trevor Hocket has always been used to spread information, nothing more, he’s the worst vet I can think of.’

‘Everyone has their uses.’

‘By telling you certain things I endanger your life and expand the risk for everyone else involved.’

She glared at Winston. ‘You don’t trust me.’

‘No, far from it, I love you as my own.’ Kalika looked away, her eyes welled, she got up and ran down the steps. ‘Kalika stop.’ She stopped, threw her hair around and returned.

‘Sorry, being childish.’

‘Very well, I will do something I promised your father I would not do, put you in as much danger as your father and I. Your father wanted you to be the person you are, he and I have become retributive, we are dangerous and have stooped to the level of our adversaries. He wanted to die seeing you as he had planned and he did. A brave man once told me to defend is non progressive, its generally done without result. To succeed in war one must attack the centre of the military might of your enemy, destroy its power to engage in conflict and convince its populus they have been defeated with out further bloodshed. The national is war Kalika, nearly seven kilometres of war, and you need a special soldier to fight it. Your father spoke to us three years ago about running a horse that had already decimated their ranks and they feared.’

Kalika looked into space with an open mouth, she mumbled. ‘No.’

‘I gather you know who we mean.’

‘Pleas no I couldn’t watch.’

‘I may not live to see Taunton win the national, but next year I will see Flaxmead win it. Your father has been going to Taunton for the last three years for a very good reason, its just a cover. We have created a diversion there the authorities will be scratching their head about it for months. We planted the little horse there for good reason, we know exactly where he comes from and that he is destined to do battle in the National when old enough, Flaxmead is his Father. Flaxmead has been at Glastonbury part of our operation for the last three years. There was something your father told me while he was on the ground, its why he was so excited.’ Winston got up and leaned on a porch column facing Kalika. ‘I got no doubt he was on his way over here to tell me what he said, there is a course at the Glastonbury operation disguised as a golf course, replicates the National course at Aintree. The evening before your father died Flaxmead covered the course faster than any other ever. The fastest winning time is 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds by Mr. Frisk in 1990. Flaxmead covered the course for the first time in 8 minutes and 32 seconds on the day of your fathers death, tenth time he has broken the record in the last year, that’s what he told me. He will race this coming April, he will run two preliminaries two months before the national, from the time this is announced your life as mine will be in danger. Your father achieved this without laying a hand or crop on him.’

Kalika looked drained, was pail and her eyes were damp. ‘Who has been riding him.’

‘There is only one person who can, Lindy Cumberland.’

She looked down and shook her head, ‘Oh my god. I see them in the news travelling around doing charity work, only last week they were on show at Flemington in Australia.’

‘Doubles, been there for over three years, that good they could fool me.’

‘She’ll be killed.’

‘They wont see which way she went, the problem is getting them there in one piece, and now I go against your fathers will and endanger you with this information.’ Kalika got up and with her head bowed walked slowly toward the barn. ‘Kalika are you with us.’

She turned and walked backwards. ‘My father wanted Flaxmead in the National next April, best thing I can do is make as much of a show here as possible with Taunton.’

Winston smiled and nodded. ‘That’s the girl.’

‘We flat race Taunton in a year or so, he will be as fast as his father.’

Winston put his hands on his hips and laughed. ‘Well you’d know.’ Kalika turned and trotted off toward the barn, Winston sat down by his phones, he mumbled to himself as he watched Kalika skip along. ‘Forgive me Roger, for I have lost you but gained her.’

CHAPTER SIX

Kalika steeped back into history, she began to put children on Taunton’s back, put him in the starting gate and open the door to the words lights on, she commented there was no doubt Flaxmead was his father. She ran him around the inner rail of the training track with horses bridled beside him, in front of him and behind him. He soon worked out how to shot through gaps, he didn’t like being hemmed in he was forceful and in control even though he was only a third of their size. While she went about her business Winston had two enormous holes in his strategy, Kalika no longer managed Flax Burton busy with Taunton and the sudden death of Palmer created the biggest problem of all, Roger was the only one in control at Glastonbury. Blake seldom visited the property to keep the wolves at bay spying on Flax Burton, he had considered he may loose one of them but not both, one to the inevitable the other to commercial idealism, regardless of circumstances they were big problems.

Flaxmead had a bogus name at Glastonbury, the staff knew him as Trojan, a horse stabled there owned by the woman that rode him on a regular basis for recreation, her name was Julia Morris, she was really Lindy Cumberland. Lindy had been badly affected by the death of Roger Palmer, they were a team and had relied on each others talents to coach Flaxmead along. Two weeks had passed and Lindy broke silence and contacted Winston, at least she used her bogus identity during the phone call, she requested a meeting with Winston to discuss the housing of her horse. Winston was furious but held ranks, he immediately sent the mechanic to pick her up in the middle of the night. She arrived at Flax Burton tired and sad at first light, Winston requested she rest before talking but she refused. He sat her on a bail of hay in the middle of the barn along side Kalika, the large areas around them he was sure no one could hear what was said. ‘Lindy, we have left Flaxmead exposed, he has never been left alone before you or Roger were always there.’

Lindy still had hair way past her buttocks, her petit pretty frame hardly put pressure on the hay she sat on, she was as young and pretty as she had ever been. ‘I want to go home.’

Winston rubbed his forehead. ‘I need to get someone in place to cover will take a while.’

‘I want to take Kristy with me.’

Kalika looked puzzled, she glared at Winston then back at Lindy. ‘What is she talking about.’

Winston looked at Lindy sternly. ‘Don’t go there.’

‘You heard what I said I want to take my daughter home with me.’

Winston coughed with his hand over his mouth, Kalika continued to glare at Lindy. ‘Lindy I ask you don’t go there, leave it.’ Winton watched her face but she looked down.

Kalika was shaking her head at Winston squinting in disbelief. ‘She has a daughter, you made her bring her daughter over here with her, how old is she.’

Lindy was still looking down and muttered. ‘She’s five.’

‘She lives with you.’

‘At times.’

‘Where is she other times.’

‘At her home in Taunton, where she was born.’

‘Taunton, we were there couple of weeks ago, wait a sec, the little girl, her name was Kristy.’ She glared at Winston and asked in a whispering taunt. ‘Was that her.’

‘Lindy.’

She was still looking at the floor, her hair hiding her face. ‘Yes, that was her.’

Kalika stood up in a rage stamping one foot. ‘Would somebody please tell me what’s going on!’

Lindy looked up at Winston. ‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered.

‘It’s okay, things have changed that much I am struggling to fathom direction myself. I do believe you will curse yourself for ever if you run away from this. I always thought you were much stronger than how you feel currently. I’ll let you go if that is what you wish but I strongly suggest you rethink things, you’re very tired.’

‘I’m tired of hiding something I’m so proud off.’

Kalika stamped her foot again and swayed her head from side to side with a look of indignation. ‘Is someone going to tell me what the hell is going on here.’ There was silence, Winston held face, Kalika looked backward and forward at them. ‘Well!’

Lindy finally looked at her and smiled. ‘Kristy is your sister, you have the same father.’

Kalika was numb, she slowly sat down, she went pale. ‘Did she say Kristy is my sister, we have the same father.’

‘Yes she did Kalika, you wanted to know, now you do.’

‘I don’t know weather to hug or shoot you both.’

Winston chuckled. ‘Humph, same way I felt when Roger told me.’

‘How long have you known.’

‘Since before the child was born.’

‘You bastard and you bitch.’ Lindy began to cry in her hands.

‘Kalika, they loved each other, your mother had been gone for some time, I tried to get Roger to tell you but he had you on a pedestal, may have affected what you wanted to become, you needed him for that, he was sure you’d turn on him.’

‘I’m angry because nobody told me, in the fact that I have a sister I’m over bloody joyed.’ She knelt down in front of Lindy and embraced her. ‘I’m so sorry, was my selfish bitch of a character that stopped my own father from seeing his family together no matter how they were brought into this world.’

Lindy pushed her out to arms length so she could see her face. ‘I’m scared Kalika.’

‘Anyone who can ride Flaxmead around a course like Aintree fifteen seconds faster than the fastest time ever should be scared of nothing. Especially when I’m going to be right beside her.’ Kalika stood up and looked round at Winston with a scowl. ‘How do you plan to manage this mess.’

Winston stood up and paced up and down he gestured with his hands as he paced. ‘I wish I had another daughter but I don’t, but I have you pair. What are we on this planet for, we have goals and mine have not changed, I plan to bust the steeplechasing industry wide open. My perception is you have the same, or as women often do have changed your mind which could change again by sunup in about two minutes.’

Kalika put her hands on her hips. ‘Ha ha, very funny, not quite what we were hoping to hear.’

He stoped pacing and looked at them. ‘Do you want to win the Grand National.’

They looked at each other and answered in unison. ‘Yes.’

‘Would you like your sister here with you Kalika.’

‘Well of course even if I have to go find her myself and bring her here.’

‘That won’t be necessary. Lindy do you want to go back home.’

‘No my home is here, I have something to finish I promised someone.’

Winston yelled at the top of his voice. ‘Mechanic!!, mechanic!!.’ Within a few seconds the mechanic appeared in the doorway direct from the workshop next door.

‘Oh its you Mr Blake, thought I heard raised voices.’

‘You did, mechanic you have been promoted to manager of this enterprise.’

Mechanic rubbed his hands clean with an oily rag. ‘Oh I don’t know about that like, not over sure on how to do such a task like. I like playing with motors like.’

‘I’m not making you manager because you are a brilliant businessman mechanic, you have the position because we can trust you.’

‘Oh fair enough like, yeah I’ll give it a whirl.’

Winston laughed. ‘Get Belvedere to crank up the big float, he goes to Glastonbury operation and picks up a horse called Trojan, you take this lady with you.’ He gestured to Lindy.

‘Blimey you look like Lindy Cumberland.’

‘She is Lindy Cumberland.’

‘I saw you last night on the telly in Australia.’

‘Yes, and that’s exactly how we want it, you tell no one not even your family you have seen Lindy here.’

‘Understood sir.’

‘You will give Belvedere the same instructions.’

‘Yes sir.’

‘How many times do I have to mention my name is Winston.’

‘Sir Winston sir right sir.’

Winston closed his eyes and coughed, the girls managed a smile. ‘You must find a person to fill your duties, your first job.’

‘Know the perfect person, will be here this afternoon.’

‘I trust your judgement. There is a private investigator watching this place, he has several hiding places as you are aware. I want him scared off but no longer than a week.’

‘Understood sir.’

Kalika was tapping her foot on the ground. ‘And what do I do, baby-sit Taunton while everyone else gets a real job.’

‘Mechanic put Taunton in the float and take him with you, Belvedere and Lindy, don’t let him out of your sight.’

‘Right sir.’

‘You can get to it mechanic.’

‘Right sir.’ Mechanic shot out the door.

Lindy stood up looking baffled. ‘Why do you call him mechanic.’

‘Because his Welch and I cant pronounce his name. My burning ambition is to get that man to call me anything rather than sir.’

Kalika laughed. ‘I was there long ago when you interviewed him, you gave him the job because he called you sir.’

Winston held out his palms in front of him. ‘I knew his background he was recommended, was an excuse I used.’

‘Now what do I do, you just sent my horse to Glastonbury on a joy ride.’

‘You come with me.’

‘To.’

‘Place just out of Taunton called Barr.’

‘I thought you wanted to pick up your sister.’

‘Shouldn’t I go and get Flaxmead and Lindy get Kristy.’

‘Lindy is supposed to be in Australia, what do you think a sighting here would do for us. You were seen there the other day, will be just a back up visit.’

Lindy put her arm round Kalika. ‘Will be okay, I would jeopardise the safety of many things if seen in public here.’

‘Where is Kristy.’

‘Big house at the end of the lane by the Lodge.’

‘The place the police raided.’

‘Yes.’

‘There was no one there.’

‘Place was designed for people to be found only if they wanted to be.’

‘Who looks after Kristy.’

‘You don’t need to know.’

The float backed into the doorway and mechanic lowered the ramp. ‘The foal Miss Cumberland.’

Lindy walked to the stall, the little horse became excited when he realised who it was. He willingly allowed her to bridle him and he followed her like a puppy. Kalika smiled at them and Taunton muzzled her on the way past. They walked up the ramp and it closed behind them with a quick smile and wave from Lindy. The float gently pulled away. Kalika glared at Winston. ‘You have some explaining to do, do you not.’

Winston walked toward the door. ‘Come on, we have a lot to do.’

CHAPTER SEVEN

This trip Blake was focused on exactly what he needed to do, he took a more comfortable vehicle with state of the art communication systems linked to off the grid privately operated satellites. A Bentley four door sports, deep blue in colour, there was more that reasons of communication that he chose this vehicle. As they left the drive way onto the main road Winston asked Kalika to open the glove box, she did so. He further instructed her to push buttons on a remote device in sequence, it was the remote device for functions within the car such as seats, phone, sound system, GPS. He gave her a series of number and she punched them into the keypad. ‘Now push the big button in the centre marked ok.’

‘Oh goodness me.’ A computer screen dropped from the top of the glove box filling the hole in the dashboard and the glove box door surface opened and a keyboard rose from its womb. ‘Oh ah, well I never.’

‘Push the no 1 on the keyboard and then enter.’ She did so and the device in her hand beeped. ‘The remote is now a satellite phone, say over every time you finished what you say you will hear nothing with two way conversation.’ Kalika was wide eyed studying the screen.

‘Why can’t I use my own phone.’

‘Our phones have been tapped for years.’

‘Tapped, what the hell is that.’

‘Traced, listened too.’

‘By whom.’

‘Information companies mainly, they then sell the information to interested parties.’

‘What.’

‘Keep going, we need send a written instruction to Jack Prendergast in the UK.’

‘Jack Prendergast died just after Flaxmead won the Melbourne Cup, his horse Brazen Heart came in behind Flaxmead.’

‘Yeah but his son didn’t, his name is Jack.’

‘Oh, why am I doing all this.’

‘When Taunton Barr is old enough to run in the national I may be long gone.’

Kalika sat back in her seat with her hands in the air. ‘Wow hang on, I can’t do this alone.’

‘Then it will be up to you to delegate people you trust just like I’m doing now.’

Kalika gazed at the keyboard and hesitated. ‘What else is involved in taking this responsibility you insist I have.’

‘You are in my will as the benefactor of everything, including the empire Wilson Hornswaddle and Bartholomew Fothrington left to me.’

‘What about your daughter.’

‘Rose is not a morale person, I bail her out of problems on a regular basis. She is like her mother, she likes being looked after, nothing more.’

Kalika gazed out the front window as the Bentley whisked past everything in the outside lane of the motorway. ‘My dad would be ashamed of my hesitation and so am I.’

‘Push F1. Now hold down Ctrl and push 1 three times.’

‘The screen has lit up and I have a cursor.’

‘You are on direct line to Jack Prendergast, the computer will send a coded message, you just type it in as you would writing a letter.’

‘Type what.’ She sat poised ready to type, Kalika had a lightning keyboard skill.

‘Jack, load Flaxmead and Cumberland onto the first plane to Flax Burton that you can. Need them here in 24 hours. Kalika Palmer. Out.’

‘Why my name, he would expect yours.’

‘He wont be surprised we correspond once a day.’

‘Why would he send Flaxmead over here when he’s already here.’

‘He doesn’t know he manages a double.’

‘Should he know.’

‘No, Jack is a good man but those around him are of concern. You remember Theo Delores, the smiling assassin.’

‘Yes, what a terrible man.’

‘He was released from prison two years ago, he is up to his old tricks again, to give people information they just don’t need is dangerous. There is no reason Jack should know he is fostering impersonation. Adds to the quality of the deception and keeps him a lot safer, Delores is prone to extracting information by deception and he’s good at it. Can’t tell anyone anything you don’t know.’

Kalika shrugged her shoulders and pouted in agreement. ‘Mmm, sounds logical.’

‘Now press F2, you are now on an old frequency that was infiltrated by hackers, but it has it uses. We pass relevant information through it on a regular basis so the perpetrators think it is our main communication line, we have to do that, we can only send information that is misleading and of our benefit rarely. This is one of those occasions. Will put the hounds back on Taunton’s trail. Press and hold Ctrl then hit six three times.’

‘I have a cursor again.’

‘We believe it is a character called Beaker, we can’t find his real name that’s what they call him at TBHA. Any information we send gets straight through to Ashby. A check is made daily to see if they are still using the contact, yesterday I sent a message involving a new foal at a training operation in outer London. They wanted to sell a foal for a pittance to get out of financial difficulty, I refused to lend them any more money they are hopeless business people. Within an hour Ashby arrived at the operation with Beaker and purchased the foal. The day that stops is the day we change frequency again and that is dangerous, we have only had to do it once in ten years.’

‘I know Beaker he’s a nice man.’

‘Agreed but he is misguided. He will think it is a message to Jack Prendergast but only goes to him as no one within the organisation uses the frequency any more or the code which we leaked to him on purpose. Message, devastated to hear Flaxmead unwell, transport to Flax Burton immediately with Cumberland. Blood test serious complications, all resources ready to stand by his side. Winston. That will have them hoping around for a few days while we patch up a few holes.’

‘Why can’t you find out Beakers real name, he could be operating else where with his real name.’

Winston turned to her for a quick glance with a wide smile. ‘That’s a girl, we have found two names that could be him, graduate of Oxford, his appearance is easily distinguishable but we think his glasses are a prop. Close up of his face show the lenses to be solid glass bevelled on the edge only, makes them look like magnifiers but they are plain flat glass across the centre. Without them he would look completely different and face recognition can’t be relied on without his glasses they are so big. He also wears a wig, whoever he is he’s a clever man driven by money but I think that is his business education not his character. when push comes to shove I think he can be got at. He runs a rescue home for endangered race horses, must cost a fortune to maintain, no one knows about it, stumbled on it when going to pick up a horse destined for the abattoir not far from here. Was a float there picking it up, the float driver was most obliging, obviously unaware referring to Beaker as his boss. Later surveillance confirmed his attendance there on a regular basis.’

‘His real name not associated with the paperwork for the operation.’

‘No, its run by a woman, Christine Kent.’

‘Head of the RSPCA save the horses committee.’

‘Probably her yes, they find new homes for the animals, mainly children that have resources to agist but can’t afford a horse, investigation shows they do a really good job and are above boards. I have at times donated considerable sums, Beaker is aware of this, when the time comes he could be helpful. I also send form of our own horses, he uses it to calculate risk associated with betting, when we send the information our horse odds fall considerably due to heavy backing of our in form stock. Its always cash to unsolicited bookies so you can’t trace the source.’

‘Do I send any more.’

‘Press F6.’

‘I have a cursor already.’

‘Flaxmead on route to Flax Burton from Australia. End.’

‘Who’s that.’

‘I have no idea. Push the off button on the hand controller.’ The screen and keyboard retracted. ‘Put the controller in the glove box.’ The glove box closed itself.

Kalika sat back in her seat with her eyes closed until she felt the car slow and turn, she opened her eyes, she had been thinking of Lindy and Kristy. ‘I’m sure the police said they were looking for Kristy and her second name was Ballard.’

‘Yes.’

‘Why is her name not Palmer.’

‘Your father’s not on the birth certificate, the man who is was killed three weeks ago.’

‘If my father is her father why was this man listed as the father.’

‘My idea, to protect Roger and keep traceable information from you.’

‘Why.’

‘Seemed like a good idea at the time, has backfired badly. Barr is a very small place.’

‘We have to find Kristy.’

‘I know exactly where she is.’

‘The house at the end of the lane is empty, you sai….’

‘Things aren’t always as they would appear, she’s there, we do have a major problem I must admit.’

‘Such as.’

‘The person on the birth certificate began to blackmail Lindy, he had been her boyfriend and found out he was infertile, he then knew someone else was the child’s father. Sources outside my control found out, I assume they took care of the problem.’

‘Who.’

‘I don’t know, even if I did I could and would do nothing.’

‘He was murdered.’

‘No doubt.’

‘Don’t you think we should do something about it.’

‘Yes, make sure it doesn’t happen to us.’

‘The poor man, I feel sorry for him.’

‘He knew the risks, live by the sword and you will die by it, just make sure you have a bigger sword. He stepped on some very powerful peoples toes, Flaxmead’s influence and power spreads so far now to endanger his existence or those around him you invite attention. I no longer control how those things work but I try to influence them, blackmailing a dynasty is suicide unless you are one. A very clear message was delivered to the people of Barr.’

‘All the attention there, the police, surely we will come under scrutiny if we take Kristy.’

‘Rogers gone, something tragic, we must make what we can of the pieces, we break ranks and come out in the open. All of them will hide like the rats some of them are.’

‘You know more than you are telling me.’

‘Of course, or I can teach you nothing.’

‘What if the poor dead man was Kristy’s father.’

‘Your father answered that question with a DNA analysis when she was born, she if your half sister.’

The Bentley crept down the lane. ‘Place is dead.’

‘Always is, that’s why we came here in the first place.’

He crept past Oldbury Lodge, the curtains moved. They approached the mansion at the end of the lane, the wrought iron gates opened by themselves. ‘They automatic.’

‘No, the vehicle is transmitting a code, more than one reason we brought this vehicle.’

The wall in front of them to the far left of the mansion moved to one side. ‘The wall’s moving.’

‘Yes, things will go dark when it closes, don’t be alarmed. The security system will check the codes emitted by the car then.’

‘Oh, we’re going down.’

‘It’s a lift.’ The vehicle’s descent came to a stop and light’s came on, they were to one side of an open cavern. There was a Bentley the same as theirs parked next to them to the left, it was black, sitting on an adjacent lift. ‘Open the back door of that car and take the child restraint and put it in the back of this one.’ Kalika went to work. Two people came into the room through a door on the far side of the cavern, some twenty metres away. They were followed by a little girl in a blue dress.

‘You’ve come for her.’

‘Yes.’

‘You killed my son.’

‘Your son killed himself, what he did was suicide.’

‘I’m sorry about Roger.’

‘Kristy come here.’ The little girl walked up to Winston. ‘You remember me.’

‘You took my horse.’

‘No, I haven’t taken it, just put it somewhere safe.’

‘Can I see him.’

‘Yes, mummy is waiting for you with your horse. I have someone here you should meet.’

She looked around Winston’s shoulder, he was bent down on one knee. ‘There’s a lady in the car.’

‘No ordinary lady, she’s your sister.’

‘I don’t have a sister.’

‘You do, your sister didn’t know either.’

Kristy walked around Winston toward the car.

One of the pair stepped forward. ‘Kristy come back.’

Winston stood and blocked his path. ‘Stand back.’

The man looked daggers into his eyes. ‘You’ll pay for this.’

‘I can do nothing more for you, your on your own. Be out of here in a week or people will know of your whereabouts.’

‘We need a place to stay.’

‘Find one.’

‘We need work.’

‘Find some.’

‘People will be after us.’

‘Run.’

‘You bastard.’

‘I would say the same of you but I’d be praising you up somewhat. I don’t know the exact depth of your misguidance but should the need arise so be it.’ Winston walked backwards, Kalika and Kristy had been hugging each other tight in the back of the car she saw Winston coming and began to strap Kristy into the seat with haste. Winston sat down and hurriedly closed the door. Kalika kept one eye on the two strangers as the lift began to rise, she hastily secured the straps on the chair, she stopped in her tracks fixing her gaze on one of the man’s hand.

‘He has a gun in his hand.’

‘But lacks the courage to use it, he hides behind a murdered son.’

‘What will happen to them.’

‘Up to them, I wash my hands of them. Was Roger who set all this up. Good people live round here, we brought this here, up to us to fix it. Don’t worry, nobody will be affected by our mistakes.’

Kalika fiddled with Kristy’s seat adjusting the straps to make sure she was comfortable, she had her knees on the seat looking into the back of the car. ‘There’s a Land Rover following us.’

Winston studied his mirrors. ‘Green with a red haired woman driving.’

‘Yes.’

‘Hillary Barton, Grant Barton’s wife.’

‘She has that old man with her that was driving the tractor.’

‘Wilfred Barton.’

She turned and sat back down. ‘Should we be worried.’

Winton looked at his watch. ‘No, Wilfred goes to the pub this day and time every week.’

‘The police were looking for that woman.’

‘Yes.’

‘Why.’

‘Traffic fines, they don’t believe in having licences or paying road tax or anything else that involves giving someone money.’

‘They own all this land here, I think I heard you say.’

‘Yes, far more than round here, Wilfred came into a lot of money long ago while he was still in north Yorkshire. His son leads him down the garden with just about everything. It’s Hillary that’s the problem, her father is a powerful man.’

‘You know all this but acted like you didn’t know them when here last.’

‘I don’t know them, I know of them, to protect your fathers dream we had to monitor everything. I’ve been thinking about breaking ranks but we still need be careful. Running Flaxmead in a steeplechase will cause multi faceted problems. We plan to run him in a few very small meetings, I also plan to change his name.’

‘We can do that.’

‘Mmm, yes, some are underhanded, a horses name was once changed by deed pole as it entered the stall, by the end of the race it had a different name and everyone’s fifty to one winning ticket was worthless.’

‘Oh god, why.’

‘Money.’

‘Surely that would be challenged.’

‘No one broke the law, they just did something socially unacceptable, we have to avoid the latter.’

‘Equestrian horses have had their name changed.’

‘Yes, forced to change name because when competing in a foreign land if the incoming horse has a name the same as one already competing in the host country, it must race under another name.’

‘But there is no horse in this country with the name of Flaxmead.’

‘Ahh but there is, achieved with a little help from our friend Beagle. When Roger started to train Flaxmead here we thought of this, we sent messages indicating we would be bringing Flaxmead to run in the Derby again and that a risk was someone else would register a horse in the UK with the name causing problems for Flaxmead being unable to run under his real name. We suggested this would be unacceptable and we would abandonee the plan should this happen. The very next day Ashby applied for the name Flaxmead for one of his foals, as Flaxmead is registered in Australia and had not run for some time they shuffled the paperwork through without consultation. We hoped that would be the case, we will now apply for a different name to run Flaxmead under, we will transfer the name Taunton Barr.’

‘Surely that’s difficult and unnecessary.’

‘Time to have a chat with Beagle.’

Kalika shook her head wide eyed. ‘I just don’t see the need, just break ranks we’re used to attention.’

‘Flaxmead has to earn thirteen thousand pounds in steeplechase races before he is legible to race in the national. Can you imagine the disruption to betting odds, ground attendance, paraphernalia sales, they are controlled by few people, the risk of interference is too high. He will run the race as Taunton Barr and no one will be any the wiser until he’s in the stall with Lindy Cumberland on his back. Only then can he not be stopped and the steeplechase aristocracy will be putty in your hands.’

‘Surely Flaxmead would qualify he’s won multi millions.’

‘The public love a battler, when the story breaks after the race any resistance by the establishment will come back at them, and there will be plenty don’t worry about that, they can’t help themselves, was your fathers intention that he wins the race on the set path.’

‘I like it all of a sudden.’ Winston entered the motorway but he stuck in the inside lanes at a steady speed. ‘We are going awful slow is that because of Kristy.’

‘No, see the red dot on the screen,’ he pointed to a screen on the dash, ‘its the float at this speed it will enter the motorway just in front of us from the Glastonbury interchange, the float is tracking us as well.’

‘What about Kristy’s things, they would be in that mansion house.’

‘Hillary Barton will break rank in the pub with her step father, she will attempt to cause as much controversy as possible, ‘I’m sure of that, she is infertile and tried to adopt Kristy, she used the tact that her father was a drug dealer, true unfortunately, but in other ways fortunate. Drug syndicates don’t like attention, police, government authorities all brought into play by Hillary’s complaints, dead men tell no tales.’

‘The mansion, she’ll cause more attention.’

‘By tomorrow morning the place will be empty top and bottom, as it was when I first purchased it, some nasty people that handle those kind of things will visit the place in the very early hours of the morning. Indeed the police will raid the place but heat will go back on Hillary. Her powerful father has some skeletons in the closet and we no longer need him, Hillary will pay her fines that amount to many thousands of pounds or go to prison, possibly both.

‘Do I get to know whom this powerful person is.’

‘No.’

‘I don’t need to know.’

‘Currently no.’

‘Emm, they would know you own that mansion.’

‘It’s part of the Hornswaddle Fothrington estate, indirectly yes, acquisition by will would show no intent to acquire.’

‘The couple in the mansion.’

‘Are on their way to Bristol airport in the black Bentley, they will leave the vehicle there, board an overseas flight and never be seen again.’

Kalika looked at Winston, her left eye twitched. ‘They will be okay.’

‘Out of my control and none of my business.’

‘I had no idea my dad was like that, you know, would set a path like he did.’

‘He didn’t, other’s actions set him on this path, last things he wanted to do, you can change nothing unless you become involved.’

Kalika unfastened her seat belt and turned around on her knees, she fussed and talked to Kristy, Kalika noticed she was very intelligent for her age. ‘She’s far smarter than me when I was her age, not that I remember.’

‘Home tutored by a professional since she was three, never has attended a school, a point Hillary Barton used to try to gain access to her, brilliant pianist for her age, do believe you were a dab hand as well.’

‘Really, I think I did.’

‘We are coming up on the float.’

Kalika buckled back in, they pushed in the inner lane between another lorry. Kalika’s mind drifted. ‘Ever had all the things you love in one place and been affected by the only one that wasn’t there.’

‘Yes, on more than one occasion.’

‘Do you think all this speculation and planning will work.’

‘Things only work when you make them.’

They pushed on toward Flax Burton.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Beaker knocked on the door of Ashby’s office. ‘Come in.’ Beaker looked both ways in the corridor and entered closing the door gently. ‘Ah Beaker, sit down man, what do we have today.’

Beaker pulled up the ornate leather bound chair in front of Ashby’s desk until his knew touched the front and lent over toward Ashby. ‘Something very interesting.’

Ashby leaned forward. ‘Go on.’

‘Flaxmead is in a plane on the way here.’

‘What an earth for.’

‘Public appearances.’

‘Haven’t heard of any such plans.’

‘No all the animals appointments were cancelled in Australia, Prendergast issued a statement saying arrangements for appearances in the UK had been going on for some time, and finally agreements were now in place that were of advantage to the racing industry’s public persona.’

‘Must have been planned for a while, paperwork and all.’

‘Nothing but Blake is a very powerful man, paperwork just rolled up here and is in order.’

‘Deny entry.’

‘Would be public suicide, play right up the Blake’s alley, could be why he’s done it, would be outrage in the press. looks like he’s attacking the steeplechase industry, lets not play into his hands, acquires a young horse that can jump over the moon then brings his ace card to town.’

‘Mmm, least we can keep an eye on the bastard, I don’t like it, Blake’s a very smart man. Have the horse tracked from when it lands, never let it out of our sight.’

‘It’s flying into Bristol sir, will go straight to his operation in Flax Burton, he does have the best quarantine quarters in the country. This morning our man there was roughed up by some heavy hands, hired muscle no doubt.’

‘Ahh, trying to keep us away while the nag lands, see to it, change operators.’

‘We can do that sir but I’m sure Blake will find them.’

‘Surely someone has a telescope Beaker.’

‘Indeed.’

‘The press has asked for a statement on the horses arrival.’

‘Absolutely delighted to have the horse in the UK, will be a grand asset to the industry, we will be attending several of the appearances, further congratulations on the success of this animal an icon of the planet, etc, etc, etc. Get my drift Beaker, this could be a boon to us. Back it all the way, be sure we are seen to support this to the hilt, the public will love us as much as they love that damn horse.’

‘I was thinking the same sir, but I was also thinking Blake is a very smart man.’

Ashby got up, he walked to the window with his hands on his hips and gazed down into the street, he thought for a while. He turned back to Beaker. ‘Go up to his place tomorrow morning and see what you can find out, use the paperwork on Flaxmead and that other little thing he’s got Taunton Barr or whatever as an excuse, some loose ends, if there is none find some.’

‘His car was seen in Taunton this morning sir, our sources followed the wrong car from the premises they visited, identical cars but a different colour. The one they followed went to Bristol airport and two occupants boarded a plane to Spain.’

‘So we have no idea why he was there.’

‘The premises they visited is part of the Hornswaddle Fothrington estate left to Blake. It’s apparently un inhabited according to locals.’

‘Don’t mention those peoples names in here.’

‘Never the less they are the facts sir.’

‘Get up there in the morning Beaker and put your finger on the pulse man, convince him it was a mistake to bring the thing here and that we will benefit more from the publicity than he. Hopefully he’ll send the damn thing back.’

‘I don’t think Blake would be concerned sir, he would rather push on with a plan than stop because others would benefit. He found this horse in Ireland sir without any experience, and crushed everything in his path. I tell you he’s gut feeling is dangerous, he will put his head where you dare not put your finger. Why do we oppose the man he would be the greatest asset we have if he could be swayed.’

Ashby walked to Beaker and looked down at him. ‘Don’t you ever come in here with an attitude like that again Beaker, you’ll be looking for a job. Do you know how long it took to regain control of this organisation after one of Blake’s friends cut the place to pieces.’

‘I understand sir.’ Beaker got up and walked to the door.’

‘Stay there as long as you need Beaker, get inside if you can.’

‘I, I’ll see what I can do sir.’

Beaker left and Ashby sat down. ‘Indeed.’

CHAPTER NINE

Kalika had joined Winston in the conservatory next to the porch as it was a cool morning, She was followed in by mechanic. ‘Winston.’

‘Hallelujah.’

Mechanic chuckled. ‘The guard reports a man with a telescope in a van in an irregular position studying the operation on the far side of the training track amid the woods like.’

‘The regulars were discouraged yesterday.’

‘Yes.’

‘What a load of rubbish this industry is, thank you mechanic leave him there, keep me informed should things change. Around midday a white Ford Fiesta with a thin small man with huge glasses will arrive at the gate, have them let him in.’

‘I’ll get on the frog and toad and let em know like, oh that heightened rail along side the barn, we raised it to 2.49 metres as you asked sir.’

‘Thank you mechanic.’ Mechanic scurried away.

Kalika rolled her lips, her hair was still wet from having a shower and she threw it behind her back. ‘He could be an astronomer.’

Winston spread some butter on toast. ‘Yes and I could be front man for the Rolling Stones.’

Kalika chuckled. ‘Lindy is in the strappers quarters with Kristy, they would like to come out.’

He looked toward the barn. ‘Poor kid, she was pretty happy in Glastonbury, she was achieving what your father wanted, we bury him tomorrow, will be a hard day. Soon as the double comes through the gate she can walk around freely.’

‘Tomorrow, I wish it never would come, hey wait a sec, 2.49 metres, that’s the height a horse has to achieve to break the record for highest jump.’

Winston sipped his tea. ‘Very good.’

‘2.47 m. 8 ft 1.25in by Huaso ex-Faithful, ridden by Capt. Alberto Larraguibel Morales of Chile at Viña del Mar, Santiago, Chile on 5 February 1949, still stands.’

‘Officially yes, unofficially way off the mark.’

‘You telling me that Flaxmead has jumped 2.49.’

‘Daily.’

She stood up walked to the window and looked over toward the raised fence. ‘Then what are we scared of.’

‘We are scared of nothing the aristocracy is terrified, big difference.’

She turned back to Winston and put her hands on her hips. ‘Who is in this white Ford.’

‘Beaker.’

‘He called you.’

‘No.’

‘How do you know it’ll be him.’

Winston spread some more toast. ‘Because they can’t help themselves, they want to know why Flaxmead is here, probably some bullshit story about how elated they are the beast is in town and some minor discrepancies in the paperwork I put there on purpose.’

‘I would have thought Ashby would be the one.’

Winston chuckled. ‘Ashby’s scared of his own shadow and very predictable.’

‘Think I’ll join Kristy and Lindy for bacon and eggs.’

‘Then take Taunton onto the training track and keep the astronomer busy, be back here at midday.’

‘For lunch.’

‘Can be it’s when Beaker will pull up here.’

‘How could you possibly know that.’

‘Beaker gets up at six thirty every morning, he showers, has a cup of tea, then breakfast in the cafe street level of his apartment and reads the paper. At seven thirty he drives to 75 High Holborn, getting to his office at eight sharp parking in the private car park below the fortress they call the TBHA. This morning he will leave at seven thirty but drive in the opposite direction to normal, he will go through Slough, Maidenhead, stop for fuel in Redding car and himself, Didcot, Swindon and on to Bristol, 180 kilometres as the crow flies, a few more by road. He will stop in Bristol briefly to study his notes and paperwork he is extremely thorough and roll up here midday, a time he knows I will be sitting right here having lunch.’

‘How can you be sure.’

‘He’s been here three times and done that every time, he is a creature of habit and detests being disorganised.’

‘Well we shall see, ‘Ill be here at midday.’

‘I have a lot to do before then but will be here all the time.’

‘How can you be busy in here.’

‘I’m an astronomer, as you mentioned astronomers gather information and we have quite a few astronomers about the place, we would not want to take our eye of Saturn or any other planet currently or indefinitely.’

‘If we were talking about astronomers in front of people they would have no idea what we were talking about.’

‘Mmm, many good idea’s come from making a mistake.’

Kalika scurried away.

Winston was communicating non stop, he found the intensity tiring, phone calls, emails, monitoring and sending satellite messages just before midday he was interrupted by Kalika’s return. He stood up as she stormed in her riding boots clicking crisply on the granite floor. ‘What’s for lunch.’

‘Sorry I’ve prepared nothing got wrapped up in other things.’

‘I’ll pop into the kitchen, sandwiches and a cup of tea.’

‘Fine.’

Kalika strode into the house, she could see the conservatory out of the adjoining kitchen window. Mechanic walked in as Winston stretched and drew deep breaths. ‘The float has arrived from the airport sir, the vehicle you spoke of earlier is at the gate.’

Winston looked at his watch, it was midday. ‘Mmm, take the float into the main barn and close both entrances, let Lindy organise things Kalika will be here until the end of the meeting. Meeting wont take long no interruptions unless it’s very important. Tell Lindy we will be having a meeting in the barn as soon as this visitor has left.’

‘Got it govner.’ Mechanic left in haste.

Kalika came out of the kitchen plate in one hand cup and saucer in the other. ‘The floats here, I must go and help out.’

‘No, I need you here.’

The white little ford pulled up in front of the porch, Beaker got out and stood on the porch looking around, a folder under his arm. Winston went to the adjoining doorway. ‘Beaker.’

‘Ah Winston, how nice to see you.’ He walked into the conservatory after shaking hands, Winston gestured toward a chair at the table, it’s back was toward the window but Beaker choose the opposite chair, they sat down. Kalika came back out of the kitchen and placed some more trinkets on the table.

‘You know Kalika.’

Beaker stood and greeted her. ‘Yes, I think we have meet before.’

‘Cup of tea.’

‘That would be lovely.’

‘How do you have it.’

Winston interrupted. ‘Weak, touch of cream, one sugar.’ He smiled awkwardly at Beaker as he sat back down.

‘Yes, that will be fine.’

Kalika went back to the kitchen. ‘And to what do we owe this pleasure.’

‘Em yes,’ Beaker opened his folder on the table. ‘I have some paperwork that unfortunately has some omissions.’

‘Omissions, you insinuate we have done something intentionally. Omissions is if my memory serves me rightly, someone or something has been left out or excluded. The action of excluding someone or something, or a failure to fulfil a legal or moral obligation.’

‘Perhaps that’s the wrong choice of word, sorry.’

‘And perhaps it’s the correct one, whenever we see you Beaker it generally means trouble for us.’

‘No please don’t get me wrong, we are somewhat surprised that Flaxmead is being brought into the country.’

‘We are somewhat shocked, reeling and devastated by the death of Roger Palmer, Roger had a dream, an organisation to raise money for homeless horses. Is it not fitting that the horse he fostered to stardom be used to do just that and arrive on time in respect to Rogers very private funeral tomorrow.’

Beaker sat wide mouthed stuck for words. ‘Emmm, no.’

‘Is there anything else you wish to attend to before you leave.’

‘This application for the name Taunton Barr and the registration of the horses details, they are incomplete.’

‘We are unsure of the horses details, we have all the relevant tests done, and tracing the DNA bloodline should find out soon enough.’

‘I don’t think the board will condone this until the facts are available, the name will probably denied until this information is forthcoming.’

‘The the board will spend three years in the Old Bailey with a very public profile in a stoush about bullshit, you would be aware of the case between Hildebrand and board about the very same thing. The facts are crystal clear, you can have a name allotted long before the paperwork is finalised because it has been used to stall things in the past. We let it slide last time because you did, if you want a president regarding the point mentioned then so be it.’

‘Look I don’t think it’s that important, em could you just sign the papers you missed a couple of places.’

‘Certainly,’ Winston took a pen from his top shirt pocket, put the papers in front of him and signed, he handed them back with a smile. ‘Now people don’t drive all the way from London just to express concern of arriving horses or clerical errors, what did you want.’

‘Em, rather awkward, not really my choice to pry, I have superiors.’

Winston got up and walked to the window looking across at the holding stalls in front of the barn. ‘Ashby, he’s really something isn’t he. Really shows the blatant irresponsibility of the board. See that little horse in the stalls, he’s scared of it, can jump a six foot fence it’s six months old. It can’t even challenge him with it’s talents for six years but he sends you to immediately foil its prospects.’ Winston folded his arms and turned around.

‘So it is the Grand National, that talent could be destined for no other race.’

‘We have an Olympic show jumping champion Beaker.’

‘Yes I thought of that, Kalika has retired and you’ve done everything possible in that arena. There is one thing you haven’t won, the national.’

‘You’re not like them Beaker, I don’t know what your name is and I have tried to find out, during the course of that I found you are nothing like them.’

‘It’s easy for you, you have power and influence, I just have myself and a few people like minded, I have to be involved to change things.’

‘Easy, peoples lives have been taken and we have been attacked, persecuted, railroaded, treated with contempt and belligerence, In comparison the banking industry is a noble practice, never thought I would utter such words.’

‘If you just played along and became part of the furniture would be plain sailing.

‘If I did that I’d have a job, find something you love doing Beaker and you’ll never work again.’

‘You are dealing with rich, powerful and ruthless people.’

‘Indeed, tomorrow at exactly nine am I will call you, nine exactly. An above boards call, I suggest you answer the phone, you have plenty of time to think about it.’

‘The call will be monitored.’

‘That’s why I’ll make it. I bid you good day Beaker.’

Beaker gathered his things and walked slowly to the door, he turned. ‘The three million dollars, we are able to do so much with it, thank you very much.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, whoever you are.’

‘Humph,’ Beaker chuckled under his breath with a smile turned and left.

Kalika came out and stood behind Winston as they watched him leave. ‘That was nasty, was that really necessary.’

‘He has to convey things to Ashby, tis Ashby we are dealing with.’

‘You think you got through to him.’

‘Nine tomorrow morning we shall find out. Gather in the strappers muster room at the barn with Lindy, I’ll bring mechanic, ten minutes.’

CHAPTER TEN

The muster room was a place jockeys and strappers could go for lunch, planning meetings, pre shift briefings and sometimes even parties. A series of benches and tables in rows either side of an isle way, a big white board on the wall one end and a kitchen the other. Lindy and Kalika sat at the front under the white board, Kristy was playing on the table next to them with pencils and paper, her tutor was present but Winston had her leave for time out. Mechanic came in, closed the door behind him, he put a something in Winston’s hand, Winston put it on the table in front of the girls. Kalika studied it closely. ‘What is that.’

Lindy replied. ‘It’s a bug.’

Winston picked it up and held it between two fingers in front of them. ‘When did you find it.’

‘This morning we did a scan.’

‘When did you find the last one.’

‘Same time last week.’

Kalika shook her head with pouted lips, she shrugged her shoulders. ‘Why would you bug this place.’

‘Information, jockeys and strappers talking about form, they are asked not to use names but they forget, they have long days. The information is sold to bookies or anyone willing to pay.’

Kalika moaned. ‘Ohh my god.’

Lindy chuckled at her. ‘Been going on since Noah was a boy.’

‘Well the place is clean you sure of that mechanic.’

‘Yes sir. ‘On the white board Winston had drawn the Aintree Grand National course. ‘The Grand National is the ultimate test of horse and jockey. The race comprises two full circuits of a unique 2¼ mile 3,600 metres course, where challengers will face 30 of the most testing fences in the world of jump racing. It was originally designed as a cross-country steeplechase when it was first officially run in 1839. The runners started at a lane on the edge of the racecourse and raced away from the course out over open countryside towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The gates, hedges and ditches that they met along the way were flagged to provide them with the obstacles to be jumped along the way with posts and rails erected at the two points where the runners jumped a brook. The runners returned towards the racecourse by running along the edge of the canal before re-entering the course at the opposite end. The runners then ran the length of the racecourse before embarking on a second circuit before finishing in front of the stands. The majority of the race therefore took place not on the actual Aintree Racecourse but instead in the adjoining countryside. That countryside was incorporated into the modern course but commentators still often refer to it as “the country”, much to the confusion of millions of once-a-year racing viewers. Nowadays, around 150 tonnes of spruce branches, sourced and transported from forests in the Lake District, are used to dress the Liverpool course’s jump fences. Each fence used to be made from a wooden frame and covered with the distinctive green spruce. However, a radical change for the 2013 renewal saw that frame replaced by a softer, more forgiving material known as “plastic birch”, for safety reasons. Each of the 16 fences on the course are jumped twice, with the exception of The Chair and the Water Jump, which are jumped on the first circuit only. There is a hazard to overcome even before the race starts, the build up, parade and re-girthing prior to the off lasts for around 25 minutes, over double the time it takes for any other race, there are no stalls just a build up toward the line. With 40 starters, riders naturally want a good sight of the first fence and after the long build-up their nerves are stretched to breaking point, which means the stewards’ pre-race warning to go steady is often totally ignored. Despite it’s terrible reputation the national has only ever had one fatality, way back in 1862, but the attrition for horses is the worst in equine competition. The 474-yard long run in from the final fence to the finish is the longest in the country and has an acute elbow halfway up it that further drains the then almost empty stamina reserves of both horse and jockey. For numerous riders over the years, this elongated run-in has proved mental and physical agony when the winning post seems to be retreating with every weary stride. Don’t count your blessings until the post is reached as with the rest of the Grand National course, the run-in can and usually does change destinies.’

Kalika interrupted. ‘I never knew any of that.’

‘Nor did I until we started to train Flaxmead three years ago, if we were going to do this we needed to know things to the finest detail. Lindy has walked the course many times usually of a night. She knows it well and the lines she would favour during the race. Thing is she’s not the one running it, Flaxmead is, and he’s never seen the place, in fact he’s never seen a fence on a competition course. The course we have in Glastonbury replicates conditions but it’s in a series of narrow fairways with wooden fences to disguise the place is actually used as a golf course. The course fences are brush but the fences on the golf course are light wood and Flaxmead sometimes clips them they just fall down like a show jump. He desperately needs time on competition courses, he needs five starts and to win thirteen thousand pounds to be eligible by next April. Wincanton Racecourse twenty kilometers south east of Glastonbury was to be the first target, we set up in Glastonbury to some degree because Wincanton was close, Rogers passing has meant a rehash of planning. The fences there are large and in quick succession, only a two mile course, there is a trial to be run there in two weeks, in two days we will take Flaxmead there and run him alone, early in the week the golf course there is the only thing used adjacent to the track. I have hired the track for training purposes, under one of our subsidiary names, currently caused no attention but we should be ready for it. We load the doubles into one float openly in the yard, we load the other with Lindy and Flaxmead inside the barn. The doubles leave and the everyone will follow them, we then take the other float to Wincanton, we will then see how Flaxmead handles a competition course. The trial counts as a run so we need four more and thirteen thousand pounds. This morning after much thought I came up with what I hope is the answer to that problem, we won’t get much of a poke at this until they find out. In November they run a chaser at Wincanton called the Elite Hurdle, I have sponsored the event to the tune of fifteen thousand pounds for the winner. If Flaxmead wins it he’s there. Prior to that he will run two trials there, they are handicap trials for new runners both Wincanton, they attract no one but trainers. We are then burdened with two more races before the national, by then the cat will be out of the bag and they’ll come at us with everything they can muster. We need to throw as much information that is irrelevant to the plan as possible, anyone have any ideas.’

Kristy suddenly shouted at Lindy whilst scribbling with her crayons. ‘Mummy look I paint Flaxy.’

Lindy showed interest and showed the picture to everyone holding it up in the air. ‘Look Kristy has drawn Flaxy.’

Kalika took the paper and studied it. ‘Oh Kristy you are clever, I have such a clever sister.’ Winston grabbed the paper. ‘Winston if you don’t mind.’

He gazed at his and his face lit up. ‘Kristy your a genius.’

Lindy laughed. ‘It looks like a horse but I’d put it just shy of genius.’

‘Mechanic, the white paint we use to mark the lines of grass, its that harmless chalk based water paint yes.’

‘Yeah, has to be, can’t use anything that is toxic like.’

‘Is the private investigator with the telescope still in the wood.’

‘Been there all morning, not the only one we think.’

‘Excellent, please fetch a pot of the paint and a large brush into the barn.’

Mechanic shrugged his shoulders. ‘Can do like.’ He opened the door and walked out.

Winston sat down next to Kristy. ‘So you’d like to paint Flaxy.’

‘Yes I paint him.’

‘Good, your going to get your chance.’ He turned to the girls. ‘Paint white markings on Flaxmead with this chalky paint, make them small but clear, photograph the results so they can be replicated. Lindy put on a set of obscure colors, doesn’t matter who’s they are as long as they have never been heard off. Run Flaxy round the track just enough to warm up, run him till he sweats and the paint will run. Jump him over the raised rail outside the barn here. Then bring him back inside, wash him down.’

The penny dropped for Kalika. ‘They will be looking for a black and white horse that can jump over the moon owned by someone they can never find, will keep them occupied for ages.’

‘Such information is worth a fortune to a astronomer, hopefully more than one around at present to see the show.’

Flaxmead was unimpressed having white paint daubed upon his person, while Kristy had a brush next to him he never moved a muscle, they used her to calm him while they finished the job. Flaxy became excited as Kalika saddled him and tightened his girth, he wore a chase saddle, the flaps are more forward than a flat race saddle. Lindy came out of the dressing room. ‘The strapper’s tell me the owner of these colors has been dead for three years but his still registered.’ Winston laughed out loud. She mounted him and they stood back, mechanic opened the door and he flew out jumped straight over the track rail and shot off round the track. Lindy was unable to slow or hold him. She shouted at him. ‘Pull it up you goon.’ He attempted to run another lap but she steered him off into the lay off behind the starting stalls, he reared up and tossed his head around, she finally got him to head for the barn across the grass verge just before the doors she turned him and lined him up with the high fence. ‘Over!’ she cried. He bounded toward the track rail, she steered him toward his goal, he twice tried to deviate but gave up and launched himself over the upper rail, he just clipped it but it didn’t fall. She turned him soon after he landed and trotted back to the barn entrance, he seemed happy with his jaunt, the barn doors closed.

In the woods on the far side of the training track a man studying the performance took his eye away from the lens, he looked perplexed, he looked again down the lens, he withdrew wide eyed. He fiddled with his lap top playing back the video footage, he stopped it in mid flight over the rail. He lent back in his seat. ‘Holy shit I’m rich.’

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Beaker had been somewhat taken back by the confronting manner displayed by Winston Blake, a man he had always found to be pliable and compliant. Whilst visiting on previous occasions he had been shown around the complex and felt freely informed of the operation. An abrupt and chilling air still hung over his head, but not without relevance, he had time to think about some of the more interesting passages in his conversation with Blake. He had the felling it was just business that had stirred Blake’s recourse, he now felt sure it was Ashby and the establishment that Blake detested, and to a major degree Beaker understood the relevance in this resolve. He decided to take the call Blake had mentioned but was quickly brought from his trance on the outskirts of London in heavy traffic by a call on his mobile from Ashby. ‘William, I’m rather busy in traffic at present.’

‘In traffic, what in Bristol or something.’

‘No, I’m on the outskirts of London heading home.’

‘What the, please explain.’

‘Thing’s did not goe as planned at Blake’s operation.’

‘I want you in my office nine sharp in the morning Beaker.’

‘That goes without mention William.’ Ashby hung up.

Beaker warmed to Blake’s intellectual aptitude, he timed his call for ten a m, Blake knew Ashby would demand answers and be overbearing whilst going about it, that would put an air of disdain within him. Beaker contemplated the difficulty in remaining neutral whilst under stress and Blake being able to foster Beakers emotions with such a well timed call. Beaker still had the night to further deal with his mind.

At the mornings meeting Ashby was exceptionally aggressive, he attacked Beaker immediately he sat down with not so much as a how do you do. He threw a photograph in front of him. ‘Explain this Beaker, you are sent to get information from Blake, return after a brief discussion and I get this at great expense from some very handy friends.’

Beaker studied the picture. ‘It’s Blake’s operation, taken from the far side of the training track. A black and white horse jumping over the outer rail opposite the barn.’

‘Very good Beaker, this was yesterday afternoon after you left. Do you know how high that raised rail is.’

‘Looks pretty high.’

‘Two point four nine metres, a horse hasn’t jumped that high period.’

Beaker shook his head. ‘Kalika Palmer is an Olympic equestrian, not unusual to see a jumper being worked at this operation.’

‘Ashby folded his arms and looked at the ceiling. ‘Mmm,’ he nodded and looked at Beaker, ‘I never considered that, you think the Palmer woman is planning a comeback.’

‘I don’t know, never thought to ask.’

Ashby place another picture in front of Beaker. ‘This is the same horse before it made the jump, striding along the back straight of the training track at Blake’s operation, it ran like the wind. The riders face is covered, the stance of the rider looks awfully like Lindy Cumberland.’

‘Not surprising, she arrived at the operation from Australia yesterday.’

‘Look at the saddle.’

‘Forward flaps, jumping saddle.’

‘So you think this horse is the next equestrian find.’

‘I don’t know.’

Ashby sat back in his chair. ‘Based on everything what is your summing up of the situation at with Blake.’

‘I think he has a horse that can run like the wind and jump over the moon, riding by one of the most iconic champion jockeys on the planet and he plans to take the horse to the national.’

‘I want you to find out this horses identity.’

‘Really makes no difference, wont change the facts, if someone wishes to beat it they need a horse that runs faster, jumps better and has a jockey with the heart of a lion, to say nothing of the power to sway public opinion.’

Ashby took up his favourite position at the window looking down on the people in the street and spoke with his hands on his hips and back to Beaker. ‘Your really don’t know how things work do you Beaker. You find out about that horse, can’t be many horses registered that are black and white and have this animals profile.’

‘I’ll get onto it.’ He got up and walked to the door, just before he left he asked a question. ‘How do you know the rail on that fence is as high as you mentioned.’

‘Never you mind Beaker, just find out what we are up against.’

Beaker returned to his office, he sat down and watched the phone while in deep thought. Ashby had put a dent in his emotions, he did feel animosity but not just Ashby, he had become part of something he began to despise, he wasn’t told everything but had his suspicions. There had been a spate of poisonings over the last two years, one had been at Blake’s business, not long after Blake returned to his operation and took control. He knew Blake knew more than he was letting on by a long shot and such conduct would fill Blake and Palmer with a terrible resolve. At precisely ten his phone rang, was the switchboard secretary. ‘Have a call for you from a Winston Blake.’

Beaker hesitated, he had Beakers mobile and direct line, why would he go through the front desk, the penny dropped, he wished to have all know about the call. ‘I’ll take it.’

‘Hello.’

‘Ah Winston, nice to hear from you.’

‘Terribly sorry about yesterday, very early this morning at sun up we attended a small ceremony where Roger Palmer was cremated, we spread his ashes on the meadow in accordance with his will. We have been under terrible stress over his passing and realise Roger would have been horrified at my conduct. A helicopter will be at the Battersea heliport at midday, please accept an invitation the helicopter will bring direct here, we can have a chat without the stress of a pending funeral playing up on our minds.’

Beaker was wide eyed. ‘Firstly please accept our deepest condolences over Roger, bit of a shock for everyone. I would have to consult my superiors, I will only be to pleased personally but we do have some pressing issues.’

‘The bird is dropping someone off there so will be there anyway, we will currently expect you.’

‘I’ll do my utmost.’

‘We will be in the field and hard to contact so hope to see you then.’

‘Surely must be some way of letting you know.’

‘There is, when the chopper arrives you’ll be in it or you won’t.’

‘I understand thank you, will get on it.’ Blake suddenly hung up at that point.

Kalika was sitting next to Blake in the conservatory. ‘You think he will come.’

‘He’ll be here.’

The front desk secretary at TBHA called Ashby, he picked up his phone. ‘Yes.’

‘You asked to be informed of any calls made to us by Winston Blake, a man just called by that name.’

‘Who did he speak to.’

‘Beaker.’

‘Thank you.’ Ashby accessed the security data base brining up the call on his computer, he played back the conversation and as he listened wore an indignant smile. He called Beaker. ‘Beaker get up here,’ and hung up. Beaker attended and calmly sat before him. ‘You’ve had nearly an hour what do you have for me.’

‘I have a helicopter to Blake’s operation.’

‘You arranged that yourself.’

‘Certainly not, Blake extended the invitation, Palmer was cremated today, been rather hard for them, he is apologetic.’

‘Well get on it Beaker.’

‘You approve of my attendance, I have no idea how long I will be and we have this Epsom business coming up.’

‘I’ll attend to that Beaker, you get inside and see what you can find.’ Beaker left.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

Mechanic entered the conservatory. ‘There’s a helicopter on the front lawn sir.’

‘I am aware of that can’t hear myself think, can you ask the pilot why he can’t see the giant white H on the helipad.’

‘Probably new sir, we’ve had the problem before like.’

Winston suddenly looked up gazing into space, he thought for a few seconds. ‘Get the name of the pilot, view his ID and check it out.’

‘You read my mind like.’ mechanic raced away.

Winston stood up and walked to the window looking out toward the barn, Lindy walked freely around the wash pad, Flaxmead and his son frolicked in the water spray, he felt it was an uneasy calm before many storms. Beaker entered the conservatory. Kalika had left early and he didn’t know where she had gone. ‘Winston.’

‘Ahh Beaker so you decided to attend.’

‘Would be poor manners to decline.’

They sat down at the table, Beaker noticed the antics on the wash pad in the distance. ‘Flaxmead and Lindy Cumberland.’

‘So that’s really them, I have never been close to them.’

‘Oh, well can fix that pretty quick, come.’ Winston got up and walked toward the door, Beaker followed, they walked along side each other in the brisk afternoon summer air, there was the smell of fresh cut grass all around, the sound of pounding hooves around the training track and screams and laughter from the wash pad. ‘I would have thought you would have seen him close up long ago.’

‘I saw him win at Epsom, I had no access to areas currently within my grasp.’ As they walked closer he studied the animal, he stopped fifty metres short Winston looked around to him. ‘My goodness me he is an impending sight, Miss Cumberland looks so petit in relation to him, he scares me somewhat.’

‘Not unusual, he’s made a career of frightening people, other horses mainly.’

‘You sure I’ll be safe, I hear things, that he can be very nasty with members of the establishment.’

‘Frightened to find out who you really are Beaker.’

Beaker blinked profusely and looked around avoiding eye contact. ‘Perhaps.’

‘Come, if I’m not wrong you can touch him.’

Beaker approached the pair behind Winston. ‘Lindy meet Beaker, he runs a..’

‘Rescue operation for race horses, I know who he is.’

Winston looked sideways at her. ‘I didn’t know that.’

‘You didn’t need to know until now, I know Christine Kent, she manages the operation, she told me about him.’

‘I see.’

‘Miss Cumberland, so this is really him.’

‘Yes, you can touch him, rub the side of his face, he likes it.’

Beaker approached slowly, Flaxmead paid no mind, he gently touched the side of his head, Flaxmead blew breath across Beakers face, it fogged his glasses. ‘My god what an animal, magnificent, towering above me, I feel insignificant in his presence.’

Lindy began to brush the water from his neck standing next to Beaker. ‘You just entered the Flaxmead hall of fame, he knows, very few have been able to do that.’

‘You let me approach without being sure.’

‘He knows far better than I do, you would no more harm this horse or any other, he knows.’

‘No wonder he changes peoples lives, an entire country brought to a standstill every time he run, my body is tingling as I touch him. He looks in such perfect condition yet he runs no more.’

‘Winston chuckled under his breath. ‘You will never stop him running, he just no longer competes, he just did twenty laps before he stopped, pleases himself these days.’

‘What else is he up to today.’

‘His first appearance for the Roger Palmer Trust. An event in Bristol for him to show off at the showgrounds later this evening, will suit him down to the ground.’

‘Well the people will certainly get their moneys worth.’ Beaker stepped back from Flaxmead.’

‘Come we will have a chat back at the house.’ Beaker walked away along side Winston. Flaxmead reared up and scraped at the ground with his right front hoof with his head bowed. They turned around, Winston wore a smile but Beaker looked saddened.

‘He has turned on me.’

Lindy waited for him to settle, she looked at Beaker. ‘He’s paying homage to you, and asking for your help, you are indeed privileged. I don’t know why he would do that, but you do.’

They walked off toward the house, Winston explained what was going on around them but Beaker said nothing, he looked berated, indignantly embarrassed by whom he had become in relation to whom he wanted to be, by an animal of pure heart, his life was changed forever. they sat down in the conservatory. ‘Tea.’ Beaker was in a silent gaze. ‘Beaker are you with us man.’

‘Oh, em sorry, you were saying.’

‘Tea man, would you like a cup of tea.’

‘Oh yes absolutely.’

Winston poured a tea from the pot, he added cream and sugar passing the cup to Beaker. Beaker stirred the contents and sipped at the result, he put it down. ‘I don’t think transfer of the name Taunton Barr to alternate horses would be of any problem. There is a horse in the country called Flaxmead, it cant run around the barn let alone a track, was purposely named so to antagonise. didn’t work, the public turned on its owner.’

‘Somewhere in my operation Ashby has an ear, we can’t find who it is.’

‘Private investigators, they monitor the place.’

‘Mm, press as well we know about all that, we can’t find the ear among us.’

‘I can’t help you, I have no idea.’

‘What are you going to do.’

‘Have you ever done something you detested and been helpless to change.’

‘Yes, many times, prepared me for something I was destined to do.’

‘You were a merchant banker.’

‘Yes, without conscience I trained myself to survive amid the mayhem, in fact I for some time controlled it, just on gut feeling.’

‘What changed your ways.’

‘A horse.’

‘Which horse.’

‘The one you just met.’

‘Should I view this as relevant to myself.’

‘Something you can only deal with inside yourself. Had I not made a stand for change then my life would have been bland and safe. During times of dire hardship some statements in history could be viewed as outrageous when made. I was informed on one when under similar circumstances you face now by a very good friend. When Hitler had taken Europe in the second world war and amassed his army on the French coast to invade us, he sent a representative to see the British attaché in the neutral country of Sweden. The representative had been the German commissioner in Britain prior to the war. He stated that they wished to avoid further bloodshed and if Britain gave Germany a free hand in Europe Hitler offered grantees for Britain. The British attaché responded asking if he took two lumps of sugar in his tea or one. The German then went on the attack saying the Luftwaffe would like to flatten Britain in prelude to invasion that they could do any time they wanted. The British attaché, a placid and generally pleasant man was suddenly transformed in a split second and replied. If you believe we are gong to rely on Heir Hitler’s guarantees you are gravely mistaken, all these years in England have made you none the wiser. We’re not easily frightened and we know how hard it is to get an army across the channel, the last little corporal that tried came a cropper. So don’t threaten or dictate to us until you are walking up Whitehall, and even then we wont listen.’

Beaker was silent for a while. ‘You have a place for me here, I have commitments.’

‘I implore you to stay where you are.’

‘Ashby will terminate my employment.’

‘Ashby can’t terminate his right arm, especially as he knows we stalk his corridors. He can more get rid of you as I could Kalika or Lindy Cumberland, the result would be catastrophic.’

‘I’m not easy with it.’

‘You need look inside yourself, I can’t help with that.’

‘It’s deceptive.’

‘Reason is a tool that’s why we are always looking for it.’

Beaker had further hesitation. ‘Indeed.’

‘Two years ago one of my horses along with several others owned by trainers all over the country was poisoned.’

‘You came back shortly after that, I began to investigate the issue, I was stopped by Ashby. I continued in my own time, I was threatened and my mother was threatened as well, a huge overbearing man, I have been scared for my mothers life ever since.’

‘You know who this man is.’

‘He’s Ashby’s gardener, that’s all I know, I see him at the offices at times he visits Ashby.’

‘Gardner’s don’t go around threatening mothers Beaker, the misguided do. Mechanic!’

‘Mechanic appeared from inside the house. ‘Sir.’

‘Describe the man to mechanic.’

‘About seven feet tall, twenty stone or so, short beard, always wears bib and brace overhauls and a herringbone cap, black one.’

‘What does he drive.’

‘A Land Rover discovery, yellow one.’

‘Would be too much to ask the registration no.’

‘Registered to Ashby, I can’t recall.’

‘Mechanic, the person Beaker here just described goes around threatening senior citizens, mothers in fact. I sure you would agree that in the circumstances the only option is education. Perhaps the gentleman being of such stature has never experienced similar provocation. Beaker is going to need some help in convincing the misguided he is not alone, and if anything happens to Beakers mother he will be held responsible.’

‘Can’t be too many yellow Landies registered to Ashby, what accent does this man have like.’

‘Cockney similar to your’s, his voice has that lower tone you have to be a bison to understand the details.’

‘Can you attend to that immediately mechanic.’

‘Sir, oh and another chopper on its way to take the pilot back and drop of a new one, will be an hour or so. The charter company apologise for any inconvenience.’

‘Anything we should be worried about.’

‘Not sure like, working on that.’

‘Suspend their account until we have answers.’

‘Sir.’ Mechanic scurried away.

Beaker was wide eyed. ‘Man deserves a raise.’

‘Money doesn’t make him tick, Jaguars do.’

‘Then he deserves one.’

‘He has a dozen if he want’s another I’m sure he’ll let me know.’ Winston bashed away on a lap top. ‘You must excuse me a second getting behind with my responsibilities.’

Beaker finished his tea. ‘The pilot asked me a lot of questions.’

‘Keep talking.’

‘He knew who I was, I suppose he was informed.’

‘What kind of questions.’

‘He asked if I had ever been to Taunton.’

‘And.’

‘Had I ever played golf in Glastonbury.’

‘Does the TBHA have an account with the same charter company.’

‘Yes I recognise the logo.’

‘Your phone calls are monitored through the desk at the TBHA.’

‘They are recorded for reference purposes, standard procedure.’

‘Who can access the files.’

‘You have to go through personnel, quite an involved process.’

‘Can it be bypassed.’

‘Only with written permission from the CEO.’

‘Mechanic!’ He again appeared from the house.

‘Sir.’

‘Call Shuttle Flight, terminate their contract immediately, call Bristol charter tell them we will be requiring their services without delay, have then send a chopper to pick up Beaker and return him to London.’

Beagle was surprised. ‘That’s a hard call on a snippet of information.’

‘You going to tell him mechanic.’

CEO of shuttle flight owns several race horses, no prizes to guess who stables them for him like.’

‘Good lord that’s a conflict of interest, he could be censured by the board.’

‘Not much chance of that mate he is the board like.’

‘How much more information like this do you have.’

‘How much do you need, see to it please mechanic.’

Beagle pulled his chair closer to the table. ‘With information like that I could at least survive being ousted.’

‘I can supply you with what you need to know no more.’

‘What do you need Winston.’

‘I need the name Taunton Barr transferred to another horse without declaring it’s bloodline.’

‘It’s difficult but possible, for how long.’

‘Until ten minutes before the running of the national next April. You work for Ashby and you need conduct yourself in that manner or risk detection, indirect errors in paperwork is all we require.’

Beaker sat back in his chair. ‘Sounds okay, I feel like I’m doing something spirit lifting, I feel dashingly warm.’

‘Your sitting in the sun under pains of glass, remember the sun sometimes goes in and it can snow.’

Mechanic came into the conservatory. ‘Bristol charter had one in the air, just landing on the pad now sir.’

‘Off you go Beaker.’

‘How do we keep in touch.’

‘Same way you got here, Ashby won’t mind you coming up here looking for information. Tell him what you have seen, probably not quite was he’s looking for, he won’t be able to help himself. He can listen to our calls personally.’

‘What about the cancellation of shuttle flight’s services’ surely Ashby will put two and two together.’

‘Obvious shuttle flights CEO feels the pendulum swings in favour of the establishment, a mistake that is far too late for him to repair. The organisation he depends on has some serious taxation problems that as we speak are coming to light. Ashby will deduct we have terminated their services for the same reason he will be forced to.’

‘I’ll call soon Beaker, the chopper passing tells us he is about to land on the pad, mechanic will take you there, on the edge of the meadow.’ Mechanic had heard the chopper as well and entered the conservatory and headed for the door to the patio. ‘When you have dropped Beaker off bring the shuttle flight pilot to me please.’

‘Shuttle Flight just issued a statement to the press, they declared insolvency and are bringing in liquidators like, runaway.’

‘Tell the Bristol charter pilot to get Bristol charter to bring a man out to fly the chopper on the lawn to their base at Bristol airport. Inform them they heard about the liquidation and have seized the aircraft and wish to make an offer on the machine or return it to wherever the liquidators wish.’

Beaker had a question as he was going out the door. ‘Is that legal Winston, sounds a bit underhanded.’

‘It’s every man for himself regarding shuttle flight, Bristol charter just got themselves a chopper at a bargain price. ‘I’m sure they wont forget that. Mechanic tell that pilot he has no job and send him to me, we’ll see how cheerful and accommodating he has become.’

‘Will do Winston,’ they scurried away in a vehicle.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Was not long before Kalika and Lindy entered the conservatory, Kalika spoke as she sat down at the table opposite Winston. ‘We need to talk to you.’

Winston sat back in his chair blinking and widening his eyes, he rubbed at them then stretched his arms out. ‘Well you’ve done a pretty good job so far.’

‘You know what we mean.’

‘Yes go on.’

‘We have an idea.’

‘Linked to you being absent this morning.’

‘You didn’t need to know.’

‘Until now, pray tell.’

‘Urchinwood near Congresbury, equestrian centre.’

‘Next to the forestry and Cadbury Hill.’

‘Yes.’

‘You think it’s a good idea to run Flaxmead there.’

‘Not so much attention, no expectation of such a move.’

‘You want to run him through the forest tracks.’

‘I looked at them this morning, he would learn a lot there, about changing environments.’

‘Lindy.’

‘Not sure, would like to look at the plan first.’

‘Mmmm,’ Winston sighed got up and walked to his favourite spot at the window, he turned and lent on the window sill with his rear. ‘I drove them a while back myself, Urchinwood is a well run place, busy, plenty of people around. I assessed that running him through the forest could be disastrous, the place is too easy to access, anyone can get in there.’

Kalika questioned his thought train. ‘Whom would suspect it.’

‘You would have been followed.’

‘Not unusual for an equestrian to attend an equestrian centre.’

Winston folded his arms ‘Indeed, having thought about this for some time I suggest this. Doesn’t matter anymore that people see Flaxmead running about the place, we lost Roger and it changed many things. What is imperative is the transfer of the name, Beaker, and time around a competitive course under race conditions. I suggest Monday we take as many runners to Wincanton, run them with Flaxmead but he take to the fences.’

‘I have no doubt he will be seen.’

‘I too, not important, the aristocracy know we can’t run him with Ashby having a horse of the same name. It also doesn’t matter that we get him to the start of the kayos they call the start of the national under dubious legality. What matters is he convincingly wins the race and wins the public, wining the crowd is what the powers to be fear. They have to find a horse that can run him down, or loose, makes no difference what his name is at the time.’

Lindy interrupted. ‘I can tell you if he’ll win when he’s run Wincanton.’

‘You will be able to tell a lot more than that, I invited the trainer of Stargazer to train on the same day, they accepted.’

Kalika was wide eyed. ‘He’s come second in the national twice.’

‘And he’ll come second again this year.’

‘Surely that’s political suicide, they’ll let the cat out of the bag.’

‘They train with a horse called Flaxmead, they race against a horse called Taunton Barr, and there the window of success or failure sits. As long as the race starts with Flaxmead in it, then its up to him and how good we are at stalling the protest that will no doubt be lodged. Flaxmead can run and jump as much as he likes, it’s the politics that will prevail in success.’

‘What about Fields Flaxmead’s owner, would he agree to this surely he must be included.’

Winston looked down. ‘Dylan and Anna became very wealthy from Flaxmead’s winnings. Anna bought a business, Dylan however invested in a motor racing career, he was killed last year competing in Australia. Bob Fields was inconsolable, he signed the horse back over to me, he never wants to see it again. Anna is equally as devastated, Bob also lost his wife not long after Dylan’s death, she took her own life.’

‘My god, I wondered why we hadn’t heard from them for a while. I remember that John with the red car, he often said be careful your dreams don’t become your nightmares.’

‘Indeed.’

Lindy interrupted. ‘This will bring us closer together or destroy our lives, we must make sure we are remembered as winners. Roger would not have entertained the notion that we could loose. When my brother was killed in the saddle when I was an apprentice my parents hid in the corner as well, when we won the Melbourne Cup it turned their lives around and my brothers death was looked upon as a lesson rather than a tragedy. We must win, not only for us but the Fields.’

Winston nodded. ‘Early Monday we head for Wincanton, we must hold the line.’

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Beaker was uneasy when summoned by Ashby, the prospect of misleading others no matter what the circumstances bothered him, but the underhanded tactics Ashby was beginning to favour also rubbed on his nerves. He had thought of nothing more than how he could accommodate Blake without being directly responsible. As the meeting began he still had no answers. ‘Well Beaker, what have you come up with.’

‘Would appear that Blake has facilities to train jumpers.’

‘Kalika Palmer was at Urchinwood this morning, she was surveying the forest.’

‘She is an equestrian, not unusual for them to haunt such places.’

‘So what did you see at Blake’s operation.’

‘A high fence, extended rail along the edge of the training track.’

‘See that damn nag.’

‘No, well not close up.’

‘Sure it was him.’

‘That I’m sure off.’

‘Mmm, how would you asses that at a distance.’

‘You don’t see him you feel his presence, rather commanding.’

‘See any black and white prospects.’

‘No, I did see the foal, the blotchy marked one, the one Blake has called Taunton Barr.’

‘He’s up to something, must be a way we can arrange paperwork to fall in our favour no matter what happens. Bullshit to him give assurances on loose ends, whatever.’

Beakers face lit up, Ashby had handed him exactly what he had been searching for. ‘Blake doesn’t have the proven background of this Taunton Barr, we could assure him that we can leave certain things to one side until the information is available. He may run the horse in whatever, such an oversight could be used when necessary.’

‘I like it, gives us the cards, is there a precedent case that could disrupt the ability to control things.’

‘Doesn’t matter what you do, Blake will have us in the Old Bailey for three years to prove any point he believed in. Should a horse win the national, if it could be found that disqualification was applicable, it would bring him down on the day. Further antagonism with legalities and he would loose the people.’

Ashby got up and walked to the window, he stood with his hands behind his back standing up and down on his toes occasionally. He turned back to Beaker. ‘See Blake as soon as you can one on one, convince him things will be fine and the information we require has an extended moratorium.’

‘Blake will want written confirmation.’

‘Bring me the letter and I’ll sign it.’

‘I’ll get to it as soon as I can.’

‘You will go to your office, draught the letter, bring it to me, I will sign it and you will return to Blake post haste.’

‘You understand this is way outside of protocol sir.’

‘Get on with it man.’

Beaker smiled and nodded. ‘As you wish sir.’

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Busy Monday, before sunup things bustled around the barn. Mechanic summoned Winston to one side. ‘We have a message from Beaker he’s been trying to contact you. Wants an urgent meeting today.’

‘Expected, but inconvenient, have the chopper put down at Wincanton.’

‘I don’t like it sir.’

‘Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.’

‘We have another problem sir, the double wishes to return to Australia.’

Winston sighed. ‘Mmm, well she was whisked away at short notice, I spoke to her last night.’

‘She didn’t mention that sir.’

Winston shrugged her shoulders. ‘Just doing as she has been instructed, tell nobody anything.’

‘Makes things difficult here.’

‘Flaxmead’s double does not necessarily have to have Lindy with him, we can use a strapper, will be obvious that she has left the country, then no one will be looking for her. Need to focus on the positive side of difficult situations. Lindy is used to laying low. I know the double well, she will return in less than a week mark my words.’

‘They’ll be all over her in Australia.’

‘I spoke to Prendergast last night, he will do whatever he can to keep track of her. I was very busy till late that’s why Beaker had no luck trying to contact me, another thing that can play our way, we have Beaker put down at Wincanton Ashby will be assured we trust him with inside information.’

Mechanic looked around. ‘How many going to the track this morning.’

‘Thirty.’

‘Blimey, oh, I got those Ashby colours to the three jockeys you requested, they looked a bit puzzled. Tell you the truth sir so am I like.’

‘With three of his colours galloping about the place at Wincanton, he’ll get more calls about it than we do.’

Mechanic raised his eyebrows. ‘What if he sends someone to check.’

‘He has, Beaker will be dropping in.’

‘Oh yeah, eh, still not with you sir.’

‘I’m attempting to turn Ashby’s allies against him. If they think he has horses training here for him they may just come out of the trench, can’t shoot at someone unless you draw them from cover.’

‘That’ a long shot sir, Ashby can easily back check through his trainers.’

‘Huh, Ashby has no idea of the name of most of his horses let alone where they are or whom is riding them, Ashby is really our biggest ally because he’s an idiot. A smart man would find a horse that runs faster than others and train it to win. Ashby is hardly a smart man, he’s kept in his position because others are smart and hide behind him.’

‘Oh I planted the tracking devices and microphone on the ear like.’

‘You sure it’s her.’

‘Not so sure as have an absolute gut feeling could be no one else. Initial dialogue sent by the microphone when she got in her car last night was a relief. Not to the fact we are wrong but unfortunately correct like. She called someone named Brett, gave all the current form after the weekends races, talked about which horses had come up lame.’

‘Brett Hafflinger, bookie, would pay dearly for such information. Anything else.’

‘She mentioned a name, Reichmann.’

‘Reichmann, are you sure.’

‘Yes plain as day like, lucky she called while still here the bugs only good for a few hundred yards like.’

‘Going by what you have told me I need to know if this name is mentioned again as it happens, the Reichmann I am thinking of I thought to be dead and he is a very dangerous man.’

Mechanic pouted and held his head to one side. ‘Yes, now I know.’

Winston put his hand on mechanic’s shoulder. ‘Well done man, so you were right.’

‘Beginning to seem a bit obvious to me like, handed to us.’

‘Mmm, things are seldom as they seem, people out there far smarter than Ashby. Keep me informed please.’

‘Will do sir.’

Winston was about to walk away but hesitated. ‘Get someone to take the management role, you can’t possibly tackle all this plus run the place, short notice but things change everyday. Do you have another person similar to the one that took the workshop position.’

‘I don’t trust many people sir, person I’m thinking of is a lady.’

‘Well you have to work with her, I would like you to make more decisions without having to consult me should it be necessary.’

‘I am having trouble with myself over that very point like.’

‘I have the same problem, questioning yourself is imperative. You told me just about daily you had trouble while renovating your Jaguar’s, yet you have a room full of trophies, keep me informed mechanic. On return from Wincanton I shall be able to tell you if Flaxmead goes to the national, I thought we were on the downward but the name Reichmann brings alarm bells to mind.’

Mechanic walked briskly away and suddenly confronted by Kalika, hands on hips and wearing a distinguished frown. ‘Something’s not right.’

‘Please explain.’

‘This is a ridiculous adventure, thirty horses going to a track miles away when we have better facilities here.’

‘Do you see any fences on our facility Kalika.’

‘No I refuse to have them.’

Winston shrugged his shoulders. ‘Then we go to Wincanton.’

‘Move this lot twice a week, what a nightmare.’

Winston chuckled and raised his eyebrows. ‘We can’t run a chaser if we don’t have fences.’

‘So this is all for my benefit.’

‘There are thirty fences in the grand national, I profess to suggest this is for the horse we will be using.’

Kalika stamped her foot on the ground, her riding boot sent a resounding echo around the barn complex. ‘Shit…..I…’

‘Would you get in the float, go to Wincanton, put Lindy in the saddle of Flaxmead and launch him around the track.’

‘All this underhanded crap is really starting to….’

‘Annoy me as well. This morning is very important, I am saddled with making the decision on Flaxmead’s path to the national. Let’s not let emotion’s cloud our judgement. Your angry because you take a path so abhorrent to your nature you have a fight within yourself, anger is a far more useable emotion than despair, use it wisely.’

Kalika drew a big breath and took her hands from her hips. ‘I hate this morning.’

‘How’s Lindy.’

‘Raring to go.’

‘And Flaxmead.’

‘Pumped, he knows.’ Winston just gazed at her with a gentle smile, he watched her storm away toward the float.’

Wincanton race course is a rectangular configuration, the fences are close together, it is premium grade track surrounding a golf course just north of the town of Wincanton in Summerset UK. Races are run in a clockwise direction, the turf is premium grade and the going medium unless wet. Using the finishing line as the starting point for a single circuit, the nine fences on the steeplechase course are laid out in the following circuit pattern: After the turn out of the home straight, the water jump is located in isolation on the top side of the course. Upon turning into the back straight, runners jump the first plain fence, then the first open ditch, another plain fence, and the second open ditch. On the top side of the course, there is a single but tricky plain fence. After turning back into the home straight, runners have to jump three more plain fences before the short run in to the winning post. The sun was just begging to rise and some of Blake’s entourage had taken to the course, cantering and galloping using the outer rail of the course the only area without fences. Kalika had calmed somewhat as she gave Lindy a hand step into the saddle, Flaxmead immediately pulled away from her grip on the bridle, he reared up, Lindy shouted at him but he took no heed. The floats were parked adjacent to the outer rail in the stable complex, Lindy swore at him as he jumped the rail and shot off toward the first fence through several horses cantering along beside the outer rail. One reared up in fright and lost it’s rider, Lindy attempted to steer him clear of the fences to warm up but he flatly refused to change line. He completely cleared the first fence, he shook his head slightly when he landed and powered on, Lindy attempted to take control but he refused to yield.

Winston stood at the rail with his arm’s folded, Kalika was next to him with her back to the track looking down and kicking the ground. Winston watched like a hawk, down the back straight at last Flaxmead responded to Lindy’s requests, she edged him to the outside edge of the fences short of the outer track rail and held the line until the next turn where she cut across the face of the track in a gradual arc from the last fence to clip the inner rail with her boot then back to the outer fence line. Flaxmead held pace, Lindy felt he was lost having never run the course before but with subtle tugs of the reins and loud instructions he navigated a full lap in the exact line Lindy thought best. The second lap he notched up and upon crossing the line Lindy was unable to pull him up, she thought the distance was wrong and he was used to running seven kilometres around a golf course. He fears were bolstered when he suddenly jumped the inner fence and ran down the centre of the adjacent golf fairway. She screamed at him; ‘What the hell are you doing.’ She had a think looking back behind her as he powered on, he wasn’t doing anything he had not done for the last three years. She nestled back down behind his ears and began to steer him clear of pending sand bunkers, he took no notice and clean jumped them. He ran four fairways flat out before she could take control and muster him toward the gate that led across the track to the stable compound. The entire place had come to a standstill, including the groundsman riding a lawn mower on the golf course. He pulled the lawn mower up beside the float as they took the saddle from Flaxmead’s back, he approached them keeping his distance and shouting concerned by the aggressive antics of the horse. A well dressed senior gent in golf regalia with a refined plum in mouth accent.

‘I say, you pair, the management will hear of this, damn horse damaged the turf on several greens. You will never be permitted here again if I have my way. I want your names and will take the registration numbers of your vehicles.’ Blake walked up quietly behind him.

He held out a card as he spoke. ‘Identification as requested.’

The man turned snatching the card from his hand, he studied it. ‘Winston Bla…. humph, I’m terribly sorry sir didn’t know whom I was dealing with.’

‘I didn’t know you had to be someone here to be dealt with in a civil manner.’

‘As I said my good man didn’t know it was you, never actually seen you before but heard all about you.’

‘I do believe under the stipulations I made when hiring this establishment, firstly this area was off limits to the grounds staff and all damage to the grounds were covered by the exorbitant fee to hire the place.’

‘Look sorry old man I do apologise.’

‘You would apologise to a lesser trainer, one with one horse in a small float battling on a shoestring budget.’

‘Well I am…’

‘An arsehole and I will treat you as one until such time as you convince me you are not.’

The man looked at him in stern resolve. ‘Indeed, that horse is bloody dangerous.’

‘Chasing is a dangerous sport, he meets the challenge with equal aptitude.’

‘Humph, excuse me.’

‘Currently no.’ The man looked down, turned and walked away.

Kalika was rubbing Flaxmead down, Lindy had stashed her saddle in the float, Winston approached Flaxmead and stroked his nose. ‘That was some show old man.’ Flaxmead grunted and muzzled his hand. Lindy come over here, she followed him clear of ears. ‘What was that all about.’

‘He must run everyday, he was busting to get out.’

‘The lap round the golf course.’

‘He’s been running round a golf course for three years.’

‘He flew round the track what do you think.’

‘He held pace when he wasn’t sure but other than that this course is a lot easier than he’s been used to.’

‘Do we go.’

‘What do you think.’

‘Damn right we do.’

‘You get him on the line, they won’t see which way he went.’

‘So be it, take over from Kalika and send her here.’ Lindy strode away not long after Kalika confronted Winston.

‘So, looks like you will get your own way.’

‘Walk with me.’ He led her onto the track turf, they walked along the inner rail as horses cantered past on the outer. ‘I came to this circuit when I first returned, with your father, Gail was with us rest their souls. She was very much like you, detested steeplechasing. Your father said there was only one horse that could bring down the establishment on this one, and it just ran around this track, then tore up a gold course for good measure. Your father would be in fits of laughter. I used to love to hear him laugh, peoples laughter is more fulfilling than anything I have ever done, yet I don’t hear you laugh.’

She stopped walking and folded her arms avoiding eye contact. ‘Well damn it Winston I hate this place.’

‘Not as much as your father.’

‘Well… it was pretty funny when he ran the golf course, what did that man on the mower say.’

‘He thinks you should be someone before you can wreck something, that’s why we’re here.’

‘He thought it was okay when he found out who you are.’

‘Yes.’

‘You don’t like that.’

‘Remember when your father just broke horses in for a few pounds, was people like the man on the mower that stopped him from using his talents. Please don’t stop Flaxmead from using his.’

‘You’d withdraw if I disapproved.’

‘In an instant.’

Kalika looked across at Flaxmead being loaded into the float, she couldn’t picture it as the last time. She swallowed hard. ‘Not so easy when things fall on your own shoulders.’

‘Agreed.’

‘I want fences at Flax Burton.’

‘Tomorrow morning.’

‘You anticipated this.’

‘Easy to stop such things, time consuming to start them. There’s a trial here next week, Flaxmead is entered, from then on thing will get much harder in some areas and easier in others.’

‘He’ll be there in April.’

A helicopter banked toward the track and began to set down on grass adjacent to the stable area. Winston studied the aircraft as it came in. ‘Beaker, just in time.’

‘Why is he here.’

‘He’s about to find out the blood line of Taunton Barr.’

‘Is that wise.’

‘We shall find out who Beaker really is and so will he. Wind things up here and get the float on the road.’ They split up and Winston made his way to his vehicle, he gathered some papers he had prepared and walked toward the chopper, Beaker had alighted and looked around lost, he noticed Winston and walked toward him. They shook hands.

‘Strange place for a meeting Winston, last place I’d expect to find you.’

Winston handed Beaker the papers, he studied them. ‘I think you’ll find the information in order, completing the registration for the name Taunton Barr.’

Flaxmead’s float trundled by kicking up dust as Beaker studied the print. ‘He looked up at Blake with a look of revelation. ‘Are you sure, this is the horse Fl…’

‘For one of my horses, can’t be a horse called Flaxmead, Ashby has the name in the UK, another horse has the name but it’s Australian and has not run for some time.’

Beaker looked back down pulling the paperwork out straight with his fingers. ‘That’s a good point, in anticipation the moratorium was issued for a foal, this horse is twelve years old.’

‘The letter of moratorium mentioned no horse, only a name.’

Beaker nodded with raised eyebrows. ‘I do believe your right.’

‘Can you have that processed by nine tomorrow morning.’

‘Bit short but yes, why.’

‘Because that’s the time of a press conference at Flax Burton tomorrow morning. Wouldn’t like to tell any lies.’

Beaker blinked profusely, he fiddled with the paper looking up and down. ‘Just so I know what I’m dealing with, would this registration number bring up an Australian registered horse, big one, black with a record as long as your arm including Royal Ascot and the Melbourne Cup.’

‘It just may do that.’

‘You will have a lot of enemies Winston but good luck.’ Beaker looked around, he looked puzzled. ‘Most of these horses are yours.’

‘Yes.’

‘You have your own track.’

‘It has no jumps.’

‘He ripped the place up yes.’

The golf course as well, three of the greens in fact.’

‘Ha ha ha, I wish I could have seen that.’

‘Was rather amusing, but hardly a race tactic.’

‘Well I better head back to take care of this.’

‘Be prepared to find out who you really are Beaker, by the end of the week you will be a very powerful man.’

‘You have a place for me, when Ashby finds out about this.’

‘Ashby won’t survive this, they can no longer leave an idiot at the helm.’

‘You think they will ask me.’

‘It’s what I’d do.’

‘Thank you, thank you very much, I’m flattered.’

‘Will be the worst time of your life and the best time of your character.’

‘Mmm, beginning to see what you mean.’

‘Good luck Beaker, I’ve been wrong many times but good luck man.’

‘Indeed.’

‘There’s a steeple trial here next week, if you want to see the start of the show be here.’

‘Would that not be a conflict of interest.’

‘You’re in grave danger of becoming a good man Beaker. There again, you need not become what you already are.’

‘But I’ve done much wrong, Ashby and his cohorts have gained much on my account.’

‘You have done things socially unacceptable, not against the law. Nobody can be pleased all the time, first you must be comfortable with yourself.’

‘Wow that’s a lot to think about.’

‘Half an hour back to London in the chopper, a man regularly confronted with death told me two minutes if forever in a war zone.’

Beaker smiled and nodded, he walked away.

A lone man stood at the track rail outside the jockey club bar enjoying an ale in the crisp morning sunshine, a trainer entered the club, bought a beer and noticed the loner by the track. He also noticed the action over at the stable area as horses were being loaded into floats, a few still cantering round the track. He joined the elderly gent on the rail in the sun. ‘Nice morning.’

‘Absolutely spiffing man, just saw the maddest thing ol man.’

‘As in.’

‘I come here many mornings to watch the horses, live just across the way. First time ever I saw a horse run like the wind and clear every single jump twice.’

‘I train my horses here every week, that’s impossible.’

‘Not only that man, damn thing jumped into the golf course and ripped up a few fairways and greens.’

The trainer was wide eyed. ‘Sure your not seeing things ol boy, that is Theakston Old Peculiar your drinking, bit early.’

‘Right in front of me man, had a little girl on it with long hair streaking out behind.’

The trainer stood up. ‘What colour was this horse.’

‘Black, bloody monster it was, never seen the likes.’

He looked across at the floats some three hundred metres away, he recognised Blake’s logo just visible at the distance. ‘Blake, what the hells he doing here.’

‘Sorry not with you old boy.’

‘Any body else see this.’ His voice was drowned out by the chopper as it gained height from take off above them. ‘Anyone else see this.!’

‘Groundsman on the mower, he went and gave them a piece of his mind I imagine! Bloody noisy thing bugger off!!’

The trainer slapped the man on the shoulder, skulled his drink on the way to the car park and hastily cranked up his vehicle. He accessed the road around the edge of the track passing the stable car parks and across the track onto the golf course. He found the groundsman merrily mowing away and parked in front of him so he had to stop. He climbed out and approached the mower, the operator turned off the mower. ‘Ahh its you, thought that was your car, people all over the damn place here this morning.’

‘You see a big woman riding a small grey horse here this morning.’

‘Oh no man, monster of a black thing, bloody dangerous, ran all over the place wrecked some greens. Had a little girl with long hair on it, tell you what ol man she’s far gamer than I.’

‘You spoke to the people involved.’

‘Yes Blake, Winston Blake.’

‘He was here.’

‘Yes, left in his car when the helicopter took off.’

‘You saw the horse run, the black one.’

‘Yes caught my eye, ran like the wind.’

‘It took the jumps.’

‘Didn’t ever slow it down ol man. Girl was screaming at the thing but had a mind of its own, swear I’ve seen that horse before, cant think.’

‘Royal Ascot and Epsom, some years back.’

‘That’s! where I’ve seen it, was that Australian horse, Flaxmead, that’s it, came here and took the piss. Came back here only a few days back, was in the news, well bless my cotton sacks man, I was no more than a few yards from the thing. If only I’d bloody remembered. No wonder Blake was rather sharp with me.’

‘Jesus Christ I have to go.’

‘Something wrong ol boy.’

‘He ran backwards toward his car and shouted. ‘Only the second coming of the lord.’ He roared away tearing up turf as he left.

‘Good god, more work.’

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Was very early, the sun had just shown itself, Winston was putting a tie on in the conservatory using a mirror the reflection of one of the windows, a slight wisp of the heating system fan could be heard, the silence was suddenly shattered when the door slammed cracking the glass a pain falling out tinkling on the patio slate. It was Kalika. ‘I went to run the foal, they are digging up the track, they can’t even mark out a right angle.’

‘If you count it will be the sixth fence.’

‘Well you better get them to straighten it up and get rid of all the dirt they are stacking up one side.’

‘Beacher’s Brook.’

‘So we are going to have a creek running through the middle of the track.’

‘It runs at an angle and has over two metres of drop off.’ Winston continued to adjust his tie from his reflection.

‘Similar to that appalling thing that horses are killed on at Aintree.’

‘Jockey’s say its like falling off the end of the earth, and yes it’s identical to that very spot you refer too.’

‘How do you expect us to run the herd with all that going on, you could have at least told me.’

‘Would have made a difference would it.’

‘Well yes.’

‘I feel it would have just changed the timing of your tantrum.’

‘Oh, oh, really, you are becoming impossible.’

‘All the work will be finished by mid this afternoon, could you use the grass shoulder around the edge of the track, it was designed like that so if work needed to be done on the track we could still run horses, was your fathers idea.’

‘Well I suppose I’ll have to won’t I.’ She opened the door and stormed out her boots crushing glass as she caught it between her soles and the slate, she again slammed the door breaking more glass and stormed off toward the barn.’

Mechanic came in surveying the damage. ‘I’ll call a glazier like.’

Winston was putting on his suit jacket at the table. ‘Replace both doors with solid one’s, no view out of them anyway.’

‘Miss Palmer not very happy.’

‘She’s having trouble aligning her goals and how to achieve them, loosing your father and your scruples all in the same week would be difficult.’

Mechanic grimaced stepping across the broken grass. ‘Some good news and some bad news sir.’

Winston chuckled. ‘Thanks for the heads up.’

‘The three journalists you invited are attending this morning.’

‘Excellent.’

‘We have a request to attend from thirty seven others.’

Winston suddenly looked at mechanic in serous mode. ‘What an earth, the one’s I invited have no idea what to expect.’

‘I have it on good authority this morning that someone at Wincanton put two and two together like.’

Winston sat down with one elbow on the table and rubbed his forehead with his hand. ‘Deny access to all but whom I requested.’

‘I have an email containing a horse registration from Beaker sir, the horse is listed as Taunton Barr, twelve year old black stallion, the ID chip listed is that of Flaxmead’s.’

‘Well what was the bad news.’

‘Kalika sacked the ear this morning.’

‘Good grief, she’s never done such a thing before.’

‘Not a good look at this particular time sir, you want for I should call her back.’

‘No, lord preserve, Kalika must have had a good reason.’

‘I have no idea sir.’

‘Leave it mechanic, concentrate on having the contractors off the track by lunch time, or hold the glazier.’

Mechanic looked away and laughed. ‘Sir, there’s allot of people out there sir, security are freaking out.’

‘External surveillance has been bolstered to cope.’

‘As you requested sir.’

Winston looked directly at mechanic. ‘I wish for one day that my friends call me Winston, not sir because they are frightened of power and money.’

‘You know I would have trouble with that like, was the army sir. If I died tomorrow sir I have achieved all I wished, most with your help.’

‘You would have done that anyway just not here.’

‘Sorry sir but I don’t agree with you.’

‘Your attitude is appreciated and rather humbling mechanic, I would appreciate my given name being used in conversation, gives a different air about things in public.’

Mechanic hesitated. ‘I’ll try my best Winston, never thought of it that way. Another thing, the double was picked up at the airport before Prendergast could find her.’

‘Her family.’

‘No, bloke called Theo Delores.’

Winston’s face cringed with disapproval. ‘You sure.’

‘That’s the information forwarded by Prendergast like, is there reason he would lie.’

‘Leave it with me, concentrate on things at hand this morning, the guards are armed.’

‘Not comfortable with that actually Winston.’

Winston again sighed and rubbed his forehead, he lent back in his chair. He put both hands on his head flattening his hair then rubbed both upper legs with his palms. ‘There are some nasty people out there mechanic, stick with the plan for this day anyway.’

‘Can we keep them well in the background.’

‘No, you have mentioned Reichmann, Delores, not saying they mean anything but those whom ignore the past are destined to repeat it. They flank Flaxmead and press correspondence must reflect that position even if it is never repeated.’ Winston stood up. ‘We’ll get one shot at this mechanic, because that’s all I’ll allow Lindy and Flaxmead to go through.’

‘They seem to revel in it like.’

‘Yes, I suppose your nerves can take it if mine can.’

‘I’ve never seen this horse run over jumps, but my gut says it’s all over bar the shouting, he scares the crap out of me sometimes.’

Winston chuckled away, the gave a big sigh. ‘If he wasn’t born to it I would have stopped this long ago, Lindys the same, if you have any ideas when this is all over I’m all ears.’

Mechanic shook his head. ‘Those girls have an iron will, would be a surer bet for me if I married my old drill sergeant.’

‘Seriously mechanic you hit a hot spot there, without her father Kalika has no male authority. She knows I worship the ground they both walk on but I can’t replace her father for her or Lindy.’

‘I’m well out of order if I gave advice there like, I sometimes play dangerous sports like disagreeing with my wife but very seldom like if you get my drift.’

Winston laughed out loud. ‘We need get to it, I have a lot to cover with correspondence here this morning before the press conference. Ten o’clock on the dot.’

‘Was nine.’

‘Will be conveniently late, gives more time for the journalists to nose around then ask questions you may want to answer.’

‘Ten it is then.’ Mechanic headed for the barn and Winston got his head down.

Mechanic was drawn to raised voices within the barn office complex, he peered through the window that overlooked the few stables within that part of the complex, he was careful to avoid being seen using one eye for a few seconds to confirm it was Lindy and Kalika. They stood toe to toe Lindy let out a tirade. ‘It’s hard for everyone Kalika, you can’t run horses around the training track just part of one day just how you like it, and everyone’s wrong.’

‘I’m wondering if this is all really worth it.’

‘Well why don’t you go home and stay there.’

‘You bitch, you don’t know your place.’

‘My place is clear as clear, now get out of my way so I can get on with it.’

‘Horses will run when I say so.’

Lindy punched Kalika square in the face, she went down after hitting the wall and landed on her rear end, she looked stunned. She wiped a trickle of blood from her nose then looked up at Lindy, she slowly got to her feet after Lindy offered her hand and she took it. She mumbled. ‘What’s happening to me.’

‘You’re turning on yourself and everyone else in the process.’

Mechanic knocked on the door, Kalika turned away Lindy responded. ‘Come in.’

Mechanic put his head in the door. ‘We have staff waiting for instructions and horses need to be run, the civil workers need your opinion on the track Lindy for the civil works to match the training program, you know more about Aintree than anyone.’

Lindy looked at Kalika with a scowl, Kalika avoided eye contact, Lindy walked toward the door. ‘Yes I’m on my way, excuse me.’

Mechanic remained at the door. ‘You need some assistance Kalika.’

Kalika did not look round, she adjusted the belt on her riding pants. ‘No, I need to pull myself together.’

‘Not unusual to battle with the hardest times of your life like.’

‘Thank you mechanic, ‘I’ll be running the foal, be out right behind you.’

Mechanic left the door open and walked away.

Winston looked at this watch and time had caught up with him, it was almost ten. He viewed himself in the window reflection and went to the bathroom to freshen up before attending the barn for the press conference. Mechanic caught him just prior to entering the barn. ‘Quite a few problems at the gate, some of the journos have travelled quite a way and not happy like, when they were refused entry.’

‘Mmm, the three invites.’

‘Have been in the barn for an hour, they walked to the side of the track for a while and did ask some questions but no answers from anyone as you requested. They have all been making lots of notes.’

‘Is Lindy ready.’

‘Yes, you should know Lindy and Kalika had quite a tiff early this morning.’

Winston raised his eyebrows and tipped his head to one side. ‘How much of a tiff.’

‘I do believe Lindy gave Kalika one up the bracket like.’

‘Good lord are you sure.’

‘She’s hiding her face and haven’t seen her since she started to run the foal, she was talking to the crews doing the civil work on the track Lindy was with her at one stage.’

‘Things are about to get very public and difficult, not a good time for such things but these things never are. Well let’s get on with it.’ They walked around the corner of the barn door and up the aisle of stables, three people were looking into a horse stall and walked toward Winston as soon as they saw him. Two males and a female. The female was freelance journalist Lee Hayford, she had covered Flaxmead’s career from the very first meeting ten years back. Hayford knew Lindy Cumberland well, Winston noted she had never written a word that was not fact. The other two were young pretentious artists of deception from media mogul’s that once controlled Fleet Street. Since this bastion of paper power had fallen, the controllers of these puppets were hard to find, in some cases Winston found impossible. He intended they be the perpetrators of their own doom, the bait was too much for the younger of the two, Grant Balderdash, when within audible array without so much as a how do you do he spoke. ‘Big place must cost a lot of money to operate, all your money is it,’ he peered down at his notes. ‘Err… Mr Blake.’ Dressed in a shinny multi colour thread suit, collar length black hair and orange shirt his face glowing with his age of twenty two.

‘Yes.’ Winston pushed passed him and took Lee’s hand gently kissing it and then looking directly at her with a smile. ‘Lee how wonderful to see you, been some years.’ Lee said nothing she wore a shimmering smile and a slight blush, her long blonde hair flowing over the shoulder straps of a pretty blue summer dress. The second male was the son of an aristocrat, educated at Cambridge he was less than impressed with his counterparts attempt to intimidate Blake. Levin Graceless wore a standard black suit, white shirt and black tie, he had a long thin face, short fair hair and was over six feet tall.

‘I say old boy, perhaps you should introduce your self old man, not the approach I feel is warranted by anyone of our genre.’ He extended his hand to Blake. ‘Levin sir, my father has told me so much about you, I am honoured.’ Winston took his hand and shook it with a firm stance.’

‘By all means call me Winston.’

Balderdash interrupted. ‘Winston, just how….’

Winston raised his voice. ‘Mr Blake.’

Lee Hayford stood behind them with a wide smile. ‘Winston, to bring me here all the way from Australia, must be something big, may I be as so forward as to ask what.’

‘Mechanic.!’ from the track side of the barn, through the door, mechanic walked in front of Flaxmead with Lindy on board, behind them was a security guard each side, they were obviously armed. TheY walked the fifty metres stopping just short of the gathered.

Balderdash made an immediate comment. ‘Big black horse, you have lots of them here.’

Graceless was interested. ‘I say, what a magnificent animal.’

Winston watched Lee’s face. ‘May I present Taunton Barr, this horse will run in the grand national in April.’ Lee dropped her head, raised her eyebrows and folded her arms. ‘Taunton Barr is a twelve year old, he will be ridden by Lindy Cumberland.’ Lee raised her pen. ‘Lee you have a question already, I was hoping to finish before answering any questions.’

‘Pardon me for saying Winston but I have this feeling of deja vu.’

‘There is already a horse in this country with the name you are thinking of.’

She nodded. ‘Please continue.’

‘With the recent death of Roger Palmer, it was a goal of his to take a horse to the winning post of the grand national.’

Levin was curious. ‘Why.’

Lee Hayford interrupted. ‘To bring down the establishment and gain control of a race that he absolutely detested.’

‘During the course of being involved in something one can influence change Lee.’

Balderdash again interrupted. ‘The grand national pays one million pounds to the winner, would that not be your motivation.’

‘No.’

‘Must cost a fortune to run this place, surely you must need the money to keep going.’

‘No, we get by ourselves.’

‘Your winnings must be substantial then.’

‘Our prize money goes to charity.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘The only thing you’ve said that I believe.’

‘I don’t know why you should invite me.’

‘I don’t know why you came.’

‘I’m a journalist, I write about current affairs for the public.’

‘That’s why you were invited.’

‘I know little about horse racing.’

‘Then we will get a fair appraisal of facts from different angles. Your appraisal will appear on the front page because it’s controversial, Lee’s will appear on the back page because it’s factual and informative.’

‘You saying I’m into gutter journalism.’

‘I’m saying your an arse hole and will treat you as such until you convince me otherwise.’

‘How dare you.’

Levin interrupted. ‘Terribly sorry ol man but I agree with Winston, I have done a lot of homework on coming here and relish the opportunity to cover this story.’

‘I know nothing of any of this, can’t understand why I was invited, I see no reason to stay if your not going to answer my questions.’

Winston remained calm. ‘Ask away.’

‘You laundering money here.’

‘Mechanic know of any money laundering on the premises.’

‘Err, only yesterday Winston, had to wash a five quid note I handled whilst working on one of my car engines, was very greasy but managed to clean it up before I used it at the chemist in town like.’

Everyone bar Balderdash was laughing. ‘This is ridiculous, unless you answer my questions seriously I see no reason to remain here.’

‘Without questions of relevance I see no reason for facts.’

‘This place is nothing more than a melting pot of money laundered via legitimate transactions via betting agencies and race fixtures backed up by the banking industry disguised as an operation as flamboyant as Robin Hood.’

Winston shook his head. ‘No.’

‘Well this is pointless.’

‘Can you table one fact that would support your claims.’

‘Look everyone knows what’s going on here.’

‘Name one.’ Balderdash was silent. ‘Mechanic escort Mr Balderdash to the gate, contact the organisation he works with and inform them he is no longer welcome here.’ Balderdash stormed out followed by mechanic.

Lee Hayford was giggling under her breath. ‘Really Winston, that poor boy had no chance, you planned that.’

‘We have a very angry young man.’

‘He came here angry.’

‘Anger is a far more useful emotion than misery.’

‘I’ve heard that before.’

Levin spoke. ‘I have a few questions if I may Winston, I’ve not struck that journalist before I must apologise for his behaviour.’

‘Why apologise for something I encouraged.’

‘Emm, has this horse won a steeplechase before.’

‘No.’

Levin looked puzzled. ‘But you claim it will win the national.’

‘Yes.’

‘On what grounds do you make these claims.’

Lindy had walked Flaxmead out of the barn through the track side door. ‘Come this way,’ They walked to the door overlooking the track. Flaxmead suddenly appeared from the left of the door being galloped across the courtyard and cleared the high part of the outer track fence, he then reared up, ran at the fence and cleared it again, he thundered off around the extreme outside of the track rail. They walked forwards for further view, Levin watched with a look of pure concentration.

‘The things you have just seen are facts not claims.’

‘Could I be so brazen as to suggest that is a horse called Flaxmead.’

‘The horses name is Taunton Barr, there is a horse in the UK with the name Flaxmead.’

Lee interrupted. ‘Couldn’t run out of sight on a sunny day.’

‘I do believe that horse is part of the Ashby stable.’

Winston unfolded a document he retrieved from his suit coat pocket, he opened it out and handed it to Levin. ‘This horses name is Taunton Barr as you can see.’

Levin studied the document. ‘Well this is in order.’ He handed it to Lee.

Lee studied it then looked sternly at Winston. ‘I know that ID chip number off by heart Winston.’

‘Would appear it is that of a horse called Taunton Barr.’

Levin was beaming with delight. ‘Do you really think he can win it.’

Lee interrupted. ‘I would say do you really think he could loose, how high is that extended track fence.’

‘Two point four nine metres.’

‘So I just saw a horse jump higher than the highest recorded jump ever made and that was by an equestrian.’

‘Yes, they are the facts at hand.’

‘It’s now thundering around the track looking awfully like Flaxmead and enjoying every minute of it.’

‘Why do it this way Winston, you could defeat the establishments rorting of the name with a letter.’

‘When you play lumberjacks, you have to handle your end of the log. At no time would I drop my end due to politics.’

‘You really think he can win it.’

‘Yes.’

‘But he’s done everything.’

‘Some would say the sky is the limit, when there are footprints on the moon. We see the sky everyday, the opportunity to put footprints on the moon are rare, mostly thwarted by lack of money and politics. When they come we should embrace them.’

‘When’s he’s first run.’

‘Trial next week, Wincanton.’

‘Word is he ran there recently.’

‘True.’

‘How did he go.’

‘He was unsure of the track.’

‘Word is someone got a watch on him and thought something was wrong with his watch.’

‘Was a lot of horses there, could be mistaken identity.’

‘Could be facts as well.’

‘Indeed.’

‘Next week you won’t be able to hide it.’

‘Not been trying too, we have to make sure some horses are protected from the more misguided members of the human race.’

‘I’m disappointed to see armed guards flanking this horse.’

Winston sent a clear message to Lee. ‘So am I, perhaps we can work on that together.’

Lee raised her eyebrows and looked sideways. ‘I remember the run at Royal Ascot, to support this in open media is dangerous on anyone’s behalf, I may need protection.’

‘How do you know you don’t already have it.’

Levin had been making notes he looked up rather concerned. ‘Not sure what you mean Lee, you suggesting writing positive comment on this venture could endanger your place in journalism.’

‘That’s exactly what I’m suggesting, this horse is going to turn the place upside down.’

‘You sure about that.’

‘Positive.’

‘You speculate that strongly.’

‘No speculation, I’ve seen him do it before.’

‘But this horse hasn’t run a race.’

Winston interrupted. ‘You asked if the horse had run a steeplechase, you asked nothing about flat racing.’

Levin was shaking his head with self concern. ‘I really need do more research, what races has this horse won.’

‘The Melbourne Cup, Epsom and Royal Ascot derby just to mention some you may be familiar with.’

‘I’m not up with long term facts like Lee.’

Lee smiled. ‘Your far younger and not around at the time, we lack young interest in journalistic sport, Winston must think your worthy of education.’

Levin looked at Winston. ‘I say ol man jolly good show and a super spiffing thanks on that. Would I be able to attend Wincanton next week.’

‘Absolutely.’

‘I’m sorry about Balderdash, beastly and ghastly way to approach things but quite a few of them about.’

‘He will be far handier than you could ever imagine.’

Levin raised one eyebrow. ‘Not really sure what you mean.’

‘Good, any more questions.’

‘No, I think I can write a frightfully glowing article based on my experience.’

‘Excellent, shame Lee will not see it that way.’

‘You sense condemnation, good lord.’

‘Lee thinks that horse has done enough and should be taking kiddies for a ride in some buttercup meadow.’ Flaxmead thundered past only metres away turf and grass landing on Lee’s head and shoulders. ‘Would appear the horse is in contention of her beliefs.’

Lee was shacking her head at the mirth but wore a smile. ‘I called Ashby this morning and had to leave a message, he actually rang me back. I mentioned I was coming here and got the usual Blake likes war and war is what he’ll get vibe.’

‘War, mmm, hope I’m not the first casualty.’

Levin chimed in. ‘I say, what an angle, the hapless untried outsider showing his form, threatened with a war on the turf. Bloody jolly good show what, this could be my first front page.’ Levin shook Winston’s hand, he glowed with enthusiasm. ‘I must go and get this going, thanks awfully old chap.’ He strode off toward his vehicle.

Lee walked to the rail and watched the work being done on the track, Winston walked up behind her. ‘You don’t like it do you.’

‘Becher’s Brook, I hate it.’

‘That’s why you’re here.’

‘I can only write facts, my opinion of them is really irrelevant.’

‘Indeed.’

‘Sometimes the facts are so disturbing, my opinion gets the better of me.’

‘Just remember the name is Taunton Barr.’

‘Barr is a little place near Taunton, rumour has it you have been seen there of late and acquired a foal, description matches the foal that Kalika Palmer is washing down on the wash pad.’

‘True.’

‘About a year and a half ago, I saw someone that looks exactly the same as Lindy Cumberland, she was in Glastonbury, in a shop. She had a child with her, I thought no more of it. Whilst visiting a property there on the same day next to a golf course part of your operation I swear I saw Flaxmead running loose on the course, his stride is unique. The golf course looks to have jumps disguised among the fairways.’ There was silence. ‘Makes no difference now does it.’

‘No.’

‘I should pay more attention to my gut feeling and senses.’

‘You need to know anything else.’

‘No, things look pretty obvious. Who’s child is it, she’s over at the wash bay with Kalika.’

‘It’s Kalika’s half sister.’

Lee put her hand on her chest. ‘Oh my god.’ She hunted for breath. She turned around walking off toward her car. She didn’t look at Winston, she mumbled as she passed him. ‘I need to go home and think about this before I write a word.’

‘He’s more than a horse Lee, the poverty of our time is unlike that of any other. It is not as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by governance that has no relevance to equality. Consequently the modern masses are not pitied but written off as rubbish to be disposed of. As we look to the sky only a footprint on a distant star will lift the masses and bring down the aristocracy to a more relevant level.’

She stopped and looked around at Winston. ‘They can’t really stop you can they.’

‘Oh yes they can.’

Lee looked down shaking her head, then back up at Winston with a face of determination. ‘Even Flaxmead will be looked upon as aristocracy, are we being hypocritical.’

‘Let’s not forget where he came from, I paid five hundred pounds for him could have got him for a hundred. He was hunted, chased, attempts made to demoralise, demonise, poison, kill him and a host of other things that never came to light. A horse was given his name so he could not return, he’s the ultimate battler, he still attempts to put his hoof on a star far beyond the sky. Without him I would have lost will, faith and determination. Without him I’d be dead, for reverence has never been given it has to be earned. Can you think of a value held higher by the masses than a winner from the ranks of the vanquished. They wanted him killed because he was too good, the very thing they claim to hold in relevance, he is back to make sure they understand the importance of determination, effort and admiration, earned under the hardest of conditions.’

‘Jogging my memory has certainly rubbed a nerve, if I’ve forgotten those things perhaps others have as well, excuse me I’m rather torn and need to get on with it.’ Lee walked away toward her car.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

It was the day prior to Taunton Barr running at a Wincanton trial, George Smith arrived at his office within the complex of the Bastion Corporation, a group of merchant bankers of which George was a leading partner. Short plump, grey, balding, red faced he had recently had his office moved from the upper floors as the stairs had become a problem with his decaying age and lack of attention to needs of health. Ready for him on his desk, a cup of weak tea, a piece of buttered toast and The Times newspaper. He sat down at his desk and sipped his tea, he took off his glasses cleaning them with a cloth from the desk top draw and clumsily put them back on. He opened laid the paper on his desk and began to read the headline below the picture of a galloping black horse as he sipped at this tea.

TAUNTON BARR TO RUN THE GRAND NATIONAL

Winston Blake of Flax Burton Somerset, well known racehorse owner held a press conference to announce his new steeplechaser Taunton Barr, a powerful black stallion, will run in the British Grand National. Without having run a single steeplechase Blake claims the horse will follow the gruelling path a horse need take to enter the controversial event with ease. The Flax Burton operation run by Blake recently lost horse whisperer Roger Palmer, passing away unexpectedly. It is common knowledge that Palmer and Blake were fiercely opposed to elements of the National and vowed never to support the event.

Smith put his cup of tea down and with a face of amazement read on.

Taunton Barr is a twelve year old horse that cleared a fence higher than the highest recorded jump ever made by a horse and by witness of journalist Levin Graceless present at the press conference, ‘runs like the wind and sends an exciting shiver across ones entire self’. Blake stated any kind of claim to such fame is without substance or relevance. Blake bought the all conquering Flaxmead from a farmer in Island for a few hundred pounds, the horse was undefeated in every major event it entered. ‘There are horses out there that jump and run as fast as the best every day, it’s only the establishment that prevents them from being just as revered as Flaxmead.’ When asked why he thought the horse would win the National Blake replied. ‘Because he can and I can get him there.’ The horse will be ridden by the worlds most well know celebrity jockey Lindy Cumberland, she took Flaxmead to most of his wins, Flaxmead never ran with a male jockey. When asked if he was concerned about the welfare of the very petite Lindy Cumberland in the most gruelling and often perilous race like the National he replied. ‘Yes I am concerned, about the rest of the field, they have to deal with a pocket dynamo with the best racing brain on earth aboard a horse that has one goal, to win, and loves it.’ Taunton Barr looks a dead ringer for Flaxmead, he runs like him, is the exact age group the horse would be now and when pressured about the coincidental facts Blake replied. ‘The UK has a horse called Flaxmead, couldn’t run out of sight on a sunny day. Now has a horse called Taunton Barr, perhaps the answer to these similarities can be answered by the BHA. I don’t make the rules I just follow them.’ Blake was asked if the name Taunton Barr was similar to the choice of name Flaxmead, named after the towns of Flax Burton and Temple Meads. ‘Yes, Roger Palmer spent much time in the area of Taunton and Barr, he was often at our Glastonbury operation. He found a foal he thought would do the job in Barr near Taunton. Will be six years before the foal gets to run the national, I may not live to see that so the lord cometh early.’

The Elite Hurdle is a Grade 2 National Hunt hurdle race  which is open to horses  aged four years or older. It is run at Wincanton over a distance of about 2 miles or some 3,219 metres if you are metric minded, and during its running there are eight hurdles to be jumped. The race is scheduled to take place early November. Blake has sponsored the event to the tune of one hundred thousand pounds for the win. If Taunton Barr wins the event he will well exceed the thirteen thousand pound requirement for horses that run the national. Taunton Barr need run five steeplechases to run the national, to date this is the only event that has been announced by Blake’s stables.

Blake was asked about his vow never to run horses in steeplechase as he and Palmer were fiercely opposed to the format, Blake replied. ‘Never has come.’ If Taunton Barr wins at Wincanton, a spotlight brighter than any that has come before will be focused on the British Grand National. Blake was asked if this had anything to do with the armed guards that flanked Taunton Barr at his first press conference. ‘We act as if no one needs a gun, then find the only one with one holds the cards. Horse races are organised by humans not horses, humans invented the gun. Wherever you find lots of money, you will find a gun. An attack on this horse would be front page all around the world, we have terrorism to consider as well, it is the way things are, risk must be calculated and contingencies put in place.’ Blake was a very successful merchant banker and suffered immense oppression when he entered the horse racing industry in later life. He has risen to head a stable that puts back into the sport what it gets out of it and even more beyond. It remains to be seen if Taunton Barr is up to the task, the facts and my observations would leave me to state, absolutely.

Source; Lee Hayford.

Smith picked up his phone as he studied the picture with a look of firm belligerence. ‘Get my car to the door immediately.’

‘You have several appointments this morning.’

‘I’m aware of that Miss Campbell, inform all I am currently unavailable say nothing else.’

‘As you wish.’

As soon as Smith got in his car, he made a mobile call. ‘Ah, it’s me George.’

‘I realise that ol boy.’

‘I’ll meet you immediately just inside the Albert Gate in Hyde Park.’

‘Not supposed to meet till lunch this afternoon at the club, and Hyde Park are you serious, full of commoners man.’

‘You get down there, should be there in five minutes goodness sake its just across from your office and would be the last place people would look for us. You seen the paper.’

‘No, had an avalanche of meeting requests, everyone wants to see me yesterday all of a sudden.’

‘Pick up the damn paper and get over to the park gate.’

‘Well judging by your tone and insistence I guess it must be serious, will head over there, fortunately it’s a nice morning.’ Smith hung up, Grant Farnsworth looked at the mouthpiece with puzzlement as he put the phone down. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage called his secretary. ‘Do you have this mornings Times……….thank you if you could.’ A paper was gently place beside him as he read some papers, he picked it up opening the front page. He pushed his paperwork to one side and read on. He sat back in his chair. ‘Good god.’

Hyde Park was always a busy and pretty place, especially on an early autumn day. Smith could not walk far from the gate and they sat down on a bench beneath the giant oaks adjacent to the west Albert lawns. Farnsworth was a stark contrast to Smith, he dressed casually and lean and wiry with dark hair greying around the edges. They sat close as to hear each other, they had said little prior to checking around them for populus that knew them, they had never been there to meet before and was the last place people in the know would expect to find them. Smith muttered in a growl. ‘You read the paper.’

‘Yes’

‘We had to wait for the front page of a newspaper to inform us of things we assumed we have full control of.’

Farnsworth looked nervously both ways. ‘Ashby mentioned nothing of this.’

‘Ashby tells me he knows nothing of it.’

‘You were the one who put him there, man’s damn fool.’

‘You had no qualms when we suggested his placement man.’

‘We are discussing cross purposes, we need to know what’s going on and we need to relieve Ashby of his position.’

‘What the hell is Lee Hayford doing with a story on the front page of the Times for god sake man, she writes about sport belongs on the back page.’

‘We are not the only ones with influence, others will benefit from the story now and as it progresses, I have a call telling me the stock market is in a grand rally, they are speculating it is due to the jubilant news to do with the Grand National.’

‘Oh spare me man, we have much riding on the success of certain things, and a surviving public martyr of past if indeed Hayford is correct is going to cause us indelible pain.’

‘It’s a horse race George and horses that can run fast and jump over things generally dominate proceedings. We have no evidence other than speculation that this animal can win a race let alone qualify for the national.’

Smith gazed at him with recourse, his face went bright crimson. ‘Do you remember what that damn animal did to us not so long ago.’

‘Some of those people were asking for it George, had that not happened you would not be where you are, and I would certainly not be where I am.’

‘You’re missing the point man, we have done nothing wrong and yesterday is yesterday.’

‘Are we sure this Taunton Barr is Flaxmead.’

‘The identification chip implants bear the same number.’

‘Then why is it granted another name.’

‘Because Ashby thought it was a good thing to intimidate the masses by calling a donkey the same name, when can we dispose of him.’

‘I summoned him soon as I read the paper and made my way here, he feel on his sword and refused to attend.’

Smith looked anxious. ‘That is very unlike Ashby, he may be a fool but he generally holds his ground.’

‘There is the pending possibility Blake will be assisted by people far beyond our halls of power, I suggest we don’t go there and obvious Ashby feels the same.’

‘Yes, we don’t want the remnants of the MI elite stalking the corridors, if we play this right the fallout will be minimal.’

‘Why an earth is Blake suddenly turning on the national, I just can’t work it out, what’s in it for him.’

‘He’s a changed man to when we dealt with Hornswaddle and Fothrington. They left the entire damn empire to him.’

‘He’s doubled it’s wealth in the last three years, man’s a genius.’

Smith coughed and drew a hanky from his top suit pocket covering his mouth till he stopped. ‘I wonder who the hell he has up his sleeve, armed guards around that reached animal, makes everyone involved look like a villain.’ He coughed some more.

‘It’s where he’s at man, we need replace Ashby with someone he warms to.’

‘That Beaker, Ashby’s understudy, he’s been flying up and down to see Blake. Something’s not right and Beaker looked to be the only one that Blake would entertain.’

‘You would trust destiny to a person whom could be a puppet for Blake before we even start.’

‘Beaker has quite a past, things are not often as they appear, I suggest Beaker would be an excellent replacement and not out of place, he is next in line.’

Mmm, I get the impression Beaker could be persuaded beyond trust should the need arise.’

‘Oh the need will arise ol boy, the ear we had at Blake’s operation was relieved of duty, we have no idea of form from that stable forthwith.’

‘We can plant another, that information has been of outstanding value, I have a trail of customers that will be furious.’

‘Blake isn’t that stupid, he has appointed an ex army engineer to manage Flax Burton, rather different than dealing with Kalika Palmer. Man has absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever.’

‘The mechanic I hear, trying to tell us something.’

‘No, apparently his real name is similar to somewhere you’d catch a train in Wales, Blake would do something like call him by his desired profession, one thing Blake does have is a sense of humour.’

Smith put his hands on his knees and looked at the ground. ‘What is it exactly that you have against Beaker.’

‘To tell anyone would unleash the wroth of hell, Beakers main focus is looking after his mother, she is terribly ill. All I can say is that if he thought that comfort could be compromised he just may bend a little to the point of cooperation.’

‘Well you better get on with it.’ Just at this point an elderly couple came and sat next to them, other end of the bench, they fell silent.

The elderly man put on his glasses and held up the Times front page beginning to read. He had a broad cockney accent. He read for a while then made an outburst. ‘Gol blimey Maude, look, that black horse remember it, have a butchers.’

He held the paper in front of her face, she squinted holding one side of her glasses. ‘Oh a,’ she read for a while. ‘That’s that Flaxmead with that lovely little girl Lindy look, remember, the only time we ever went to Royal Ascot.’

He took the paper back and read on. ‘Mentions that could be called Taunton Barr and will run in the next Grand National.’

‘Oh Stan do you think we could afford it, just think was a grand day we had.’

‘They named that horse Flaxmead here, got caught out, lost a fortune, bloody thing was still running when I got home.’

‘Well it did cure you from gambling now we’re much better off.’

‘Dear oh dear, having to look after him with guns again, sickening aint it love.’

‘Must frighten the hell out of that poor little girl, he loves children that horse, do you think it’s really im, one of my most wonderful memories seeing him run across the line at Ascot with that lovely little girl aboard.’

‘He’s running in November at Wincanton.’

She poked him in the ribs. ‘Oh we could make that Stan, Robert could take us up for the day.’

He rolled the newspaper up, stood and took his wife by the arm helping her up. ‘Come on Maude, lets see how much they know about this down The Rose and Crown.’ They shuffled away toward the street.

Smith looked at Farnsworth with embellished disdain, they stood up and walked in opposite directions.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Grant Balderdash had written a somewhat contrasting article on his experience at Flax Burton, he was a commodities and stock market analyst and generally wrote for glossy magazines with the occasional column in The Sun. The Sun featured his column on page three, was the morning of a novice trial at Wincanton, Blake lent on the outside rail of the track on a gloomy autumn day, he occasionally chuckled as he read. Behind him Kalika assisted Lindy in preparing Flaxmead ready for the first race of the day, a novice chase. Blake occasionally laughed out loud as he read.

TAUNTON BLAHH

I was unfortunately invited to attend a press conference at Flax Burton in Somerset conducted by Winston Blake well know washing machine and laundry proprietor. Why I have no idea my perception of a horse is more on the lines of the next run of pet food at the Pal factory, no doubt Mr Blake was looking for a balanced opinion of his outrageous claims as to the tumbling mess they call the Grand National. I was subjected to witness a young woman sitting on a big black horse, tally ho what and all that spiffing gaff. Well it certainly is a big horse with a little girl rider, and the horse bearing the name of Taunton Barr and this is all supposed to mean something. Well let me tell you something Mr Blake, why don’t you take a long walk off the end of a short pier, I found the interest value zero and haemorrhoid inflaming indeed if you have them. The horse will run at Wincanton in November in a race sponsored by Blake to the tune of one hundred thousand pounds, any takers, well of course, Wincanton will have entries coming out of their ears with nice shinny clean cash direct from Blake’s Laundromat now operating right around the globe. Why doesn’t he do something industrial like run a race car, or back a rising boxer, no not Blake. He plays with little girls on ponies, what a sad end for a man who once was the pride of the banking industry. You won’t find me at Wincanton or any other place horses run round in circles, hey Mr Blake, we are too busy making things work, why don’t you get off your high horse and do something. Shall write another column on this subject when next I wish to completely waste my time. Yours absolutely sincerely the fantastic Grant Balderdash.

Blake closed the paper still giggling then suddenly looked very serious, he mumbled to himself. ‘What a brilliant idea.’ Taunton had been brought to the track in a small plain float, they parked out of the way along side a modest float from the Cotswolds. He put the paper under his arm and walked a few paces back to the float, he took Lindy to one side walking out into the open roadway, he pointed to a horse being saddled next door. ‘Saracen, ten year old equestrian horse, his first trial.’

Lindy looked over with interest. ‘That horse did a clean in the last Olympic trials, failed to continue on although it won.’

‘Indeed, they didn’t have the money.’

‘What are they doing here.’

‘Cotswold farmers, they came to me last year, were having trouble with the banks attempting to wind their farm up, they were duped into unworthy trust schemes.’

‘That didn’t answer the question Winston you’re avoiding the point.’

‘I put them onto someone who knows the law as well as the law makers, and here they are, like minded and now cashed up to do something.’

‘And where did all this cash come from.’

‘I didn’t push or ask them, Roger requested I finance their path.’

Lindy shrugged her shoulders. ‘Why you telling me, I have a lot to think about at present.’

‘When you look under your arm that’s the horse you’ll see.’

‘Your financing the opposition.’

‘This horse is not here due to political support or interference, it’s here because it can run and jump.’

‘Oh howdy dudey,’ Lindy folded her arms. ‘Anything else I need to know.’

‘That horse was trained by Roger, Cecelia it’s rider uses no crop, it responds to vocal commands.’

‘I’ll trounce it.’ Lindy stormed off to Taunton, Winston watched Lindy brief Kalika in a rage. Kalika handed the reins to Lindy and stormed toward Winston, he waited, she looked across at the neighbours.

She put her hand’s on her hips and stood astride. ‘Saracen and Cecilia Ridgehaven

are you insane, Lindy tells me you brought them here.’

‘Yes, in a way.’

‘Every time I looked under my arm I saw that horse.’

‘I’ve seen this horse run and jump well aware it could hunt Flaxmead down.’

‘You’d do that to us.’

Winston changed his tone. ‘It never made the Olympics, was stopped by politics and money. You think this is going to be a walk in the park, somewhere out there we will find a horse that may run him down. We need take on the best all the time, make sure that doesn’t happen, you did that but you never took them all on and this is one of them. So don’t threaten or dictate to me until you are parading around the wining circle at Aintree, and even then I won’t listen.’

Kalika turned away kicking the dusty ground with her boot. ‘Jesus Christ!’ She looked up straight into the face of Cecilia Ridgehaven being led past on Saracen. She suddenly wore an automatic beaming smile. ‘Oh Cecelia how wonderful to see you again.’

‘Thank you must keep going in the first race.’

‘Best of luck.’

‘Thanks,’ they faded into the distance.

Kalika turned back to Winston, she continued to kick the ground her hair wafting all over the place as she shook her body. ‘Bloody hell! Right that’s it, that horse will get the flogging of it’s life.’ She stormed off, Lindy mounted and she led Taunton away. Winston watched with his hand’s on his head with a half smile.

He mumbled to himself. ‘After that little episode if anything passes them I’m staying in a motel tonight. With all this determination around wait till Flaxy gets the drift. I have to watch this but I don’t think I can stomach it.’ He walked to the track rail.

Bevan Porterhouse was a form guide writer, he was sitting at an outside table along side the track in front of the jockey club reading The Sun article was being read out loud and all present were rolling around laughing. He was very much tuned to racing colours having been in the game for twenty years, he was paying little attention to anything as the tabloids had gripped everyone’s focus. A friend sitting opposite spoke, he had just finished reading the Hayford article in a magazine. ‘Seriously, Hayford thinks Blake is dead serious.’ Porterhouse had a flash of colour as the horses for the first trial headed along the back straight toward the start. One horse caught his eye, it thundered past everything causing some to become uneasy, his eyes opened wide as he computed the colours.

He picked up a pair of binoculars he had on the table then climbed on the table and focused on the horse. ‘Bless my cotton socks, that’s Lindy Cumberland on Flaxmead.’ He climbed down and looked for a race fixture on the first race. ‘Anyone got a fixture on the first.’

His friend was sitting at the table franticly going through the days fixture, he found the first. ‘Novice trial.’ He looked down the fixtures. ‘Fifteen runners, holy shit number seven Taunton Barr, jockey Lindy Cumberland, owner Winston Blake, and that’s not all. Number four Saracen, owner Cecilia Ridgehaven, jockey Cecilia Ridgehaven.’

Porterhouse continued to scan the horses. ‘What colour is the horse Saracen, anyone know.’

‘It’s a bay stallion, comes from the Cotswolds, Ridgehaven’s are farmers there.’

‘I got it, riders wearing Blake’s colours.’

Someone else at the table spoke up. ‘He’s a genius you know, invites some idiot to a press conference to keep us all occupied talking about a race here in November and rolls up right under our noses without so much of a how do you do.’ Porterhouse grabbed his phone and franticly punched at the keyboard.’

‘To late for that ol boy, that thing just got loose here at a hundred to one.’

The gathered raced to the rail and waited for the start. Taunton Barr was causing havoc on the go line, used to stalls he kept rearing up and putting on a show, Lindy took him wide away from the pack all favouring the inner rail side and pulled him round in a circle to the right every time her reared up keeping him inside the tape lines. Lindy was in a similar mood to Taunton and their anger with each other grew, the starter released them and she shot him toward the first fence with a ‘Go!’

The gathered listened to the race caller, Winston walked away from the fence to the front of the float, he listened with his back to the track, arms folded with his right hand fiddling with his chin. ‘And that’s a pretty tidy start with number seven Taunton Ba…’ The caller stopped and spoke to his aid alongside. ‘Taunton Barr, is that the horse that was in the news of recent.’

His assistant studied the fixture. ‘Owner Winston Blake jockey Lindy Cumberland.’

‘Couldn’t someone have informed me of that.’

‘All been busy talking about the tabloids, unexpected, for goodness sake its a novice steeplechase.’

The caller went back to his binoculars and microphone. ‘Sorry about that just checking facts, Taunton Barr leading by a clear ten lengths covering the first three hundred and over the first fence doesn’t even touch it, followed two lengths behind by Saracen with another clean jump number seven both horses pulling away from the rest of the field bunched and pacing well. Oh and Beachers Mill and Landsdow tangle and fall at the first, both up straight away jockeys look okay as well. But it’s still Taunton Barr followed by Saracen they cover the hundred and thirty to fence two and… both clean the jump. Covering the one twenty to the water holding a cracking pace and number ten Focusrite pulls away from the pack after the second but loosing ground to the two front runners, a two horse race by a country mile here. They clean the water don’t ever break stride, round the first bend and Taunton Barr begins to put more light between them gaining a length and a half on the bend. That’s Cecelia Ridgehaven on Saracen and Lindy Cumberland on Taunton Barr and their experience shining through here today on two mature horses that have never raced a chase before. Over the ditch at the forth and into the bend two and again Taunton Barr gains ground on Saracen tucked in behind Taunton Barr’s ears from the front you could imagine no rider on that steed. Sucking every little bit of advantage that can be had from her mount Lindy Cumberland the pocket rocket from the land downunder has not finished writing her obituaries as yet because she is alive and well and showing her wares here at Wincanton today. A cracking pace down the back straight, over the fifth with ease and into the two hundred to the sixth, Saracen now tailing by six lengths, neither of them looking like they are on a Sunday afternoon jaunt I can assure you. Over seven all fences cleared not so much as a brush with fate, over eight and into bend three again Taunton Barr gains ground on the corner now holding a lead of eight lengths on Saracen, into the short straight to turn four and over fence eight clean as a whistle form both of them, into the final straight and Lindy Cumberland has a quick look under her arm, she gets down to it and Taunton Barr continues to pull away from the only other horse in the race Saracen, Focusrite has pulled away from the field that has broken up to a series of individual runs with two further falls along the back straight but the third runner is now a good thirty lengths from the leading pair. And with two fences to go Cumberland has lost her left stirrup as she lands! she grabs the main of Taunton Barr to steady herself, the horse senses a problem and eases up. She finds the stirrup but Saracen is upon them, she gets down to it and approaching the second last it Saracen by a nose, now Taunton Barr, Saracen, Taunton Barr stride for stride. Over the last together neck and neck and Taunton Barr gains a neck on landing, and in the last hundred and ten Taunton Barr streaks away, three lengths, four, five and Taunton Barr wins by six lengths to Saracen and coming down the middle of the last straight Focusrite well out of the pace but with a third to her name. And just handed the times for this, the fastest two mile chase ever run here by four point two seconds that horse with another record to it’s credit and of course could only be the Blake owned Flaxmead. Taunton Barr a clear winner in this two mile trial with Saracen also breaking the standing record here for two miles over hurdles by a considerable margin and stamping their intentions of running in the national and damn good luck to them. And Lindy Cumberland and Cecilia Ridgehaven off their rides and both hugging the neck of their mounts, neither of them took a crop to their horses, I do feel a credit to the recently deceased Roger Palmer is warranted here, could be his legacy see’s the national overrun by his talent.’

Blake was still on his haunches with his back to the track, he hunched down and held his head when Lindy lost her stirrup. He looked drained, drawn, he shook his head and looked at the sky and mumbled. ‘Well I suppose that’s why your champion’s you do this far better than I.’

Winston was leaning on his vehicle as the float began to move out, they had loaded up Taunton immediately and headed away just before the few that could run that far arrived at the stable float park area. Porterhouse made it just before Winston was going to leave caught him watching the float drive away. Porterhouse lent with his palms on his knees unable to talk until he got his breath. Winston looked down at him wide eyed. ‘Bevan how are you, haven’t seen you for quite some time.’

Bevan spoke sparsely between breaths. ‘Since you backed air bnb you are the last person I wanted to see.’

‘Borrowing too much money for ventures that are being watered down by market interruption is a risky way to do business Bevan.’

‘Why did you set those people up, they just had an idea, without you that’s all it was and I would still have my hotel chain.’

‘At twelve percent on a loan that financed ninety eight percent of the venture, your talking to the wrong people Bevan. Air bnb was and is a great idea, every little room on the planet available at one location on line, use it myself.’

‘Multi storey hotels all over the place empty.’

‘At two hundred quid a night, not surprising, hasn’t been a wage rise that gets anywhere near inflation at consumer level for years. Lot of people with withering cash supply, was a success waiting to happen, just scathing at myself I never thought of it first.’

Bevan recovered and stood up. ‘Nice one Winston, you collar the tabloids about running here in November and roll up in complete stealth.’

‘We are running here in November, just that today no one really needed to know, just due process, we need five runs you know the rules.’

‘He got loose at a hundred to one, how much did you make.’

‘You assume everybody carries on like you Bevan.’

‘I’ve had to turn my phone off, the abuse started part way through the race.’

‘Your supposed to post on form man, had you done your job you would be praised up.’

‘So many people hate your guts Blake you’ve really done it now.’

‘I don’t keep a ledger perhaps you can email me the list.’

Porterhouse looked away with a sneer. ‘Wait till Ashby finds out what your up to.’

‘Been having trouble contacting him, your dealing with the wrong people, Ashby feel on his sword ol man, just happened to happen all at the same time, just as we brought Taunton Barr down here. Looks like the expected chain of information broke down and their was no contingency plan, you better fix that if you’ll pardon the expression.’

‘You bastard, and Saracen, wearing your colours, if you had another horse here you would have…..good god.’

‘Yes, had a trifecta of records.’

‘They wont let you get away with this.’

Winston walked around to the door of his vehicle. ‘I’ve told you before, horses that run fast and in this case jump as well win races, all the rest is chess game. Checkmate.’

‘Where next.’

‘You write form, start doing your job, that’s if anyone will ever listen to you again, excuse me.’ Winston climbed in his vehicle and left in a cloud of dust.

Stan and Maude Miller had lived in their terraced house in Summer Street London for the sixty five years they had been married, Stan was born in one of the upper bedrooms during the second world war. They had gathered at the Rose and Crown near Southwark for their entire time together as it was where they first meet. Stan arrived home in rapture, he called to Maude as he came through the door, she shuffled out from the living room into the modest hallway as Stan put his herringbone cap on the hat stand inside the front door. ‘Stan settle down what is it like.’

‘The horse.’

‘Wot horse.’

‘The one in the paper.’

‘Oh the one with the little girl, wot about it.’

‘It ran today at Wincanton.’

‘No, that’s later I’m sure.’

‘No, no listen.’

‘All right give over.’

‘I was watching the screen.’

‘Stan I’ve told you about that.’

‘No no no, listen, don’t say anything till I’ve finished.’

‘Oh I don’t know about that Stan.’

Stan gently pushed her toward the living room. ‘Go sit down, your gonna need to be sittin down.’

Maude put her hand up to her mouth and sounded concerned as she shuffled into the living room and sat down on the tattered lounge. ‘Oh Stan you haven’t done something silly, oh dear, oh no, back to your old ways.’

Stan sat down beside her and took her hand. ‘Now, I remembered the name, and just happen to see it flash up on the screen, running at Wincanton at a novice trial, no one takes much notice of em like, no one knows the form so hard to pick a winner bit of a lottery like.’

‘Oh no Stan.’

‘I asked you to listen pet. Now, geezer next to me had a paper, we had a quick gander at the fixture and blow me down jockey listed as Lindy Cumberland.’

‘Oh a, that’s that…’

‘Shut up.’

‘Oh Stan you’ve never spoken to me like that.’

‘It was another hour to the race, I went to the bank on the bus and got back five minutes before cut off.’

‘Oh Stan no, you went to the bank, how much.’

‘A thousand quid.’

She fell back on the lounge looking at the ceiling. ‘That’s all we have Stan.’

‘Not any more love, I sort of had this gut feeling, it was im, hundred to one love.’

‘Hundred to one, what does that mean.’

‘Means we won a hundred thousand pounds love, he ran em into the ground, broke the course record for two miles. It’s all in the bank, except for four quid bought Bob the barman a drink, he needed it like, thought I was mad.’

Maude felt faint, she looked around in a daze. ‘Oh Stan I can’t take this, what we going to do.’

‘Well be going to Aintree in April for sure. And I might buy a motor.’

‘You don’t have a licence.’

Stan looked down at the floor. ‘Oh yeah, I’ll get you a cup of tea love, fact I need a cup myself like.’

 

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Blake slept heavily, was rare, but an exhausted mind had crept up and promoted rejuvenation. Autumn was upon them and mornings became quite sharp before and if the sun got to splash its power across the glass of the conservatory. A wet miserable day, Blake chose his office a room beside the conservatory next to the kitchen with a window overlooking the barn. He sipped his tea and read his computer screen attending to the mass of mail from a management structure that spanned the globe. The managers that managed management teams were in the south of France, bad news, the loss of an entire team, involved in a soccer fixing scandal Blake did not hesitate in acting on the evidence. He waited for the inevitable but his first visitor was mechanic. ‘Morning Winston.’

Winston sat back his chair. ‘Mechanic, you have good news.’

‘No news is good news sir, the gate is a bit of a nightmare people wanting access especially the press, oh and congratulations on yesterday, the girls appear very happy with the results like.’

‘Stick around may sway your conclusions when they roll up here in about three minutes.’

‘Oh em, we have a police officer at the gate, wishes to see you.’

‘Uniformed.’

‘No,’ mechanic handed Winston a card.

He studied it. ‘Inspector Graham Ellis, Scotland Yard.’ He looked at mechanic. ‘Last police we had here came with a warrant, did he mention what he wanted.’

‘Last police that came here with a warrant are still in the Brixton constabulary.’

Winston looked to one side and sighed. ‘I didn’t support that, nothing I could do about it, unnecessary and heavy handed, they were just doing as they were asked. Open the gate for him direct him here. Before I forget get the best saddle maker you can find and bring him here, he must be out of the normal loop from overseas if necessary.’

‘We have a saddle maker on contract.’

‘Find out who he hangs around with and who he mainly deals with, the saddle failure yesterday could have been avoided, looks like blatant neglect of detail, oh lord he come the girls.’

‘I’m off like.’

Kalika and Lindy passed mechanic in the kitchen, they seemed in good spirits. They entered the office and closed the door behind them. Kalika lent with her back on the door with her hands on her hips, Lindy sat down in front of Winston. ‘Morning ladies, been expecting you.’

Kalika spoke up. ‘Cecilia Ridgehaven, have any more surprises.’

Lindy turned to her. ‘Kalika, stop it,’ she turned back to Winston, ‘we’d like to know what we’re up against.’

Winston stood up put his hands in his pockets and looked out the window, a bay widow with bench seating. ‘Janice Portland on Backfire and Roslyn Brooks on Crimson Tide.’

Kalika hit the roof. ‘What!’ The Irish and Scottish equestrian champions.’

Winston turned partly enraged, an unusual event that the girls seldom witnessed. ‘I don’t care where they come from, they run as well as they jump.’

Lindy spoke. ‘They won’t catch Flaxy.’

Winston calmed and sat on the bench seat in the window. ‘If they have a good day and Taunton has a bad one Ridgehaven Portland and Brooks will be upon you just like yesterday.’

Lindy smiled. ‘I quite enjoyed the race, never been pushed like that for a long time, my stirrup leather adjuster slipped and I lost my stirrup, the hole pin must have fallen off or something only the loop was holding it in the buckle.’

Kalika dropped her tone and looked at the floor. ‘I should have picked that up when throwing the saddle.’

‘Neither of you worry about that won’t happen again.’

‘The saddle was fine till it slipped.’

‘Someone you’ve never seen before will look you over and bring you a several new saddles, put it from mind.’

‘When do I take on Backfire and Crimson Tide.’

‘Next week at Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, the oval course. They’ve both run their once, was as quite as yesterdays run for Taunton, they both broke the short course track record.’

Kalika shook her head with a look of amazement. ‘Wasn’t a thing about it in the media or print.’

Winston chuckled. ‘Politics, no money, of no significance other than to be swept under the carpet.’

Kalika continued to be pushy. ‘You must have arranged all this long ago, when were you going to include us in more up to date information.’

‘If you don’t know it’s impossible to make mistakes, the walls have ears.’

She waved her head from side to side with a rather silly look. ‘Well I would like to know more,’ she suddenly was silent and walked to the window looking wide eyed toward the barn. ‘That’s Cecilia Ridgehaven’s float pulling up at the wash bay.’

‘Well of course it is the track is ready to use all bar Bechers Brook, run wide until the turf over the new surface takes in a week or so.’

‘You expect me to work with that bitch.’

‘I do believe she has the same opinion about you.’

Kalika stormed to the door, turned at Winston in a rage. ‘I refuse.’

‘She wears the same uniform and neither of you are in the school playground anymore, perhaps we can act accordingly.’

She grabbed the door knob opened the door and was face to face with a handsome stranger. She stopped in her tracks her face frozen in time. ‘I’m looking for Mr Blake.’

Winston raised his voice. ‘Inspector Ellis I presume.’

He looked over Kalika’s shoulder and she felt the sting of his cologne, she swallowed hard. ‘Yes, If I may.’

‘The girls are just leaving, they are going to help friend are you not girls.’

Kalika just stood there, Lindy stood up and smiled at Winston. ‘I’ll show her around, we need to start to work together anyway, Cecelia has done nothing to me apart from earn my respect and admiration.’

‘Thank you Lindy, could you take the Frozen door stop with you.’

Lindy giggled. ‘I say are you Lindy Cumberland.’

Winston watched like a hawk. ‘She certainly is.’

‘May I shake your hand, never been close to someone that is as famous as you,’ he looked at Kalika, ‘could you excuse me please.’

She just stood frozen. Winston raised his voice. ‘Kalika, Inspector Ellis of Scotland Yard would like to shake Lindys hand.’

She shook her head her hair flying over her shoulders and stood to one side. ‘Oh, yes, sorry.’

He gently took Lindys hand and kissed it releasing her with the gentlest of manner. ‘Wow, the hand of a champion, I’m honoured.’

Lindy smiled, Kalika looked daggers at her. ‘If you could excuse us Mr Ellis.’

‘Graham.’

‘Uh of course, we have to go we have a lot to do.’

‘I could imagine.’ Lindy walked passed him and grabbed Kalika by the arm dragging her behind her, Kalika threw off her grip smiling at Ellis as she left, Lindy slammed the door in her face soon as she was clear. ‘Who is that woman.’

‘Kalika Palmer.’

‘Oh, I didn’t realise, another champion, she’s incredibly beautiful.’

‘And she knows it,’ he stood and extended his hand, they shook, ‘If its any consolation a man has never stopped that woman in her tracks before.’

‘I think she was just surprised by my presence when she opened the door.’

Winston sat down looking away. ‘Indeed. Now people don’t visit from Scotland Yard without due coarse, what can I do for you.’

‘May I sit.’

‘Of course.’

Ellis sat down, an extremely tall young athletic handsome man with collar length jet black hair, he was slightly tanned. ‘I’m here regarding a disappearance, two people from Barr near Taunton.’

Winston lent back in his chair with a look of concern. ‘Go on.’

‘Grant and Wilfred Barton, been missing for two days.’

Winston lent forward, he looked stunned. ‘Are you sure.’

‘Well we have a missing persons report no trace can be found of them.’

Winston sat back in his chair again. ‘Well that’s incredible.’

‘I ask as we have reports you were in the area not so long ago, speaking to them in fact.’

‘Yes, we picked a foal up, Roger Palmer informed me of the foals location just before he died.’

‘Mr Blake we have reason to believe Roger Palmer may be able to help with information but that’s not possible, would you know why he frequented the area on a regular basis.’

‘Yes I can, he spent a lot of time at our Glastonbury operation.’

‘That’s well over forty kilometres from your stables and there is housing at the operation, why would he live in Taunton.’

‘A small child is involved, Kalika has a half sister, before you go there you know I have a mansion house by the River near The Burton’s, the child was schooled and looked after there.’

‘Her mother is unable to care for her.’

‘Her mother is a very busy person and felt she could better give time to the child while away from the bustle of the stables.’

‘She worked there.’

‘Her mother is Lindy Cumberland.’

‘Oh….. I see. Well that answers just about every other question I was about to ask. You spoke to Grant and Wilfred Barton when you were there a short time ago.’

‘Yes.’

‘Anything suspicious you may have noticed, irregular.’

‘I spoke to a local sergeant whilst there, SO19 raided the mansion, you know far more than you are telling me.’

‘Unfortunately not, If I knew that much there would be no need to bother you, these peoples disappearance is very much out of character.’

‘Wilfred told me his name was Smith, and Grant Barton has no licence and doesn’t drive but his modest abode has the sure signs that the garage houses vehicles and they are driven regularly.’

‘Really, how did he get around, there is a vehicle in his garage as you suggest registered in his name.’

‘Try the taxi operators in Taunton, Wilfred told me Grant was their best customer, your local police would surely know that.’

Ellis bit his bottom lip gazing at the table top for a few seconds. ‘Indeed, can’t say that’s been mentioned.’

‘Common knowledge rarely is, you have to look for it.’

‘Mmm, you picked up the foal from Barton’s property, the one next to his house.’

‘No, picked it up from the field opposite his property, Wilfred was ploughing the place up with a tractor.’

‘You sure.’

‘More witnesses here should you need further confirmation ol man.’

‘I don’t mean to be forward but that’s not what the current information I have would reveal, just a bit puzzled.’

‘So am I.’

‘What do you think.’

‘I think I’m as puzzled as you would lead me to believe you are.’

‘You have a black Bentley Sports registered number GB01.’

‘Yes.’

‘Where is it.’

‘Bristol airport long term undercover park.’

‘Registration would tell me it is for the management of Glastonbury.’

‘Yes.’

‘You have another one FB01, could they get mixed up.’

‘Not sure what you mean.’

‘Could at any time the one at Bristol terminal be FB01.’

‘I may park it there when using aircraft to travel yes, I recently contacted Bristol charter for helicopters but haven’t been there we have found it easier to fly them into the grounds here. I actually had forgotten all about the Bentley parked there, will have to go and grab it has really no function there at present.’

‘To pick it up Mr Blake you’ll have to go to Edinburgh airport.’

Winston looked startled. ‘What an earth.’

‘Airport authorities called us yesterday to contact you, it’s parked in reserve parking and they were going to tow it away. They found out it belonged to you and won’t go near it been there for three days. You wish to report it stolen.’

‘Is it damaged.’

‘No, shiny as the day it was made, been completely cleaned from top to bottom, not a mark on it. Our guess is fingerprinting it would be fruitless.’

‘It’s impossible to steal that car, someone from within my organisation or an associate used it, I have no idea why it would be there.’

‘Not hard to think I believe it may be involved in the disappearance of the Barton’s, but security footage from Bristol airport has it leaving the airport three days ago with a female driver and being left in Edinburgh by a male.’

‘You can identify these people.’

‘No, they covered their faces and wore long drab coats dragging on the floor.’

Winston moved around in his seat, he coughed and thought hard. ‘Look I have no answers, could be just someone wanting to use the vehicle but unwilling to tell me.’

‘So you don’t wish to report it stolen.’

‘We have many vehicles in our fleet, hundreds all over the globe, if its not damaged and was just moved I can only assess someone used it for reasons within our operation that does not wish to be identified because they would be punished in some way. I would just really be wasting your time.’

‘Ah, well you have certainly made some things clear to me. I have to attend Taunton and ask some embarrassing questions.’

‘Local country police can be a bit slack about things at times, not like the big city where special departments deal with things void of social conscience.’

‘When you have SO19 break down the door of mansions in your area and people disappear without trace you need dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Do you know a Lord Mulberry.’

‘I have met the man but don’t know him.’

‘He is in Oldbury Lodge.’

‘Yes we own the property to save you the paper trail that would take months.’

‘Man won’t answer his door.’

‘Get a warrant.’

‘You think it’s worth a look.’

‘Mulberry is a corporate crook, if he thinks information will save his arse he’ll sing like a skylark, you’ll get one crack at it before he runs.’

‘We go on justification, not really a tactical approach.’

‘Mulberry dodged twenty four million pounds in tax, he then refused to pay for his daughters wedding claiming he was broke.’

‘That much.’

‘Considering what’s happened, Mulberry watches his windows like a hawk. If anyone could tell you things you need to know and lord knows I’d like to know, he can.’

‘That’s inland revenue, customs, out of my jurisdiction.’

‘Results often involves going way beyond your comfort zone.’ Winston scribbled on a piece of paper. ‘Here, couldn’t happen to a nicer man.’

Ellis took the parchment and read it. ‘Laverty Enterprises, Cayman Islands.’

‘Call Ernst Stuttgart of the HM revenue and customs, tell him who handed you that information.’

‘I thought you people stuck together.’

‘I’ll ignore that, there’s a difference in pushing social unacceptance and stealing.’

‘Not sure what you mean.’

‘It’s okay I understand that, when your risk is higher you have to push the law to it’s outer limits.’

‘That I understand.’

They were interrupted by a knock on the door. ‘Come in.’

Was Kalika, she had a wide smile, beaming. ‘Em, Winston, is it okay if I show Cecelia through the house.’

Winston stood up and put his hands on his hips with a face of disillusion. ‘What.’

‘Cecelia, can I show here through the house.’

‘Well of course.’

She looked eyes with Ellis. ‘Oh Graham you’re still here, sorry.’ She closed the door.

Winston sat down, he was shacking his head. ‘What an earth is going on, people going missing, cars being driven all over the countryside, women that generally don’t give a damn if I mind what they do, asking permission for the simplest of things.’

‘Well you do have the whole place going upside down, an elderly couple in London won a hundred thousand pounds on your horses run yesterday, Taunton Barr am I correct.’

‘Yes, yes, a hundred thousand pounds,’ he sat back in his seat with a warm smile, ‘do you know who they are.’

‘Millers from what I read, had to send a patrol round to control things, people who aren’t used to having money and didn’t keep it to themselves. Old Summer Street in the terraces there, quite a story, pensioners from as far back as the last war.’

Winston nodded slightly with the warmest of smiles. ‘Well, so it was worth it.’

‘Not sure I’m with you.’

‘Pushing the limits of the law ol man.’ There was another knock on the door, it was Kalika. ‘Just finished taking Cecilia back over to the barn.’

Winston drew a big breath, looked out the window then back at Kalika with a long face. ‘And.’

She walked in and put her hand on Ellis’s shoulder. ‘Oh Graham your still here, look, would you like me to show you around before you leave.’

Winston stood up and again put his hands on his hips long faced. ‘Kalika what are you doing.’

‘Just thought would be nice for Graham to have a look round, after all he’s come all the way up from London.’

Ellis stood up. ‘Actually I’m in Bristol for a few days on an investigation.’

Kalika beamed. ‘Oh really.’

Winston interrupted. ‘You have time to look round, I have no objection we have nothing to hide.’

Ellis looked Kalika up and down. ‘Well I suppose I could stay a bit longer, em is it safe Winston.’

‘Probably not.’

Ellis laughed. ‘Well lead away.’

Winston sat down and started to attend to his computer avoiding eye contact. ‘Kalika, bear in mind we are running four horses in the grand national in April.’

Kalika turned back around at the door. ‘You’d think I’d forget that.’

‘Yes I do.’

She slammed the door behind her looking Ellis right in the face with a beaming smile. ‘Whoops, just have to apologise about that.’ She went back in closing the door behind her. ‘Is he married.’

‘I have no idea.’

‘Could you find out before he leaves.’

‘Why don’t you just ask him.’

‘May upset the poor dear if he is.’

‘Or you.’

‘Can you find out pretty please.’

Winston took a big sigh looking to one side. ‘Yes, I’ll find out.’

She opened the door this time closing it very gently, Ellis had caught site of Cecilia Ridgehaven on the porch and walked out to introduce himself. He took her hand and she melted. Kalika flew out before he said anything and took his hand from hers. ‘Come on.’

‘Who is this.’

‘Cecelia.’

‘She races horses.’

‘Yes.’

‘Well I hope you girls stay in one piece.’

‘Her husband makes sure she’s okay.’

‘Oh well, show me round, I’m all yours.’

Ellis walked toward the barn and Kalika sneered at Cecelia behind his back.

Mechanic was the next to knock on Winston’s door. ‘Come in. Ah mechanic.’

‘You called.’

‘Yes, sit down. You have someone who can leave the country on short notice for a few days.’

‘I can sort that like.’

‘I don’t want to know who it is, get Bristol charter to fly them to Edinburgh airport and pick up Bentley GB01, its in the reserved parking area.’

‘What’s it doing up there.’

‘That’s what I’d like to know.’ Winston wrote things on a piece of paper and handed it to him. ‘Get him to take it to Heathrow, put it in one of our horse transport containers and take it to Sydney Australia, leave the vehicle at this address. Then get on a plane and come back home.’

‘It’ll get sussed, we need the paperwork.’

Winston put his hands on his head and leaned back in his chair. ‘I have to burn some favours here, it’ll pass through quarantine trust me. In the boot are Australian registration plates, use the plates until the vehicle is left at the supplied address then change them back to the UK plates where it stands. As soon as the person is clear, report it stolen.’

Mechanic read the address. ‘Four Riverside Drive, Balmain East, Sydney Australia. Residence of a Theo Delores.’

‘Correct, whoever does it memorises that and must not carry it with them. If they cock it up we know nothing about it.’

‘Bit strange but I have someone who should handle it nicely.’

‘I have no idea what’s going on and nor will he.’

‘Some big winnings yesterday by a lucky few, some people noticed.’

‘Mmm, so I hear. The form guide for Wincanton and several other locations failed to make it to the tabloids, but the down the line TV coverage put the runners up on screen.’

‘A hundred to one, blimey you’ll be popular.’

‘No doubt.’

Just before he left mechanic turned back to Winston at the door. ‘Strange you know, Kalika is being really polite and nice and all that like.’

‘She want’s something.’

‘That Cecilia Ridgehaven is absolutely stunning, she looks like a model.’

‘She was one, did it to keep her parents farm afloat, they got tangled up in a rough investment portfolio.’

‘Was it you that…’

‘Yes it was.’ Mechanic began to walk out. ‘Oh wait up, you have a friend that races cars.’

‘I didn’t think you noticed he uses the workshop here late sometimes.’

‘Fine, I hear he does very well.’

‘Can only go as fast as his money.’

‘But he wins everything.’

‘Without our help he’d be mid field, I put a fair bit in myself.’

‘He runs a team, Bristol Engineering.’

‘Not all his, he has a partner.’

‘Yes I know, me, I bought out his partner yesterday. Can he be trusted.’

‘Was in my army unit, we stick together.’

‘Get him to come and see me please.’

‘I’ll give him a call.’

‘Go and see him personally, no phone calls, same with the Bentley arrangements.’

‘I’ll sort it like.’

‘Oh, have you ever seen or heard of Graham Ellis.’

‘The police inspector that’s here, no, his ID checks out. If he comes from London not surprising.’

‘He doesn’t come up on any radar, been checking since he got here, why would an Inspector from Scotland Yard come to Bristol to investigate a case in Taunton. Lines of inquiry generally follow protocol.’

‘Seems a nice enough geezer to me.’

‘Seems like the kind of person that could wrap a woman round his finger and get exactly what he was looking for, my gut is telling me I don’t like it, but Kalika has never been struck by anyone like that, not that I’ve witnessed.’

‘If it means she treats people like human beings I won’t complain.’

‘Mmm, the death of her father still haunts her underside. She may move on now he’s gone. Presents a rather sticky set of facts on which to fathom decision.’

‘I’ll get onto things, see what I can dig up from the police we deal with in Bristol’

‘Careful mechanic, we don’t know what we’re dealing with or why.’

‘I can’t work out why you want to move this car.’

‘Nor can I, if I cant nor will anyone else but I’m sure they’d like to know. Everyone will be scratching their head and we’ll have a third party tail on Delores and may find out why he picked up Lindys double, and it will all be done for us.’

‘Have you heard from her.’

‘No, she’s vanished, I’m tempted to call on some people to find out but it goes against my better judgement.’

‘Makes things difficult for Lindy.’

‘Certainly does, I’m going to have to talk to her, could you send her back here while Kalika is busy with her new toy.’

‘Right.’ Mechanic left.

Winston didn’t even have time to check incoming information, Lindy ran and was upon him before he expected, she walked in without knocking and sat straight down in front of him. ‘You called, I’m so busy busting to get our there, was just about to, now what is it.’

Winston had his left elbow on the table supporting his chin with his hand, he looked at her and a warm sensation filled him with hope. ‘I have a bit of a dilemma, we are winning the battle but at what cost will the war bring,’ he stood up took her by the hand and led her to the bay window and they looked out to the bustle around the barn, he put his arm around her. ‘Your double was picked up by Delores in Sydney and we have lost contact with her, no need to tell you what that could mean.’

‘I don’t see the problem, she served her purpose and I’m thankful for the help.’

‘Is it any wonder I am suspicious bearing in mind what Delores has done in the past.’

Lindy sat down on the bay window bench. ‘He may just have given her a job selling cars or something, she would be concerned and upset she has no place here any more.’

‘Yes I handled that poorly, I made no attempt to discuss things with her as I do with you.’

‘She’s not the kind of person that would begrudge us.’

‘If Delores is up to no good I probably just signed his demise, in that case I probably signed hers.’

‘I’m sure you have things in place, I want to win the national, then I’ll look out the window and think about things.’

‘The success will mean you take a place on the BHA board, you can then push the influence you know is right.’

‘I thought Kalika would be the one.’

‘Kalika lacks the morality, her morals don’t go far enough to stand her ground.’

‘I thought you loved her.’

‘As much as you and my own daughter absolutely. Feeding an animal pure sugar because it likes it is a death penalty. I have many times been softened by these things to the point causing you both harm.’

‘She recently turned into someone I didn’t know, today she’s back on top.’

Winston sat down next to her. ‘What’s your first impression of this Ellis fellow.’

‘I want to go to bed with him.’

Winston stood up in shook. ‘What.’

‘Well you asked me, if he’s worthy of presence after a good bonking I have no idea.’

‘Good lord.’ Winston looked away. ‘Is it love or lust you’re trying to tell me.’

‘Yes.’

‘Well I’ve never heard you approach things like that before.’

‘She fell in love with him on sight.’

‘How can you be sure she may be full of lust.’

Lindy stood up. ‘Look, next week I have to take on three of the best horses and riders on the planet, in April I have to take on thirty nine, is it okay if I go practice.’ She kissed him on the nose and walked toward the door.

‘Do I get rid of this Ellis gentleman.’

She opened the door and looked back. ‘She’s met the man she wants to marry and you’ll have to walk her down the isle.’

Winston felt the control drain from his body. ‘I’m not qualified to do this stuff.’

‘Well you wanted three daughters now you’ve got them. Threats won’t make him leave and crying won’t make him stay, but they may find out where his heart is.’ She gently closed the door.

He was left dazed and confused, mumbling to himself. ‘I’ll take that as a yes we get on with it,’ he sat down at his desk and found a pen to fidget with, ‘now where the hell was I.’

CHAPTER TWENTY

A protest on the Taunton Barr win at Wincanton had been lodged with the BHA, the management structure was in kayos with Ashby gone, Beaker when summoned refused to take the position of CEO. An interim protest committee was hastily convened and the matter heard and defeated, only one thing was missing, evidence to protest claims. The committee appeared to hold this point relevant, but a lawyer sent by the protest group felt this was irrelevant and questioned why all of a sudden a president was set that challenged the validity of the past years protests. Joan Williams headed the protest hearing and was now looking like she would cop the CEO position as people started to run for cover just on the premises of new blood with undefined direction. The domino effect was on a runaway path, Joan Williams a retired judge and member of the bar, she had owned and run horses for forty years but seldom became involved in the nuts and bolts that controlled them. She had become an advisor to law for the BHA on invitation, she was being paid a handsome sum to oversee aspects of law for the organisation and spent one day a week in an office advising on the information she was supplied for the past year. She was about to get a premise on market intervention by major stakeholders within, and outside, of the horse racing industry. And the stakeholders and commercial interests were about to get a shock as their grip on control got a broadside. As Williams looked through the documents tabled at the protest, her face became etched with a mixture of anger and realisation. She looked sternly at the lawyer presenting the protest lowering her glasses to the tip of her nose and looking over them. Williams an extremely well presented senior wearing a plain blue summer dress, a dark curled perm, and two face lifts spoke firmly. ‘You have presented protests of this quality for the last year and they have been upheld, is that what you are saying.’

‘Well yes, can’t see what the fuss is about.’

She looked about the table for a face she trusted. ‘I want Beaker in here now please.’

The man replied. ‘Beaker refused the offer of CEO, he is busy in his office.’

‘I am aware of the circumstances and where he is, what part of the request did you fail to understand.’

The man rose to his feet. ‘I’ll em, go and get him.’

While Williams waited she shuffled through paperwork she had never seen before, she noticed the protest lawyer fiddling with his phone under the table, she became irate. ‘Put your phone on the table and keep your hands off it.’

‘I beg your pardon but I have been free to use my phone here as I please in the past.’

‘Are you a member of the bar.’

‘Well of course.’

‘Then you would be aware of Westminster protocol of permitted conduct in a courtroom.’

‘This is a protest hearing for the BHA, you must realise that during the course of these things misunderstandings can easily overcome with a mere phone call.’

‘Use your phone again and I will have you removed from this hearing and suggest to the bar you are counselled regarding contempt.’

‘Now come on this protest is about blatant misuse of systems for financial gain.’

‘I totally agree with you, whom is responsible is far from being established.’

Some members of the committee looked sideways at each other with developing smiles. The lawyer crossed his arms looking aggressively intolerant. Beaker entered the room, he stood at the end of the table, some way from Williams as the table seated forty persons and was a long rectangle taking up most of the room, she raised her voice. ‘Ah Beaker thank you for attending promptly. I have some paper work here, quite a lot of it, this gentleman, a lawyer, tells me he has overseen the last twelve months of protests lodged to this forum in this manner and the protests have all been upheld. Is this correct.’

‘Yes.’

‘But you have passed on all the legal paperwork to me over the past year and I have never seen some of these documents and never has been stated the fact a member of the bar was representing protesters.’

‘It’s to avoid intervention that may affect the status and well being of financial stakeholders.’

‘It is clearly defined in the BHA constitution that all protest and changes to standards and law governed by the BHA will be in accordance with the protocols of common law.’

‘I think you might find that it also states that these are guidelines that not need be set in stone.’

‘I can assure you the premise of western law is set in stone, I have been misled for the past year, I want all relevant documentation on my desk involving the protests conducted and upheld under these circumstances.’

The lawyer stood. ‘I object to this rampart intervention of something that is nothing to do with you.’

Williams shot to her feet. ‘How dare you!’

Steve Ciggins stood, he was sitting next to Williams, he was a barrister and had been on a full range of BHA committees for some years. His suit was that cunningly tailored it left his hands and face completely naked. ‘Could you please sit down Joan.’ Joan sat down with a half smile. ‘Everyone’s seen the case submitted, have you come to a recommendation Joan.’

‘Yes this protest is defeated without recall.’

‘All those in favour raise their hand.’ There were twenty gathered attempting to manage several serious issues of the day, only six were on the protest committee but twenty hands were raised, twenty one including Beaker. ‘The matter is carried in the favour of the defence without due course.’

The lawyer gathered his things and fumbled them into his brief case. ‘This is outrageous, you haven’t heard the last of this.’

‘Winds changed direction, I’d quit while I was ahead if I was you ol man.’

‘You seem to forget the last two cronies that pulled stunts like this had their carers stoped in their tracks.’

Joan Williams stood up and Ciggins was not game enough to tempt fate and sat down, he watched stone faced. ‘Beaker, call the police, someone down that end secure the door. I’m making a citizens arrest.’

The lawyer looked at her motionless, she held her ground with a scowling look. ‘You’re serious.’

‘You’re damn right I’m serious, you want to play lumberjacks you can handle your end of the log.’

He looked around the room at the glaring faces, some with wide smiles. ‘You bastards, you’ll regret this.’

Ciggins spoke up to him. ‘Quit while your ahead man.’

He hesitated, picked up his bag and began to walk to the door. ‘I’ll convey your decision to my clients.’

Joan spoke to the two committee members standing in front of the door. ‘Please let him out.’

He turned to her in the door. ‘And the ramifications.’

‘I read a book once written by a wise man, said there was a vast difference between the misguided and the evil, now the path is clearer the choice is yours.’

He turned and left with a sneer.

Williams left the meeting for five minutes to speak to Beaker, she gave the gathered time to discuss direction. She returned with Beaker whom continued to resist attempts to take the CEO position, Williams gave the members a chance to leave if continuing would affect their standing on the grounds of incrimination. A few admitted persistence could cause them problems but the gathered lifted spirits by promising support as they stated they would rather soldier on. Going by current form, Ciggins nominated Joan Williams to the CEO position backed by all committee members, she insisted Beaker take the job but he still refused. He explained he was one of the perpetrators that pushed the system to within a hairs breadth of social condemnation. He would however take up the position when things settled and circumstances had been neutralised to the point of widespread social acceptance. He insisted the influence of Joan Williams had levelled the playing field and would be looked upon as a neutral influence for the future. Joan Williams was appointed CEO that afternoon and got down to work, she sent Beaker to see Winston Blake.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

Grant Farnsworth The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage was in his office, his phones had fallen silent, he no longer knew who was controlling what within the BHA the pending problem of the day and he trolled the net news columns. Hayford had gone after Ashby in a scathing attack on his election to office by the BHA board, as he searched for more scraps of information from those on the front line his secretary called. ‘Yes.’

‘I have a call for you caller won’t give his name.’

He hesitated, was about to put the phone down but was desperate for knowledge. ‘I’ll take it… Hello.’

‘It’s George.’

‘Ah, how are you old man.’

‘Ashby is up my arse, I need some help.’

‘Go to Beaker man, we best not talk on the phone.’

‘Beaker, Joan Williams was just elected CEO of the BHA.’

There was silence. ‘You sure.’

‘I tried Beaker he won’t take my call, I spoke to Ciggins.’

‘My god man Joan Williams is a loose cannon.’

‘I need Ashby off my case, he’s resorting to blackmail.’

‘I’m sorry George I’m unable to take any more calls from you.’

‘Ashby claims he’s going to Blake with information that will ruin both of us.’

‘Well if he’s right they’ll be on your doorstep in a week, if he’s bluffing he’ll give up.’

‘Blake would love to have us out of the way.’

‘Blake’s already won round one George, you’d better get ready for round two. He’s just driven everything underground, I’m sure he will realise that and act accordingly.’

‘I need help to contain Ashby and…’

‘Have a good day George.’ Farnsworth hung up. He called his secretary. ‘Could you get me the freelance equines sports reporter Lee Hayford.’

‘Should I interrupt you should I get her on the line.’

‘No I wish to meet her one on one, make an appointment away from the office I don’t mind what time or where it is and I’ll be there.’

‘As you wish.’

Although other pressing matters were on his desk he continued to find information on the BHA, he attempted to contact Ciggins but he could not be reached. He shabbily applied himself to ten minute meetings across a range of subjects but knew distancing himself from an issue that had started a meltdown that could inevitably lead to having to answer some very embarrassing questions made focus thorny. His mobile rang, he studied the screen but the incoming number was blocked, he answered. ‘Hello…………..What are you doing calling me…………………outside the building you fool………………..calm down, I’ll be down directly………………stick to the other side of the road and keep out of sight.’ He tidied his desk and on the way out cancelled any more meetings for the day, his secretary informed him Hayford was unavailable. ‘

He used the fire stairs, they had a separate entrance into a side lane, he walked to the street and observed his target on the other side of the street. He walked away from the building toward a pedestrian crossing and crossed over the thoroughfare, he sat on a bench adjacent to a nearby bus stop, his appointment casually sat beside him pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. ‘Do you mind putting that thing out.’

His counterpart looked at him, he stamped on the burning cigarette after cunningly dropping at his feet. ‘Why haven’t you publicly condemned Blake’s behaviour.’

‘I guarantee ol man that Blake would have his books in order.’

‘You can still make it difficult for him.’

‘I would just be whining, jumping up and down is fine I need a solution to suggest or keep quiet, whining would bring unwanted attention outside of the BHA.’

‘Without maintaining the status quo I have to go underground you realise what that means.’

‘The status quo is Joan Williams my good man, underground is your only hope.’

His counterpart coughed, he had a quick look round. ‘Ashby is desperate, the three horses he gave you shares in, he’s using them as a collateral bargaining chip. That leaks out you can guess the results, a conflict of interest to the tone of several hundred thousand pounds, he could even pass it on to Blake.’

Farnsworth giggled. ‘Blake would already know all that, a conflict of interest perhaps but no money changed hands, I would survive that, Ashby won’t.’

‘Ashby has become that much of a problem I suggest you turn on him.’

‘I’m keeping right out of it ol man, you’re on your own, truth is I have no real idea of how or what worked for you, contact me one more time and I’ll tip the bucket.’ Farnsworth got up and walked away.

His counterpart sat with his arms folded, gazing into space, a bus came along, he hadn’t ever checked it’s destination, he got on.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

There was an attempt by the BHA to have time settle the dust, but a Cheltenham trial in the Cotswolds gripped the nations public and the controversy of sweeping things under the carpet took a minor story of inconsistency and management. blunders to the front page of every tabloid in the country. Blake refused to talk to anyone, Beaker had requested meetings, as they were continually put back he knew Blake was too busy to talk about something that he had under control. He continued to request meetings to forward a direct invitation to the now four steeplechasers wearing Blake’s colours into the grand national without further need to qualify based on their backgrounds, Blake continued to refuse so he just waited.

Blake moved all four horses to Cheltenham the evening before the following days trial. He had learnt a lot over the years one thing was there is strength in numbers and no matter how early you set out on a morning Flaxmead ran anywhere traffic and elbow room was at a premium. The meeting attendance had sold out when the run was announced in two hours. It was now fairly common knowledge that Taunton Barr was in fact the champion flat charger Flaxmead. Blake had not anticipated this early attention by the press as he did not expect Ashby to run, he had lost all his leads on information, he was flying as blind as the network that he had damaged. With four of the countries leading female jockeys and four champion horses in the same place venerability had escalated to the point Blake feared he had bitten off more than he could handle. Kalika had become rather cumbersome, she dropped things, was inconsistent in timing, had trouble concentrating, she was often silent. Kalika did not attend the Cheltenham meeting and void of his better judgement he stayed at Flax Burton surprising Kalika in the barn first thing in the morning. She was attending the to foal, she jumped out of her skin when she saw him holding a hand over her mouth. ‘Oh, what are you doing here.’

‘Attending to things of great importance.’

She panicked, ‘Winston the girls are running this morning.’

‘You will come out of the stall and talk to me or everything will stop.’

She swallowed hard and coughed with nervous stress. ‘I have to run the foal.’

‘I won’t ask you again.’

Kalika knew the tone in Winston’s voice better than hers. She took the halter from the foal and left the stall. They walked to bails of loosen feed the jockeys sat on at morning brief, the place was relatively quiet as most staff were at Cheltenham with some kind of task. She sat down next to him. ‘You know when you were little I used to watch you ride in the meadow through the window, I wondered who you were and what you’d become, what I see at present wasn’t what I had in mind.’

She looked away. ‘I’ll be fine.’

Winston chuckled, he put his arm around her squeezing her tight. ‘I think that translates to dad I’m in trouble and I need some help.’

‘I wish my dad was here.’

‘Will I do.’ She suddenly grabbed him tight with both hands bursting into tears on his shoulder. He waited for her to settle, she cried for some time, she let go. ‘Now what is it.’

‘Graham.’

‘Yes I guessed that much, the rest I’m in the dark about.’

‘Things were fine, he said he loved me, then suddenly he just cut me off, won’t answer calls, is out if I go to the station.’

‘Mmm, and you have no idea.’

‘No.’

‘Well lets go and find out.’ He stood up.

She looked up at him. ‘Are you serious.’

‘While I’m alive princess, nobody will do that to you without a good reason.’

She stood up and grabbed him. ‘Oh Winston don’t harm him.’

He raised his voice. ‘Harm him, have you seen yourself.’

‘We should sort this out ourselves getting involved will just interfere with the natural course of things. Could be something that’s not to be.’

‘When the playing field is level, providence will prevail.’ The foal had its head resting on the stable gate, he looked over toward it. ‘What chance would little Taunton have if we didn’t level the playing field. Only then can you step back and nature takes its course. You meet one man and he turns your life upside down, I just can’t let this pass without at least levelling the playing field. If it fails on a one to one basis then fair enough. You want to be a police officer do you.’

‘No.’

‘Would you leave here and change your life if that was the answer.’

‘That’s a hard question.’

‘Any hard question needs research, information. Personal family matters include these things if a matter of heart is to be answered. I am thinking of taking little Taunton away to Australia to train in the Hunter Valley.’

‘You will not.’

‘But regardless of heart, I think its best for him.’

She stamped her foot and raised her voice. ‘You will not!’

‘Then you must understand that I don’t think you and this man should be separated by circumstances akin to commercial aptitude. They must be removed and nature take it’s course. You would no more let me send little Taunton anywhere without you, this man must be given a chance to decide if he want’s to go anywhere without you, you have already decided you do not wish to exist without him.’ He put out his hand to her. ‘Come with me, I am about to use influence and power in a manner I have sworn to avoid, but my gut would churn forever should I sit back and do nothing.’

She raised a gentle smile and took his hand. They headed into Bristol, mechanic was in Cheltenham with the girls, a late decision by Winston, his judgement influenced by a matter of heart. It left only the security guards, he had never left the place without directive but was at peace with his decision. The drive into Bristol was somewhat quiet, Kalika hardly spoke, nor did Winston attempt to invoke conversation for the sake of it. He did however contemplate how to handle the situation, he had an excellent rapport with the local police and went to school with the current chief inspector. Bridewell police station Rupert Street entrance has limited parking outside, Winston pulled up nearly outside the front door in a safe but no parking permitted spot along side the kerb. ‘Not sure how long I’ll be, I suggest you wait here.’

Kalika looked around. ‘No parking here they won’t like that.’

‘You stay here where everyone can see you and if a fuss is made then all well and good. On no account move to somewhere you can’t be seen. Possible they may give you access to the car park, any problems at all ring me immediately, here take this.’

Kalika took the car key. ‘Not very nice to park here, bit forward.’

‘Even if we get booked for parking with half the Bristol police looking on that’s cheap security.’

Kalika shrugged her shoulders. ‘Never thought of it that way.’

He got out and walked to the door, he hesitated on purpose, looking up at the building with his hands on his hips before walking in to the front desk. He waited patiently, his presence had not gone unnoticed, there was a knock on the chief inspectors door, he had only just arrived. ‘Enter.’

‘Sir Winston Blake is at the front desk.’

‘Oh, considering what’s going on I’ll come straight down.’ He walked from his office to the front desk.’ He extended his hand over the counter. ‘Ah Winston, to what do we owe this unexpected pleasure.’

Winston shook Lance Baldwin’s hand. ‘Here to see Graham Ellis.’

‘Not sure if he’s in, em come through to an interview room and we’ll have a damn good chin wag.’ They settled into a small room with a plain steel table and four chairs, on the way Lance instructed an officer to find Ellis. As they sat down an officer knocked on the door. ‘Enter.’

A female officer opened the door. ‘Sir we have a black Bentley parked outside the front door, I do believe it belongs to Mr Blake here, the parking inspector is talking to someone inside it.’

Winston interrupted. ‘Kalika Palmer, with four horses running at Cheltenham in about two hours I thought parking there was a good choice.’

Lance jumped in. ‘Have her take the vehicle into the car park, if there’s no park put it behind my car, monitor the vehicle while it’s there.’

‘Sir we are a bit pushed.’

‘I thought my instruction was fairly clear.’

‘Yes sir.’

‘So Winston how are thi….’ His mobile rang, he answered it with a look of irritation. ‘Ah Graham, could you pop down to interview room one please………………I realise your busy Graham but Winston Blake doesn’t often request much but he’s here to see you…………..thank you.’ He hung up and looked at Winston. ‘Bit of a shook this horse Taunton Barr running for the grand national, you’ve got the whole place glued to the tabloids. Won’t get much done here when your horses run later this morning, tell me is that thing really Flaxmead.’

Winston raised his eyebrows with a cheeky smile. ‘Yes.’

Lance sat back in his chair and put his hands on his hips. ‘Well I’ll be, I thought you and Roger were opposed to steeplechase racing, bit of a shook.’

‘You can change nothing without getting involved.’

‘Mmm, understand that, what do you make of this Graham Ellis, young man for his position.’

‘I was hoping you could tell me.’

‘Well he was really on it when he first got here, last couple of days says nothing and he just sits in his room don’t know what he’s up to.’

‘Really, his bio rhythms must be down.’

‘Well he’s on a difficult case, having you in the picture doesn’t help, the locals here don’t like it, he feels a bit left out.’

‘How’s Jenny and the boys.’

‘Fantastic.’

‘I would appreciate the realisation that I am here on a matter of heart, we have been friends for a long time Lance, Kalika only has me now.’

Lance looked down and folded his arms. ‘Mmm, thanks for the heads up, damn force you know, sometimes I pity the young.’

‘I’m out of line and on a limb here Lance hope you understand.’

‘Oh absolutely, em you wish I leave the room when Graham arrives.’

‘That would be one way of doing it, should I need talk to you again will ask.’

There was a knock on the door. ‘Enter, ah Graham.’ Lance stood up and began to walk to the door. ‘I have to go way behind this morning.’ He hastily vanished up the corridor. Ellis closed the door and sat down, he wore a stone face, was slow and rather pale. He settled in his seat but said nothing.’

‘You love Kalika.’

‘So that’s what it’s about.’

Blake wore a stern look of determination. ‘I asked you a question.’ Ellis drew a big breath and looked away, he took a pen from his top pocket and began to fiddle with it. Blake raised his voice. ‘I asked you a question man.’

Ellis snapped back. ‘Yes.’

‘Then why the distance.’

‘A conflict of interest.’

Winston stood up, he fiddled with loose change in his pocket, turned and lent on the wall facing Ellis. ‘I am the only one that can help you.’

‘Why would you want to help me.’

‘You think because of your position it would compromise my judgment.’

‘Yes.’

‘Your correct, apart from it being in the opposing direction to what you think.’

‘We’ve breached the protocols I am privy too.’

‘This conversation is off the record.’

‘This place is full of people like me.’

‘Go see if you can find somebody here that will support that, people like you, I have no idea who you are. How do you know you love Kalika.’

‘This really has nothing to do with you.’

‘This has everything to do with me until I leave this room.’

‘Are you threatening me.’

‘I don’t threaten people I act in due accordance to the situation at hand, now how do you know you love Kalika, she is a very attractive woman.’

Ellis squirmed in his seat. ‘I took Cecilia Ridgehaven to dinner.’

‘And.’

‘All I could see was Kalika’s face whenever I looked at her.’

‘Cecelia took you to bed.’

‘No, I went home.’

‘Congratulations, Cecilia has chewed up and spat out a hundred men, she’s akin to a female narcotic, she wanted you just to defeat Kalika, she couldn’t defeat her on a horse but when it comes to a cleavage competition she’s up to the task would you agree.’

‘She’s a bitch of a thing.’

‘So we’ve established the fact you love Kalika, do you wish to spend the rest of your life with her these things are not easy.’

‘I’m in no position to find out.’

The conversation became intense. ‘By three o’clock this afternoon you won’t have a job.’

Ellis stood up and went toe to toe with Blake. ‘I realise you have powerful friends.’

‘You have absolutely no records at Scotland Yard, nor MI5, however I find people at MI6 are quite familiar with you.’

‘You should mind your own business.’

‘This is my business, Kalika is my business, from what you tell me you are my business, you think conflict and oppression is going to sort out a matter of heart. Threatening and intimidating each other is useless, should nature take its course protocols that you mention as a term of need will technically have you as my son in law. Threatening won’t make you leave and crying won’t make you stay, so you better sort yourself out man.’

Ellis calmly sat down, he put his hands palms down on the table looking at the wall. ‘I don’t know what to do.’

‘What have you found in the investigation, people are missing, all kinds of emotions running round in your head, I am here about far more important things for us as I have no control over such things only the reduction of risk. Kalika is head over heels about you, you are privileged and found something that if you let go will hound you to your grave. I am leaving this room, the decision is with you.’ Winston walked to the door. ‘I don’t know who you are but the next few weeks will define that.’ He left the room, greeted the few people he passed on the way out.

He left the car park in haste, Kalika looked rather concerned, she expected to be able to talk to Graham but thought there must be a good reason for Winston’s departure. Her phone rang, she looked at the screen and hastily answered it. She spoke softly with apprehension. ‘Graham…………….yes of course……………..wait I’ll ask, Winston can Graham come to the barn when he finishes, later this afternoon.’

‘He can come to the barn whenever he wants, he just doesn’t.’

‘Did you hear that…………..okay see you then.’ She hung up. ‘What did you say to him.’

‘You will never know.’

‘Did you threaten him.’

‘Threats won’t make him leave, nor will they make him stay.’

‘I want to know what to say about your seeing him, he may think it was me that sent you.’

‘He’s coming to see you, get on with it, time will tell.’ He looked at the clock in the dash. ‘Ten minutes to the race start, we won’t make home. Command, BBC race channel.’ The radio fired up, two commentators traded comment as the horses mounted for the second steeple trial at Cheltenham.

‘Well you can say whatever you want Don but fact remains that odds on this race stand at face value, fine to criticise last week but the fact remains if a horse runs faster than others it wins races.’

A leading race caller had been brought in for the event at late notice accompanied by a journalist that covered current affairs. ‘Odds on Taunton Barr here today you can do no better than ten p to the pound I mean its ridiculous, four horses in this race that have proved themselves beyond redemption in associated sport’s and they’re here running in a trial and pulling crowds The Rolling Stones dream of, in this case I haven’t spoken to anyone that doesn’t believe Taunton Barr, Saracen, Backfire and Crimson Tide should be considered to run in the national without all this pomp and ceremony. We have two horses here that broke the record for two miles at Wincanton and two that broke it here, this is a grade one event not a trial.’

‘Well that we agree on, rules are rules and I can’t see Blake whom has four horses wearing his colours in this trial deviating from the standards that continue to be tailored to prevailing social and commercial interests and that’s what this is all about. Saracen, Backfire and Crimson Tide all even money, other horses won’t get a look in with this line up I mean we have seven scratching’s will be a walkover for Blake, a clear message he intends to dominate the national.’

‘Well we have no video footage of any of these horses running their first hurdle only eye witness accounts, now that’s cunning. Here we are with a full house here today, betting percentage up so much it can’t be calculated and this farce going out to half of the world via TV and radio which reminds me a lot of our new listeners would not be familiar with Cheltenham may I suggest you give them a run down and oh listen to the crowd and there’s the reason Taunton Barr has entered the track and taken off toward the start line like a rocket.’

‘And we welcome so many new listeners and viewers to Cheltenham today for this two mile steeple trial, and onto the track the clear favourite for the race Taunton Barr massive black stallion ridden by little Lindy Cumberland. Just looking him over now as he rockets up toward the start passing the rest of the field cantering and that is the horse I know as Flaxmead, I have no hesitation in saying that horse is the undefeated champion flat stayer Flaxmead.’

‘You going to put your money on that.’

‘Anything can happen in a steeple lets not count any chickens but we are looking at a horse that has proven beyond doubt it is the fastest currently in competition, all it’s records still stand. I say that because I know the horses owner Blake would tell me somewhere out there is a horse that can run him down but has been given no chance. Now Cheltenham racecourse has a scenic location in a natural amphitheatre just below the escapement  of the Cotswold Hills, at Cleeve Hill, with a capacity of 67,500 spectators and today it is absolutely jam packed. The racecourse also has its own steam railway station of the same name, although this no longer connects to the national rail network but has since rather been the current southern terminus of the preserved Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. Nothing to do with racing but to the uninitiated I say a grand place to spend a day even if the weather is a little dull like today. Some rain has made the going what one would call medium but clear at the moment just before the start of the race. There are two courses here at Cheltenham, one the old course and the new course, this race will be run from the two mile start at the end of the grandstand straight on the new course. The course is extremely testing with a steep uphill finish of half a mile and some of the hardest fences in the UK. The new course tends to favour flat bred horses as their are only two hurdles in the last three quarters of the mile. Now with seven scratching’s only leaves eight runners in this race one being Stargazer, a late entry, second in the last two nationals, hardly an event you would expect to find such a horse but I would think the reasons are obvious. We have three horses from the local stables they have only run one trial here so rare mix of form. They did quite well Oslo, Blanco and now prizes for guessing that horse is white and Tudor now that’s an interesting horse, owned by the Royal Family and ran first in a trial here two weeks ago matching close to the record time so could see this horse up with the best of them. And the crowd goes very quite here at Cheltenham as the starter attempts to form a start, Taunton Barr playing up, Cumberland has taken the horse wide of the pack absolute handful that thing, rest of them looking like its on and they are away and listen to that as the crowd shows approval. Stargazer fails to start it’s jockey dismounting. Taunton Barr wearing number seven streaks from the line and into the lead a short run to the first and over they go Taunton Barr clear by two lengths already, Cecelia Ridgehaven, now there’s a name you thought you’d never hear in a steeple holds second spot neither of them touched the fence. It’s all the blue and white colours of the Blake stable holding the first four positions Crimson Tide and Backfire along side each other with Tudor Oslo and Blanco tucked in behind them not much in it there currently but the pair of Taunton Barr and Saracen continue to put on a cracking pace over already on the third over they go. Taunton Barr holding three lengths on Saracen the pack follows and into the forth. Taunton Barr holding the inside line and pacing out again clearing the fence without so much as a brush, Saracen landing well still three lengths back. Tudor pulls ahead of the pack now a further four lengths back Oslo, Crimson Tide, Backfire, Blanco. Taunton Barr over the fourth and into the corner first bend the grandstand going mad here as they pass, makes ground out of the bend over the fifth go the two leaders still three lengths between them Cumberland appears to be trying to hold her mount back, the pace is very hard even for a two mile event. The pack holding well as they go over the fifth, over six, and Saracen draws along side Taunton Barr but at different ends of the jump Taunton Barr on the outside, they land together and Saracen takes the lead on the rail Cumberland tucks her mount in right behind her Ridgehaven has a quick look under her arm. The pack now running in a line on the fence, Tudor, Oslo, Blanco, Crimson Tide and Backfire bringing up the rear but nothing between them. And the leaders go over the eighth, Saracen followed closely by Taunton Barr both pacing well on the rail. Saracen holds the rail and Cumberland sitting up a bit her mount throwing his head around he doesn’t like something. Over nine and into and over ten, Cumberland taking to the far side of the jump and clears it clean, approaching the hard left turn and Cumberland gets her head down, pulls along side Saracen but very wide, holds pace with Cecelia Ridgehaven having a quick look. And Ridgehaven makes a run, jumps ahead of Taunton Barr, Cumberland gets down behind her mounts ears, she made an obvious release of tension on the reins, both of these mounts trained by the late Roger Palmer no crops. And off he goes! Taunton Barr leads into jump eleven, over lands well after a clean, Saracen only half a length back, and the crowd go mad here as Taunton Barr streaks away from Saracen. The pack pacing well some ten lengths in arrears to the leaders, Tudor still holding third. But its the black champ that makes the dash, over twelve and toward the turn on the finish straight, four lengths five, six, seven striding out not sure if he realises he has to jump another fence. Right in front of us now still kicking up a notch, over the last, ten lengths on Saracen and Cecelia Ridgehaven sits up and pulls Saracen back a notch and its all over. Taunton Barr crosses the line, three minutes forty one seconds taking three seconds off the standing record for today’s course. Crimson Tide with Roslyn Brooks aboard neck and neck with Backfire ridden by Janice Portland over the line just in front of Tudor with Charlie Wilson waving to the crowd, Oslo and Blanco just behind you could throw a blanket over that bunch they changed places all the way from turn three putting on a hell of a show. It’s the crowd that’s a winner here today if you’ve been listening in or just joined us, Taunton Barr that I have known by the name of Flaxmead has another record to it’s name. And he puts on his usual show in front of the grand stand, he’s back. Well that’s the biggest trial I will probably ever call what do you think of that Don.’

‘Well a commanding run and record by this horse but the national is far longer than today’s event and will be thirty nine other runners out there. One thing that strikes me is both Cumberland and Ridgehaven on the ground hugging their mounts necks in front of the crowd.’

‘Both these mounts trained by the late Roger Palmer, I would say that was no coincidence. I am going to predict that the black horse down there will walk over the next grand national.’

‘Not over till the fat lady sings ol man, I quite enjoyed watching this Taunton Barr benefit event, with Stargazer scratched at the line we are none the wiser.’

‘Taunton Barr just ran this course three seconds faster than Stargazer ever has, form is the guide, this horse never drops form. The rest of the field in fact came in the same pace as Stargazer, I just have to go with the flow.’

‘Be one big winner out of this and that will be the media, Lee Hayford has written a front page article every four day’s since all this started. Blake they tell me is not even here today,’ he laughed, ‘must have something important on.’

‘If Blake’s not here today would be the first time ever that he has not attended an event this horse has run. I’m sure he would have a very good reason for such a move and wish him all the best this is a real shot in the arm. Well our coverage of this meeting ends here, thanks for listening in and over to Royal Ascot for today’s group one derby.’

Blake turned off the radio as they pulled up in front of the house. Kalika had listened to the entire race with her hands over her face sometimes shaking her head. ‘He dropped back.’

‘Sounds like Lindy managed to hold him for a while.’

‘She didn’t mention that would be part of her race plan.’

The climbed out of the vehicle, Winston lent on the side of the car looking at the quite barn area and deserted track. ‘Looks like we’re not the only one’s listening or watching the race, you better head over and see if you can rally the troops,’ he looked at the ground and kicked a stone. ‘I think I’ve made a mistake.’

‘Why.’

‘Taking a hammer to a thumb tack, seven scratching’s including Stargazer.’

‘I wonder why the jockey dismounted and stood down.’

‘Yes, so do I.’

‘The next one’s a while away, The Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, any changes in plan.’

‘Not to Taunton, will suggest the rest of the girls take it to alternate meets, spread the effort around, the roll up at Cheltenham is a bit of a disaster really, I have had a few calls asking if they could be given more notice in the future to prepare. I can understand the problems logistics can impose.’

‘So he goes to Wincanton in November, where then.’

‘Planning that move next, waiting to see if he does as expected at Wincanton.’

‘Want your sponsor money back.’

Winston laughed. ‘I think I can repeat the fact I’ve made a mistake, you never stop learning but you get better at it. I never expected Ashby to throw the towel in, I can’t work it out. Will have to see Beaker I suppose and see what the future holds.’

‘You thinking about giving up.’

‘No just thinking.’

‘Well they are a complete bunch of plonker’s down at the BHA, you geared for that.’‘

‘Backing the Elite Hurdle with a favourable winnings will bring out a few more front runners, but the commentator was right, the national is a different kettle of fish. The Elite Hurdle is a two mile event, just marking time and filling in the entry form, we won’t know if he can win the national until he runs it.’

‘He’ll blow their doors off.’

Winston chuckled and looked at Kalika. ‘Well looks like the morning has done you the world of good.’

She sighed. ‘I’m worried about this afternoon, you won’t be there.’

‘Sorry girly your on your own, I can supply tools but you have to do the job yourselves.’

‘Maybe I can’t do the job.’

‘First time I’ve ever heard you use the word can’t.’

‘That’s how I feel.’

‘If you love someone you have to trust and delegate half your life to them. I can verify that you posses zero ability or experience in such matters.’

‘That hurts Winston.’

‘That’s true princes.’

‘I have to go, still no action over at the barn.’

‘Remember, delegation, maybe some of the staff can be trusted with responsibility that rests with you.’

‘What if they get it wrong.’

‘I’ll trust your judgement.’

‘I think I see what you mean.’

‘You have for years your just so damn stubborn you bite yourself on the arse.’

She folded her arms and threw her head around, her hair flew in the wind. ‘Winston really!’ She turned and walked away, she turned round in a circle as she walked, she had a warm smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

Some time past, Taunton Barr delivered another crushing blow with a further run at Wincanton in the planned November Elite Hurdle, Runners wearing his colours dominated the meeting as Crimson Tide, Saracen and Backfire ran alternate events on the day Crimson Tide and Saracen having wins. Janis Portland riding Backfire fell at a fence and was hurt. The press turned on Blake claiming he was loading the system and reaping the benefits of his own belligerence. Blake kept things close, he avoided travelling too far and continued on his quest to break into the national. Winston kept his distance from Kalika and Ellis. Once a week Crimson Tide and Saracen ran the training track at Flax Burton, things settled. Beaker attempted to contact Blake on many occasions, after a lot of thought he finally agreed to meet. The weather was bad, winter made it’s presence known, Beaker drove to Flax Burton as he refused to attend the HBA offices in London, he also refused to transport Beaker via air concerned about further poor press. Within himself Blake had stalled, Ashby and his cohorts were nowhere to be found.

Beaker arrived midday, he was escorted to the house and parked beside the entry porch. He was wrapped up to make the walk of only a few metres to the door and his breath clouded in the still cold air, Blake meet him at the door and they made their way to the study. Things felt rather uncomfortable on both sides but Beaker was forward in getting to the point. ‘Pretty impressive run by Cumberland and her mount to date.’

Winston sat back in his chair folding his arms. ‘Well she’s the one that deserves all the credit.’

‘Capacity crowds, venues falling over themselves to have you run, business must be booming.’

‘We didn’t bring him back to do that, these are all mistakes on my behalf, sounds a bit strange but true.’

‘Look Winston, if you wish to run in the national then just apply man, any remarks that Taunton Barr has no form would be laughable.’

‘We have not fulfilled the standard requirements, I’m a great believer in them and in fact support the strengthening of them.’

Beaker gave a sigh. ‘What about the little people, if you can’t qualify for the national then no one can.’

Winston nodded slowly. ‘Indeed, but many try to qualify with disastrous consequences to mainly the horse.’

‘We know your stance Winston and I especially appreciate the efforts put in to make things more comfortable for animals but even a person winning an Olympic medal knows pain is part of success.’

‘And Bechers Brook, we know how many horses that jump has taken down. We have a duplicate of it here, Lindy Cumberland tells me when you go over you can feel the devil bite your arse.’

‘Most support the format currently in place and has been some good moves toward levelling common ground.’

‘And the use of a riding crop.’

‘Common opinion that it’s just a signal to control the horses speed and endurance.’

‘Then can you tell me why a horse that dominated flat races and currently dominating chasses has never had a crop taken to it. Nor any of the other horses from this operation that currently win over fifty percent of races we enter.’

‘Well look if you take the suggestions to the committee I’m sure they’ll get attention.’

‘Don’t worry we intend to.’

‘Always been the swan song of the greenies.’

‘Greenies don’t run horses I do.’

‘You appear to be quite agitated.’

‘Things haven’t gone as planned.’

‘If I was you I’d be over the moon.’

‘My plan was to quietly sneak up and make a point.’

‘Sneak up with Taunton Barr,’ he laughed, ‘good luck with that.’

Winston looked down at the table, then up and gestured strongly with his hands. ‘I agree to some degree I invited it myself, now what, well we have another run before we can qualify for the national, then I will forward and entry. I’m sure you understand that on both sides of the fence that is the path. Exactly what people would think at present is that I’m barrelling along forcing the issue on my own terms and I considerer that without deviation from the norm there can be no progress. Taunton is venerable, if I take no steps to minimise risk could be devastating. Look what they tried to do to him on the flat.’

‘I’ve been asked to offer Taunton Barr a run in the national without further delay.’

‘Taunton will follow the required path without a rubber stamp.’

‘May I ask where you plan to make the next run.’

There was a knock on the door. ‘Come in.’

Mechanic looked serious. ‘Can I see you a sec.’

Winston knew mechanics faces well, he got up and walked to the door pulling it nearly shut behind him holding the handle. ‘What is it.’

‘We have a fodder lorry at the gate, not the usual lorry or driver, we called the supplier and has their markings but they know nothing of the registration number and their lorry is in Bristol like.’

‘Bring it in, direct it to the back barn area when in there lock the door, have a security guard cover the entrance, I’ll be over to see what the hell is going on directly.’ Winston walked back in but did not sit down. ‘I have to attend to something, would you like a cup of tea.’

‘Yes that would be nice.’

Winston led Beaker to the reception room, and got the housekeeper attended to him. He rugged himself up with a long coat, scarf and hat, then headed off over to the barn. On arrival there was a loud banging on the inside door of the small barn part of the complex, mechanic and a member of the security staff stood outside. ‘Oi, let me out!’

Winston stood in front of the small door set into the large barn doors for pedestrian access. ‘Open the door.’

Mechanic opened the door and a large man with a herringbone cap and donkey jacket stepped out, he noticed the guard was armed. He had a strong Irish accent, he put his hands in his pockets. ‘Now why would you be havin guns an all.’

Winston was short. ‘We have a fodder supplier, this lorry bears their firms logo but does not belong to them, and only one driver comes here.’

‘I know nothin about that.’

‘Then who owns this lorry and where did it come from.’

‘I don’t really know, I was in that Hole In The Wall pub by the river next to that Richard the turd thing, looking for work. The barman rang a fella for me and he came and offered me the job of driving dis lorry.’

‘Where did you pick it up from.’

‘He had someone drop it off in the street outside the pub and gave me directions to dis place.’

‘Do you not think it’s strange for someone driving a lorry to drop it off to someone else when there is someone already driving it. Was it the person that offered you the work.’

‘No, a different fella.’

‘Where do you have to return it too.’

‘I have an address in my pocket here.’ He pulled out a scrap of paper and handed it to Winston.

‘It’s a car park, they were going to pick you up there.’

‘No I was havin to find my way from there.’

‘Can I see your drivers licence.’ The man fumbled for his wallet and handed it to him. ‘William Moloney, Bray south of Dublin.’

‘You know where that is.’

Winston chuckled. ‘Yes I do, you have family.’

‘I do.’

‘How are they.’

‘Struggling, not much work around.’

‘What else do you do.’

‘I’m a stone mason.’

‘Mmm, rare talent these days, you can’t find work in the Cotswolds.’

‘I gamble sir, when they told where this lorry was going I was interested in seeing the place. Lots of the horses I bet on come from here and you have that Flaxmead, was hoping to see it and the place it came from and all.’

‘You put bets on in the Hole In The Wall while you was there.’

‘Been looking for work out of there for about a week, I was lucky enough to be winin some good money of the last few days.’

‘Mmm, you sent it home.’

‘I did, and doing the odd job here and there driving and labouring, we are getting by.’

Winston handed his licence back. ‘You know what’s in the lorry.’

‘I tink it would be horse food, I was told people here would unload the lorry with a fork lift, would only take a few minutes.’

Winston extended his hand. ‘Winston Blake Bill.’

Bill took his hand with a look of surprise, Winston noticed he had a vice grip handshake. ‘Well bless my cotton socks, you’d be Winston Blake himself, the very man that runs all this place.’

‘Mechanic you think you can find some work for Mr Maloney.’

‘Winston we know nothing of this geezer like.’

‘I read faces this man is straight as a gun barrel, Bill do you mind if we check your background, standard procedure for people we employ.’

‘Well when I was younger I was drinkin a lot, I was in trouble with the police now and then. Didn’t stop till I got married will that be goin against me.’

Mechanic laughed. ‘Winston found me drunk in the gutter one night a long time ago, battling demons of the past. He picked me up and I never looked back, never had a drink again neiver.’

‘Mechanic, take Bill to the stable quarters, let him use the facilities and have the staff prepare him a meal. Check his details and give him something to do.’

Mechanic began to walk toward the barn. ‘Come with me.’

Bill was hesitant. ‘Emm, hang on a minute, I don’t know what’s goin on here.’

Winston smiled at him. ‘Nor do I and not liable to find out without your help. Mechanic get a chemist out here and have whatever is in that truck analysed, make it a priority.’

‘Right like.’ He walked off with Bill in tow they began to chat.

The security guard walked away and Winston strode off toward the house, he used his mobile on the way. He did something against his better judgement because he had a gut feeling that’s what needed to be done. He called Lance Baldwin chief inspector at Bristol Bridewell police station direct.

Lance looked at his phone screen. ‘Ah Winston do what do I owe the pleasure.’

‘I need attendance here soon as possible.’

‘Oh, something serious.’

‘It’s either an attempt to poison every horse in the place, or an elaborate diversion.’

‘Good god, just hang on,’ he picked up his desk phone and pressed an extension. ‘Get a patrol out to Winston Blake’s place immediately and have Graham Ellis come to my office………….thank you.’ He put the phone down. ‘Be a few minutes.’

Winston had overheard. ‘Considering certain things Lance, not sure it’s a good idea to have Graham here, the press would be all over it.’

‘The attempt you speak of, you could be right, Graham will tell you why when he attends.’

‘Oh, I see, well thanks.’ They hung up.

He made his way back to the house and removed his heavy clothing before returning to Beaker whom was now in the kitchen talking to the housekeeper, they went back into his office and sat down. ‘Sorry about that bit of an issue in operations, now where were we.’

‘Where is Taunton Barr running next.’

‘Ah yes, not going to tell you.’

‘Well come on Winston could do with some heads up, damn logistics is causing some concerns.’

‘Will be plain as day when announced.’

‘Would really like a bit of notice.’

‘Truth is I’m not sure.’

‘You have two more runs if following protocol is your plan.’

‘It certainly is.’ There was a police siren in the background.

Beaker studied the barn network through the window over Winston’s shoulder. ‘Goodness me there’s more police here than Scotland Yard.’

Winston looked back over his shoulder. ‘Oh good grief,’ he got up, ‘could you go and talk to Mavis for a while again I have to attend to something. He left followed by Beaker whom went to the kitchen and sat down with Mavis.

Winston hastily rugged up and headed over to the barn complex. On arrival he ran straight into Graham Ellis. ‘Graham what an earth, I asked for a patrol to attend to look into something.’

‘Could you come over here please,’ they walked from earshot as uniformed officers talked to security and they began to inspect the contents of the lorry. ‘The reason for the response is that this was recently done somewhere else with grave consequences.’

‘Surely I would have heard.’

‘No, the people were devastated, they lost all their horses and livestock.’

‘As I say surely we would have known.’

‘The people involved are still coming to grips with what happened, this lorry would be driven by someone who knows nothing of its contents and has no connection with the people that organised it.’

Winston frowned with concern. ‘Go on.’

‘A similar thing happened just before Taunton ran at Cheltenham, the people involved unfortunately do not have the security resources you have nor do they have the experience of oppression.’

Winston became agitated. ‘Well who man.’

‘You know the owners of Stargazer.’

‘Yes of course, the horse hasn’t run for a while it has some muscular problems apparently.’

‘Unfortunately Stargazer died the day after it was withdrawn at Cheltenham, it was poisoned. A lorry load of feed was delivered to their stable, it took out the entire stable.’

Winston was stone face, quiet, his face gradually turned to red with rage. ‘What! You don’t think that is a significant occurrence people should know about!’

‘We didn’t want to send the perpetrators underground, was kept quiet on purpose to encourage a reoccurrence we could trace, it was thought you would be a target probably next. We also believe it has something to do with the disappearance of the Barton’s.’

Winston turned his back on Ellis, he drew some big breaths and his eyes welled, he grappled for control. He turned back around and yelled at the top of his voice. ‘Mechanic! Mechanic!

Mechanic came running from the barn complex hunting for breath when he arrived in only a few seconds. ‘Get onto Cecelia Ridgehaven, Janis Portland and Roselyn Brooks, have their mounts brought here immediately they are in grave danger. I want a man with a gun no more than three metres away from Flaxmead twenty four seven. Take Graham to Bill they need to talk.’

Ellis was inquisitive. ‘You have the driver.’

‘Yes.’

‘What have you done to him.’

‘Given him a job, how did you know his name was Bill.’

‘I didn’t you told me.’

‘Bill has good references and I spoke to his wife in Bray, she’s over the moon he has some steady work.’

‘Let him go into town with Graham to the Hole In The Wall, find the barman that made the phone call getting him the job driving this truck. Where did this truck come from Graham you’d know by now.’

‘Hire company in London, Holloway, we have people there now.’

‘Mechanic get all the girls off the horses, jockeys, strappers, all you can. Get them on their phones, call every stable in the country tell them to double check their feed supply, thank you go man.’ Mechanic sped off. ‘Graham did the BHA know about this.’

‘Yes but you must consider all were asked to keep it under wraps, finally a lead we can work on. I know what your thinking, Stargazer was gone, nothing could bring him back, at last the loss has given hope.’

Winston settled and was quiet for a few seconds. ‘You’re in danger of becoming a good man Graham, excuse me while I attend to some ministerial affairs.’ He began to walk away.

‘Is that for Kalika’s benefit.’

He stopped dead turned back. ‘You not only endangered her person, you gambled with her entire inner soul.’

‘I heard a good man say there is a difference between a gamble and a calculated risk.’

‘Indeed, you cannot serve a soul and a master, I appreciate the fact your position currently assisted in progress, If Kalika didn’t know about this, god help you man.’ He turned and walked away.

He strode back to the house with a determined stride. He burst into the kitchen without taking off his heavy clothes and stood over Beaker sat at the kitchen table with Mavis. ‘You know what is happening here.’

Beaker avoided eye contact and fiddled with his tea cup. ‘I put two and two together.’

‘Go back to London.’

‘Will you talk to Jean Williams.’

‘I’ll talk to all of you after the Grand National.’

‘There are some things she would like to discuss with you.’

‘Regarding.’

‘Some of the paperwork that has been processed.’

‘I’ll see her in the Old Bailey.’

‘Jean is just trying to make sense of things at a time that is rather difficult for many.’

‘Jean is well aware of the law, that’s what we are dealing with and initially whom has stretched it to its furthest means. Things have crossed way over the line now, I would appreciate it if you would leave, I have nothing more to say.’

Beaker slowly got up, he thanked Mavis for her tea and time, he mentioned one more thing as he walked out. ‘Someone is being obviously clumsy and belligerent. They are turning people on themselves and those whom can least defend. What exactly would we achieve by antagonising you. We need you on board with us, someone is trying to turn you into a vigilante, and no one could do anything about it, a fearsome outlook. Our efforts continue to be intercepted with easily arranged disregard for social, commercial or personal welfare. My office door is always open.’

‘Best you go to your rescue operations Beaker, inform them of risks, no one is immune from resentment, the next soul destroyed could be your own.’

‘Judging on the last hour, unfortunately I have to agree.’ He left.

Winston looked drained, he began to remove his heavy clothes becoming uncomfortable in the warmth of the house. He sat down at the kitchen table. Mavis was fussing around with things in the sink. She was a spritely pensioner whom had cleaned house for Winston for decades. ‘Would you like a cup of tea Winston.’

‘Yes thanks Mavis.’

‘What a lovely man that Beaker is, his poor mum is very ill.’

‘Yes, now you remind me.’

She fussed around making some tea and spoke as she worked. ‘What an earth is going on with all these police.’

‘It’s my fault Mavis.’

‘What is.’

‘The whole thing, had I not run Flaxmead again the system as flawed as it is would have just continued to work.’

‘That man Beaker he’s just as worried as you and everyone you talk to in town are so excited about the Grand National.’

‘It’s tearing us apart Mavis.’

‘Oh I don’t think so, lots of people in town that haven’t spoken to each other for a long time suddenly have a common goal.’

Winston strained a chuckle. ‘He does that to you, you have to stand near him to really feel what he is. No other horse on the planet has ever been able to touch him, he truly is a champion.’

‘I go and see him every now and then since he’s been back, he’s so gentle but when Lindy gets on him bleeding look out like.’

‘They call her the pocket rocket and the damsel dynamo, never were such nick names so appropriate.’ She put tea in front of him. ‘Thank you.’

Mavis sat down with him and sipped at some tea. ‘Wonderful that Kalika has finally found a man, he is rather dashing.’

‘Been some time now, looks to more than a fad would you say.’

‘Oh yes, she’s just head over heels with him and he fusses around her like a puppy.’

‘How’s your boy doing.’

‘Oh really well, he loves driving that lorry you bought him and don’t try and tell me it wasn’t you, lorries don’t just fall out of the sky.’

‘Have no idea what you mean.’

She waved her hand through the air. ‘Oh don’t try and pull the wool got you written all over it, wasn’t for you he’d still be walking around lost at the age of forty five.’

‘Good lord is that how old he is now.’

‘Oh yes, don’t let time get the better of you Winston, and you win that Grand National, I wish I knew Flaxmead was running his first race over fences, someone in London won a hundred thousand pounds on him that day.’

‘So I hear.’

‘People an arf excited.’

Winston put his elbows on the table and rubbed his forehead with his hands, he looked back up. ‘I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing.’

‘Terrible burden you carry, I just sit back and watch, I can’t believe you are like this, never seen it before.’

‘Not reasons of commercial advantage that drive this one, is reasons of the heart that weigh on my shoulders.’

‘Well you have lost a wife and a partner, both would be so proud of what you’re doing.’

‘And what about Lindy and Kalika.’

‘They treat you like your their dad, do anything to you and those girls would be standing in front of you mark my words.’

‘And that’s what worries me.’

‘We always worry about family but can’t wrap them up in cotton wool.’

‘Making a decision to continue is becoming increasingly difficult.’

‘You stop this the girls will be straight over here, wouldn’t like to be on the end of that. How would you feel next week and the week after. What would you do, it’s all those girls live for.’

‘They should be thinking of living for much more.’

‘Well they have a good balance of goals and personal life, you don’t see it from outside like I do, I see Lindy with her daughter, Kalika with her man, smiling, up early, living life before it catches up with them. Should they need much more I’m sure they’d let you know but they want for nothing and nor does my boy, and you stop putting money in his bank for jobs he hasn’t done.’

Winston got up. ‘Not sure what your talking about.’

She turned her head away. ‘Oh go on.’

He smiled and left the room.

He called mechanic, it was half hour before mechanic arrived in his office, he sat down and made himself comfortable and Winston finished tapping away on his keyboard. ‘How we going over there.’

‘Well as can be expected,’ he pulled a piece of paper from his heavy coat pocket and held it out to read. ‘Have information here on the feed in the lorry, the general feed we use here but with a few additives being and I don’t understand this like but I’ll have a go. Prunus species of plant matter that has traces of cyanide. Many species are cyanogenic, that is, they contain compounds called cyanogenic glucosides, notably amygdalin which on hydrolysis yields hydrogen cyanide.’

Winston stood up and went to the window, he looked out across the operation. He put his hands in his pockets. I’m left with a moral dilemma, I encouraged this entire fiasco, I was just talking to Mavis.’

‘Had a couple of days did you he he.’

‘If I was to pull the show up what would you say.’

‘That I would be standing clear because the girls would be over here they are poised to strike should you make such a move like. They were sitting there waiting when you called me, they said if he wants to stop things don’t come back.’

Winston sat back down. ‘What do you think.’

‘Fortunately I don’t have to make the decision.’

‘Wasn’t what I asked you.’

He was silent for a few seconds. ‘I’ve known you for a long time Mr Blake, I think it would hasten the grave and you would go to it regretting anything but success.’

Blake got up again and looked out the window. ‘Is the extra security in place.’

‘Yes.’

‘Crimson Tide, Saracen and Backfire here or on the way.’

‘Yes.’

‘The lorry full of poison feed.’

‘Being taken by the police and held for evidence.’

‘What do you suggest about covering that in the future.’

‘We pick up direct from the mill.’

‘Our supplier has been with us for a long time.’

‘Won’t change the supplier like, they are as upset as we are. Just have a more direct control put in place, besides the measure already in place succeeded.’

‘What about everybody else’s horses.’

‘The word is out there like wildfire, hasn’t done the supply chains any good.’

Blake turned around quickly and sat down. ‘Say that again.’

‘Say what like.’

‘Supply chains.’

‘Oh, yeah, supply chain our supplier loads from, the mill it loads from has been flooded with cancellations, called only a few minutes ago, affected them allot as they supply right across the country.’

His attitude changed in a flash. ‘Go and tell the girls Flaxmead runs next week at Wincanton.’

‘Phew thank goodness for that.’

‘There’s a jockey here that used to ride Stargazer, knows the owners family well, send him to see them to help with anything they need.’

‘I do believe from what I hear in the muster room they’re in Spain and inconsolable.’

‘Well fly him there and get him to report back as soon as he can.’ He left with a spring in his step.

Winston immediately made a phone call to one of his CEOs, since Flaxmead had come to light, merchant bankers Hornswaddle and Fothrington prior to their deaths bought into the world grain and fodder industry. The empire was left to Blake and he continued to buy out the opposition on the back of his racing empire’s reputation using the brands his empire produced. His trading CEO controlling a network of different industries was the one who had up to date and ongoing information that may shed light on why such a brash and ridiculously open move had been made on horse feed. He used his satellite phone connection, few had access to the system but Chris Wainwright did. ‘Chris, how are you man.’

‘Very well thanks, haven’t heard from you since the last board meeting.’

‘Well things are in good hands your end with the team.’

‘Strange you should ring at this time but parts of our end are suffering a downturn on the stock exchange, the grain and fodder chain say leak of some kind of problem with poisoning in the supply chain.’

‘Which one is making the gains.’

‘No mention of names on the phone no matter how secure the connection but I’m afraid it’s you know who.’

‘What I can tell you is a leading chase trainer had their entire stable nobbled by contaminated feed and an attempt was made here this morning. If it’s already hit the stock market someone knew what was going on.’

‘Good lord.’

‘I doubt that would give any gains to others in the racing industry, if it transfers five percent of market share that’s over a billion a year. Makes it look like someone is trying to knock of chase front runners to gain advantage in the Grand National, the money isn’t there its with services and food.’

‘We can’t let that happen ol boy, what do you suggest.’

‘All the information on you know who, arrange for it to fall on the desk of Ernst Stuttgart of the HM revenue and customs.’

‘Wow bit underhanded ol boy.’

‘How underhanded is poisoning horses.’

‘Mmm, well I hope your sure.’

‘Something was bothering me, just couldn’t work it out, was that I was looking for the right thing in the wrong places. Horse racing on a personal level is pride and a few quid, food is an everyday multi trillion dollar industry, one can easily have the wool pulled over your eyes with newspaper headlines. Destroy your oppositions credibility and you have full control, follow the money. Use every possible contact and information source you can, I’ll set about running the speculation into the ground with few horses. Find out who handles prunus products, main ingredient that has cause the entire fiasco, I know it’s a tall order but tracking sales of the product over the past year in the Bristol area would be helpful.’

‘Well the source could have come from anywhere and taken by road.’

‘True and probably the case but digging will have them on the back foot, may bring someone out of the trenches so we can shot at them. Should I get anything this end will inform you immediately.’

‘Okay, the thing that will boost market share and always has is that horse thing you have, Flaxmead or whatever its name is. Winning the Grand National will foil all this.’

‘To take out the horse with dodgy feed is one thing, to take out the market share because of what it eats is a strategy only a few I know would participate in, and think they had done a good job in the process.’

‘Well I better get on with it, oh and we are preparing a wine vintage called Taunton Barr the demand on suggestion is staggering.’

‘We only have so much wine.’

‘But the price just went up ol boy.’

‘I’m glad I no longer have to prioritise such things.’

‘Oh before I go what the hell is Bristol Engineering Race Team, I have a proposal of twenty million dollars worth of Australian V8 supercars.’

‘I bought into the service that owns the team, not really sure what to do with it, seemed a good idea at the time.’

‘I sent it to Watkinson management services, only one I could think of that could review the proposal, they loved it. They are in the process of negotiations to run it along side the two litre series in Europe.’

‘I just imagined it would be a diversionary tactic because of something, now not sure what.’

‘Ha ha, well looks like it may bring in some reasonable cash flow.’

Winston stood up and went to the window. ‘Was just an idea to take pressure off other things but, oh shit.’

‘Beg your pardon ol man.’

‘I have to go got some visitors and by the look of their stride they have issues.’

‘Okay will talk soon.’

Winston sat down put his phone away and waited, there was a resounding thump on the door. ‘Come in.’

In walked Kalika and Lindy, Lindy was the verbal rep. ‘How long will Flaxy run at Wincanton, no other track in the country suitable.’

‘It’s close and serves the purpose.’

‘What about Towcester in Northamptonshire, not far away and at least it’s different.’

‘Lindy I’m sure you appreciate the fact I am concerned we nearly had our horse population poisoned today.’

‘Well we have to go to Aintree in April might be good practice.’

‘No, we run at Wincanton next week and will consider Towcester soon.’

‘I’m informed I have to have a guard with me every time I go out the gate, even shopping, please explain.’

‘My suspicions are we are not dealing with equine adversaries but commercial market manipulators.’

‘Can you speak English.’

‘Some person with a huge bank account may consider flaming your arse for no other reason than making their bank account bigger. May include kidnapping you or Kristy to hold others to ransom seeing we hold some cards they would like to have in their hand rather that ours.’

‘Kalika doesn’t have to put up with it.’

‘Kalika doesn’t ride Flaxmead and she is currently in a relationship with a police officer, never goes out the gate without him.’

Lindy fell silent and Kalika took over. ‘We came to ask for some assistance maybe your too busy.’

‘You want something done ask a busy person.’

‘I hear Cecilia Ridgehaven, Janice Portland and Roselyn Brooks will be staying in the staff quarters at times, is that true.’

‘Their mounts are as venerable as ours if mechanic feels sometimes they need to stay here so be it.’

‘I don’t trust Celica Ridgehaven.’

‘May I suggest it’s not Cecilia Ridgehaven you need be concerned about, I would be more interested in the trust you put in Graham.’

The girls spoke in unison. ‘She’s a bitch.’

Winston raised his eyebrows. ‘At times Cecilia has poor judgment I would agree but she is merely misguided, I’m sure she has the best intentions at heart.’

Kalika chimed up. ‘Pull the other one.’

‘Do you have any suggestions on how to manage this.’

They looked at each other with blank faces. Lindy spoke. ‘We’ll think of something.’

‘Well when you have I’ll listen, now would you like to have a cup of tea or something while Mavis is still here.’

‘Oh yeah, will go and see her and have a chat.’

‘Good, time you girls listened for a change.’

They frowned at each other and left the room.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

Even faceless men at times fear detection, for all saints have a past and all sinners a future. Since the introduction of network social and commercial information channels available to everyone, throwing stones whilst in glass houses can shatter the most powerful fronts, with just the click of a mouse.

There were only two of them, they choose a spot way above everyone, where they liked to be. Looking down over the city between floors fifty three to sixty five of the The Shard building in the area of Southwark near London Bridge. In a spacious living area of a luxury apartment the glass outer shell of the building gave an impressive view, whilst sitting on the leather lounge next to the window one could imagine you were floating in mid air. One spoke English in a foreign accent, the other of British aristocracy, they spoke of an incredibly stupid mistake and how to attend to it.

The foreigner was angry. ‘Who is this Winston Blake.’

‘A retired merchant banker, left the Hornswaddle and Fothrington fortune, he worked for them nearly all his working life.’

‘Hornswaddle and Fothrington were pigs, when can you arrange to have this man meet with an accident.’

‘Blake has become very cunning, he had a security advisor in Australia that wrote the book on the subject. His influence and power has become a damn nuisance. Rumoured he has his own satellite system to communicate, we have no idea what he’s up to. He has links to MI6 and his Flax Burton complex manager an attractive and well know woman currently engaged to a member of the police force at Scotland Yard.’

‘I arranged for his entire horse stock to be eradicated, the fear will mould him into a mere pawn, when his horses are strewn about him without life he will crumble.’

‘That’s why I agreed to meet you, what moron did you give that job to, people aren’t telling you the truth, they just tell you what you want to hear, they fear you far more than Blake fears anyone.’

‘I am told the truck is there in his place, they will be feeding the poison to his stock as we speak.’

‘Well jolly good but the truck, lorry or whatever you want to call it, is impounded in a police yard in Bristol not far from Blake’s operation.’

The man was silent, he looked at his cohort with cold scorn, his dark features cringing with rage, he threw his headdress to one side as it had fallen across one side of his face. ‘You are forgetting I supply all the money, I expect results, I was forced to act as you have bungled along enough. You were sure we would succeed in ruining this mans interests, they are beginning to dominate the market. I am told it is working yet you are telling me otherwise.’

‘Couple of things we didn’t expect, one being a horse that convinced the market to use what it eats and the other a thrust by Blake to enter the steeplechase game. At the same time we thought we had control of these things and were well placed to succeed in destroying all opposition especially Blake the main target. Your little escaped has made it impossible to attempt any further market control. Blake is shifting the political goalposts and I have to adapt or perish.’

‘You have become useless, not a good position to be in.’

‘Don’t threaten or dictate to me man, one click by Blake on a mouse and you and I will be the most hunted people on the planet.’

‘There may be more accidents than you anticipate.’

The Brit got up and downed his expensive brandy. ‘Well, this will be the last time we speak, come after me and I’ll drop the bucket on you. Go after Blake and you’ll vanish. Blake is actually becoming of great use, I would be able to convince no one at present that your plan is of any use at all. Go after him and you’ll have everyone up your arse ol man, including us.’ He put his glass on the low table in front of his cohort. ‘I’ll se myself out.’

‘Leave this room and you are a fool.’

‘Heh, indeed.’

‘I will think of something, then you will see me again.’

‘The police have that lorry and the driver, they arrested a barman working in a pub in Bristol today linked to the case. They also found the bodies of the Barton’s yesterday, I would think in about a month they’ll be knocking on peoples doors and one may be yours, as you can imagine man, I know nothing about it. You decided to play lumberjacks you’ll have to handle your end of the log.’

‘You are a pig, where I come from pigs are the worst.’

‘I’m quite partial to a touch of bacon in the morning, good day.’

‘Agreed we have problems but we can make some kind of deal.’

He was at the door turning around as he grabbed the handle, his cohort had stood up looking toward him. ‘Go home, before you cause any more problems.’

‘You will not leave the building.’

‘Sorry ol man but brought some help with me this time, bit of back up waiting downstairs, should I not return they will come looking for me.’

‘You fool you bring the authorities to my door.’

‘You’re forgetting ol boy, I am the authorities.’ He opened the door pushing past the two burly men outside in the corridor, he made his way to the lift.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

Graham Ellis attended Blake’s Glastonbury operation, two bodies had been found identified as Wilfred and Grant Barton. They were found in a van registered to a female that once worked at Blake’s Glastonbury stables, the van was abandoned with the bodies in the back near the town of Wick in North Scotland near a farm property owned by the Barton’s. The van was atop the rough cliff line at Sinclair Castle, a difficult spot to access.

Prior to Ellis making enquiries at Glastonbury he had a discussion with Winston, they struggled to keep the conversation on a business level, the conflict of interest continued to dog their relationship. Blake initially believed the incidents were unrelated to the fact he was rocking the establishment of the steeplechase industry, but he now had his suspicions that parallel corporate intervention was present. Regardless of any facts relationships with between Winston and Ellis continued to fray.

Although Ellis knew the name of the registered owner, the name was nowhere to be found among records of any kind and appeared to be a bogus alias. He questioned Lindy Cumberland same time as he questioned Winston but this merely antagonised the situation further, Lindy had could not recall the van when shown a picture. For the first time Kalika scorned Ellis over his line of questioning, she became protective of her close family. Ellis changed tactics.

Since Roger Palmer had passed and Lindy Cumberland and her mount Taunton Barr had been moved to Flax Burton, the groundsman was the only person that had worked at the property for more than six months as operations there were seasonal. Palmer and Blake had shifted racing operations elsewhere when Flaxmead was brought to train there over three years ago, only local agistment of mainly horses used for recreational activities were housed in the main complex away from Flaxmead that was within a stable that was part of the properties dwelling.

When Ellis pulled up at the striking wrought iron gates they opened, he was puzzled, he had been given a keypad code by Winston. He drove down the long drive between grand oaks, he noticed another strange coincidence, the property was near a place east of Glastonbury called Wick. What looked like a golf course of to his left had horse’s and rider’s galloping around amongst the odd golfer, the fairways and fields separated by thick hedgerows and tall trees. He used a sketch given to him by Winston to access the building used by the groundsman, it was well north of the house at the edge of the golf course along a well maintained dirt track. At the end an iron clad building several bays wide full of farm machinery, in front of the far end bay a man worked on a ride on lawn mower, a wide one. He looked in his sixties, wore a herringbone cap, rough looking tweed jacket that came down to his knees, and a bib and brace blue overhauls beneath the jacket. His working boots were that worn the steel toe caps were exposed the leather had worn away. He had glasses and looked up as Ellis pulled up along side him and got out of his vehicle. ‘Excuse me I’m looking for a one Angus McBride.’

A strong Scottish accent replied. ‘Well up to now you’ve done a grand job, for I be he.’

Ellis held out his ID. ‘Graham Ellis, inspector, Scotland Yard.’

Angus rubbed his mouth and put his spanners down. ‘Mmm, been thinking you would be coming by.’

‘Why do you think I may come by.’

‘I’m no over keen on smart arses laddie.’

‘You’ve seen the news then.’

‘I was aware the Barton’s had gone long before the headline.’

‘So you knew they disappeared.’

‘Everyone did was on the news.’

‘You knew them.’

‘Everyone knew them.’

He handed a picture of a van to Angus. ‘Have you seen this vehicle before.’

‘Ay.’

He waited for more information but Angus was silent, he sat down on the edge of the mower. ‘When was the last time you saw it.’

‘Not really sure of the date or time, means not much to me, days here are the same every day.’

‘About how long ago.’

‘Mmmm, I’d say about three month.’

‘A woman drove it.’

‘Ay.’

‘You knew her.’

‘I did.’

‘She worked here.’

‘Ay, she helped out in the agistment stables, never came here.’

‘It’s a big place.’

‘It is, Mr Blake keeps buying the surrounding properties as they become available.’

‘We have reason to believe this woman you speak of can help us with our enquiries into the death of Wilfred and Grant Barton.’

‘I see.’

‘You remember the name of this woman.’

‘Ay.’ There was silence.

‘What was her name.’

‘Her name was Ella Barton.’

‘Ella Barton she was related.’

‘No, she just had the same surname.’

‘Rather odd.’

‘She was an odd woman, died her hair red to keep away the evil spirits.’

‘Come again.’

‘She was an odd woman, believed in a parallel universe, a place along side what happens here happens elsewhere as well.’

‘Not sure I understand.’

He chuckled under his breath. ‘Well, nor do I.’

‘The bodies were found in the vehicle I showed you, that was the vehicle she had when she was here.’

‘Ay, I recognise the number.’

‘She worked anywhere else around here.’

‘Here and there.’

‘Where.’

‘Oh, here and there Mr Ellis.’

‘That’s what she told you.’

‘Ay.’

‘Whom else would know about her.’

‘Roger Palmer.’

‘Unfortunately he’s deceased.’

‘Well at least we agree on that. Roger banned the woman from here, would be a year ago.’

‘So was other places she worked around here.’

‘You could nah believe anything she said, waste of time listening to her.’

‘Would Lindy Cumberland know this woman.’

‘Who’s Lindy Cumberland.’

‘You do the garden at the homestead.’

‘Just of late ay, Roger did it himself before that. I did it before he spent more time here about three plus year ago.’

‘How long have you worked here.’

‘Thirty five year, I was the gardener when Winston Blake bought the place, he kept me on bless his heart.’

‘You find him a good employer.’

‘You’ll have nothing more than praise for that man in these parts.’

Based on the character valuation Winston had given him about Angus he decided to move on. ‘The van was purchased from a car yard in Taunton, do you know if it’s still there.’

‘No, it’s gone.’

‘The person that ran it still around.’

‘Ay, you’ll find him in the Stonegallows Inn, he’s a terrible alcoholic, Brent Olin.’

‘Thank you, been most helpful, you knew the Barton’s.

‘Ay.’

‘Well.’

‘Wilfred I knew, from the pub, Grant I hardly ever saw.’

‘Did they have any enemies.’

‘Huh, everyone.’

‘Why.’

‘Like I said, I knew them, would stop short of calling them friends.’

‘Well I’ll go and look for Mr Olin, try and find out what happened to them.’

‘Good luck.’

Ellis went to walk away but asked a final question. ‘Is there anyone round here you think would want to harm them.’

‘Everyone would want to harm them, just that nobody would, we’re god fearing people here Mr Ellis.’

‘Mmm, thank you Angus, good day.’

Angus watched him drive away and went back to work on the mower.

The Stonegallows Inn was the closest public house to Barr, Ellis was going to Barr for further enquires and dropped off at the pub on the off chance he would catch a one Brent Olin in the place. He parked near the entrance, the site where the pubs stands was a popular hanging site, with pleasant views over Taunton, this site was frequently used during the Bloody Assizes of 1685. Where 144 captured rebels were put to death after the English Civil War. In April 1770 Stephen Scadding was hung on this site at Stone Gallows when nine other men were executed for bread stealing and rioting. Ellis approached the barman, the place was busy, he showed his ID. ‘Looking for a Brent Olin.’

The barman a middle well built man hesitated, he studied the ID and looked at Ellis’s face. ‘He’s over in the corner there by the window where he is every day, em, not good for business should there be……’

‘Thank you for identifying this gentleman excuse me.’ He walked up to Olin and presented his ID, Olin attempted to look at it but was highly inebriated. He spoke well with a slight tint of aristocracy, but slurred his words. His face riddled with read lines and his eyes bloodshot and yellowing, he had long grey scruffy hair and looked rather uncouth.

‘Police a, good lord.’

‘Would you be Brent Olin.’

He occasionally stuttered. ‘I I I would sir yes.’

Ellis showed him the picture of the van. ‘Recognise this vehicle.’

Olin held it out from his face to focus and squinted his eyes. ‘Oh god, the woman.’

‘So a female bought it from you, may I sit down.’

‘Pfft, Expect me to be able to stop you man.’

Ellis sat down next to him, he stunk of alcohol and held a neat whisky in his hand. ‘We have information on the vehicle and it’s owner but they appear to be false, can you describe her.’

‘Saw her twice, red hair, real looker, paid cash.’

‘You remember it well for a reason.’

‘Ruined my business.’

‘How.’

‘She called claiming the vehicle was faulty, leaking radiator had overheated and motor failed. Was no warranty on the van, she bought it because it was cheap.’

Ellis shrugged his shoulders. ‘How did this ruin your business.’

‘She kept calling, threatening me with extinction, I thought she was quite excentric, had that silver spoon accent.’

‘How did this end your business, I just don’t see it from what you say.’

‘One morning I had inland revenue, customs, the police all on my doorstep at once.’ He coughed a few times and hunted for breath. ‘Took me to the cleaners, the van was used as a catalyst for destruction, they traced it’s background was apparently stolen in Ireland. My tax was not in order although I had a chartered accountant do it for me. Breaches of acts and laws I had never heard of. Beaten to a pulp at times when I complained to the Police. You are probably breaking some kind of law now, if someone wished to ruin you with the right contacts can be done, I can bear witness of such a thing. Hounded me to the point of lonely depressive alcoholism, and here I am.’

‘Did the police do anything about these beatings.’

He chuckled and coughed under his breath. ‘It was the police.’

Ellis hunted his mind. ‘Where did this woman live.’

‘Grant Barton’s wife, I’m sure you know where he lives, or used to live.’

He handed Olin a card. ‘If you can think of anything more, call me if you could please.’

Brent studied the card holding away from his face to focus. ‘Scotland Yard, that won’t save you man.’

‘Thanks for your cooperation, I have to go, don’t forget, should you feel you remember something, call.’ He left Olin coughing and spluttering but noticed he put the card in his coat pocket. Ellis approached the barman, he attempted to look busy at the other end of the bar, Ellis cornered him. ‘Mr Olin come in here often.’

‘No comment.’

‘You just got yourself onto persons of interest list.’ He went to walk away.’

‘Hang on.’ The barman looked around, he was a cockney, huge man with big hands. ‘Coming round here asking questions could get you more trouble than it’s worth mate.’

‘Not answering them will raise suspicion.’

‘I’m sure Brent answered enough for you, not wise to come round here asking questions.’

‘Really, I’ll be sure and remember that, I didn’t get your name.’

‘I don’t have to give you my name and you know that, the walls have ears like.’

Ellis walked out, he studied the road either direction, there was a police Range Rover parked in a Hedgerow about by the corner of the pub car park, he got in his car and drove toward it, he went slowly past, it shot out with its lights on, it blipped its siren and Ellis pulled over in a bus stop pull off some fifty metres down the road toward Taunton. He sat in his car and waited opening the window. A sergeant looked down at him with intimidation. ‘Been drinking sir.’

‘No, I don’t drink.’

‘Just a routine check sir, we like to make sure people don’t come here and abuse our road laws, could you blow into this please.’

The sergeant thrust a tube toward his mouth mounted on a hand alcoholiser, he blew into it until it made a faint ping. The sergeant studied it. ‘Could you step out of your vehicle sir would appear you’ve been drinking, and some ID please.’ Ellis climbed from his vehicle and walked onto the footpath, he got his ID from his top suit pocket and showed it to the sergeant, he studied it.

‘An inspector Ellis, oh been some kind of mistake, sorry, you vehicle doesn’t come up as a police vehicle.’

‘And there is good reasons for that.’

‘I’ll just be off and you can be on your way.’

‘Stay where you are.’ Ellis punched some keys on his phone. ‘Braddock, get onto Scotland Yard and have send an internal affairs investigation team to Taunton immediately, inform the CO.’ He hung up. ‘You can stop making hand signals to your friend, take your friend and go back to the station, wait there until internal affairs arrives.’

‘You’re a fool, dress warm you’ll be writing parking tickets in North Scotland tomorrow.’

‘So you think I’m from Scotland Yard, I know everything about you, and I know where your family is. Your friend in the vehicle, I know who he is, where he lives, where he shits, who he’s bonking that just happens to be your wife. Go back to the station for alternatives are looking rather grave.’

‘Who the hell are you.’

‘Someone that’s not stupid enough to go any further than a sentence with you before informing my peers we were right.’

The sergeant looked pale. ‘You said CO on the phone instead of CI.’

‘Your friend has drawn his weapon, I can shot you both now and find the information we need elsewhere, or you can go back to the station and wait.’

The sergeant looked around and made a hand signal to his partner. ‘I just need talk to my off sider.’ Ellis indicated agreance with his hand, the sergeant walked to the window of the Range Rover, he talked for half a minute then returned to Ellis. ‘This vehicle is registered to a hire company in Bristol, how do I know you are who you say you are, you haven’t even mentioned my name but claim to know all about us.’

‘Sergeant Len Grimmer, twelve years on the civil police force at Taunton. Previously a corporal in the British Armed Forces stationed in the Middle East. On return you took a position in the armed forces careers office at the University of London. There you had contact with members of parliament and other persons outside the UK now deemed a threat to national security. You are wanted for questioning in connection with the disappearance and murder of civilians, you have information that is of interest or you can be shot, I prefer the later as a sanction, and inform you I wasn’t stupid enough to come here alone.’

‘Who the hell told you all this.’

‘A horse.’

‘I’m going to call your bluff.’ His partner climbed from the police vehicle and ran up to him.

‘We’ve been called back to the station immediately.’

Grimmer looked at him. ‘And this bloke.’

‘Don’t know who he is, called the office, a load of information just landed on the CI’s desk, if we don’t go back they’ll call SO19.’

Grimmer’s partner spoke in haste to Ellis. ‘I couldn’t do anything, they watch your family, threaten you, please my family is in danger.’

‘They tell you that but have done nothing of the kind. Using fear is common and when you’re in a position like you. Hardly the thing you would expect to be confronted with. Not us you need fear now but your associates, we’re you’re only hope.’

Grimmer looked out the corner of his eye at his partner, he blinked allot then turned and walked toward the vehicle followed by his partner.

Ellis watched them drive off toward Taunton, not far down the road they were tagged by a black Jaguar.

Ellis pushed on toward Oldbury Lodge in Barr, he checked Blake’s property at the end of the lane next to the river, as he pulled up on the roadway he was surprised to find the gates open by themselves. He alighted from his vehicle and walked up the short drive, the ornate three story dwelling was clearly visible from the road, he walked to a front window and looked inside, the lace curtains fouled his view. He walked to the front door and rang the bell, he waited, no one came, he walked back out to the road and the gates closed behind him.

He drove the short distance down the lane to Grant Barton’s house, he noticed the curtains on Oldbury Lodge move as he went past. He pulled up outside and walked down the dirt drive, the house was only metres from the lane, he noticed recent tyre marks going into the driveway, overnight rain left clear markings on the dirt drive. He stepped onto the open veranda at the front of the house and knocked on the door, he waited, no one came. He walked to the garage door, he looked through a gap where the doors joined but it was to dark to see, other than a vehicle was parked inside. He suddenly turned to a voice behind him, a clear Scottish accent. ‘Looking for something here laddie.’

He turned to look down the muzzle of a double barrelled shotgun. He went to retrieve his ID from his jacket pocket and the elderly man in bib and brace overhauls cooked the weapon. ‘You the caretaker.’

‘No mind of your’s laddie, best you just go away.’

‘If you’d allow me to get my ID I can assure you it is my mind.’

The elderly gent gestured with the end of the gun barrel toward his chest, he slowly retrieved ID and held it up toward the elderly gents face, he squinted to read it. ‘Graham Ellis, Inspector, Scotland Yard.’ He lowered the gun and uncocked the mechanism. ‘Is it about the Barton’s.’

‘You have a permit for that thing.’

‘I do.’

‘Some ID please.’

‘I carry no identification, never need it, been here for years, you’re the first to ask.’

‘You’re name.’

‘Is my business.’

‘You say you have a permit for the weapon, to get one you must have ID.’

‘Weapons no mine, belonged to Grant Barton.’

‘Put it down, on the ground and step back away.’

He did so. ‘Look I just work here, been quite a few people coming and going with the Barton’s being found dead and all, people are a bit scatty.’

A white Range Rover pulled up in the drive, the driver stayed with the vehicle, the passenger a middle aged black haired man with a tweed suit got out and took the elderly Scott by the arm. Ellis spoke to him. ‘Take him to Taunton police station and question him there, make it quite obvious he’s being questioned, there’s rats around here and we need to have them come out of their holes.’

The elderly Scot looked pale and wore a face of fear. ‘The police are no liked around here laddie.’

‘I could understand that.’

‘I didn’y expect this, I’m sorry about the gun.’

‘You’ll be asked some questions and have an opportunity to answer them, If you need a gun to deal with some of the people around here we need find them or they may find you, choice is yours.’

‘Hang on I don’t even know if you’re who you say you are.’

‘You won’t even tell us who you are, and we have no time to spend on formalities, two people from here are dead and you or I could be the next.’ He looked at his associate. ‘If he comes up with anything that could be of interest in the immediate time let me know.’ The man nodded, he man handled the elderly man into the back of the Range Rover, he got in next to him and it sped off up the lane.

Ellis drove the short distance down the lane to Oldbury Lodge, he hoped the fuss just down the lane would avoid the use of further resources. He pulled up outside and walked to the front door only metres from the laneway, he knocked, the curtains, moved, there was no response. He pulled a document from his top pocket and put it through the letter box hole in the door. He waited. He shouted. ‘Police, we have a warrant to search these premises, open the door!’

There was a muffled voice from inside the door. ‘Who do you want to speak to.’

‘Lord Mulberry.’

‘I have no intention of speaking to you, go away or I’ll call the local police.’

‘Fine, you have two minutes.’ Ellis stepped back from the door and looked at this watch, he waited.

Just over a minute and the door latch clicked and Mulberry stood in the doorway. Ellis held up his ID. ‘Having trouble contacting your peers.’

‘I don’t know what’s going on.’

‘We’re not overly sure ourselves, the more we find out the less we know. I could arrest you for corporate fraud and taxation violations but not today.’

‘I need to talk to my lawyer.’

‘You need to talk to us or it will be circulated you are an ear and have been for a long time.’

‘No, no don’t do that.’

‘Have a look at the warrant.’

Mulberry studied it. ‘It’s not signed.’

‘No, even the thickest walls have ears.’

‘I see.’ He looked around, squinting with concentration. ‘Some nasty people will know you’re here.’

‘Good, can’t find people we don’t know about.’

‘What do you want from me.’

‘Information.’

‘On what.’

‘You go to the Vivary golf club in Taunton every Saturday afternoon without fail and play a round of golf alone. This Saturday you will play with a man driving a white Range Rover, he will have a poppy in his lapel, he has a cockney accent is six foot six, and weighs twenty stone. His golf putter is gold colour with a leather bound handle, bears an engraved shaft with the name William. He, I, and you are the only one’s that know that, fail to show up and I can do nothing for you.’

‘You expect me to trust you.’

‘No I expect you to roll up and play golf, just one more thing, your passport has been cancelled.’

‘I’m gong to contact some friends who can sort this out.’

‘You make one contact other than the one I mentioned and we’ll hit this place hard in an instant.’ Ellis took the warrant from Mulberry’s hand and began to put it in his top pocket. ‘Just looks like a casual visit from someone selling insurance for now, I have to go, have a good day.’

Mulberry attempted further conversation but Ellis climbed in his vehicle and casually drove off.

Was not long before mechanic knocked on Winston’s door, on entry he closed it softly behind him, he sat close to Winston and lent on his desk. ‘Just had a call from Angus the gardener.’

Winston squinted with puzzlement, ‘Worked at the place when I bought it, can’t say I’ve ever known him to use a phone.’

‘Ellis just hit Taunton, went through the place like a dose of salts like, arrested someone in the lane at Barton’s place.’

Winston folded his arms and lent back. ‘Are you sure, does the story check out.’

‘He was in the Stonegallows, spoke to someone there, then went to the lane, I spoke to the publican.’

‘And.’

‘He had no comment.’

‘Who did they arrest, Barton’s place is empty far as we know.’

‘Angus said it was his elder brother, he asked for help.’

‘Brother,’ he shook his head slowly looking into space. ‘What an earth, more we find out the less we know. That’s a bold move by someone like Ellis whom should not be in the limelight, more to this than meets the eye. Thanks mechanic keep me informed I’m pressed here with other matters.’

Winston often listened to community radio, he found it informative of local events and current affairs, he had it on in the background as he worked at his desk. A change of presenter every two hours, some not the sharpest knives on the block but none the less interesting. A range of music that covered a wide spans of genres and interviews of local people involved in the community, he enjoyed the classical music mixed in with The Beatles. He liked the presence that was not contaminated with commercial bias or political interest. He remembered that only last week Ellis had been interviewed on a morning chat show, he had stoped work and turned the volume up to listen. He now found that between the lines of replies to the presenters questions were subtle hints of the fact a breakthrough on nearby investigations being carried out by Bristol police. Winston knew things that concerned him, the harmony and focus of family could be in jeopardy, although some of the things in question were relevant to success he was left with a moral and family obligation to the girls. Moral, commercial and family interests were about to collide and he felt he was ill equipped to handle it.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

Winston did not have to arrange a meeting with Ellis as he contacted mechanic and through the correct channels arrived on Winston’s doorstep the next day. It was difficult to separate Kalika and Graham, she fussed around him all the time they were together. She was happy and content with the future, Winston was successful in arranging an interview with the local community radio station with Lindy and Kalika regarding Taunton Barr’s next run now only days away. This took the pair clear of the place as Ellis arrived right on time.

Ellis was not dressed in his normal suit and tie, he wore casual clothes of neutral colours with an open neck light blue shirt and heavy three quarter length coat to keep out the cold. He also wore a herringbone cap, tartan pattern in beige colours similar to the rest of his outfit. Winston was rather taken back, he greeted Graham, he took of his coat and hat placing them on a nearby chair in Winston’s office and sat down in front of the desk pulling the chair up close. Mavis knew Grahams preferences as to light refreshments and she was a real busy body so Winston expected a tray of warm sustenance within a few minutes. ‘I was going to call.’

‘No doubt, I thought I’d save you the trouble.’

‘So you know why I would want to have a chat.’

‘To some degree, you would have known we attended Taunton and Barr yesterday minutes after we got there.’

Winston purposely used body language to pry information from Grahams face, he fiddled with his pen with looks of contempt. ‘You’d think a person whom was part of the family would confide in others.’

‘You know I can’t do that.’

‘A bakers family gets their bread cheap.’

Ellis crossed his legs and folded his arms. ‘Come on Winston in some cases you know far more than I.’

‘Not sure who you work for but it’s certainly not Scotland Yard.’

‘For all intensive purposes I do.’

‘I have people working in other organisations but are not paid by them.’

‘Look I know what you mean, is as far as it can go.’

‘I think not, I have two girls preparing wedding arrangements, have I missed something.’

‘Where are they.’

‘In town,’ he looked at his watch. ‘Ten minutes you’ll be able to hear them on the radio.’

‘Ah, convenient.’

‘Announcing our next move with Flaxmead, local radio is about as far as I want to go at present, now have I missed something.’

‘I’m not here on official matters.’

Winston waited. ‘Go on.’

Ellis drew a big breath and moved around in his seat coming forward and leaning on the desk. ‘I asked Kalika to marry me, she insisted I ask your permission.’ Winston looked completely drawn, he put his hands on the table and stood up, he turned to the window and looked over at the complex, he was quiet. ‘Winston did you hear me.’

‘Yes I did, just a few moments please.’ There was a knock on the door, Winston raised his voice. ‘Put it on the table please Mavis.’

She came in and placed a tray next to Graham, he smiled, she put a cup of tea in front of him. ‘There you go just how you like it. Isn’t it exciting Winston, Kalika fancy that, thought she’s be alone forever that girl.’

Winston did not turn round. ‘Thank you Mavis, can you attend to the guest quarters at the other end of the house.’

‘Oh Winston I can’t attend to your guest here way up there.’

‘I’m aware of that Mavis, when the time comes I’ll tell the newspaper not much difference agreed but in this case imperative, hope you understand.’

‘Oh ah, okay Winston.’ She clutched Grahams hand with a smile and quietly left.

‘She’s been here a long time.’

‘Certainly has, looked after my father and mother while they were elderly.’

Graham sipped his tea ‘We don’t seem to be getting far.’

Winston was silent for quite a while, he suddenly turned and sat on the bench seat in the bay window facing Ellis. ‘I have to contend with the fact that a most independent woman placed the rest of her life in my hands.’

‘I’d be overjoyed.’

‘Indeed, the first thing I mention is if you are using this as part of operations I will hunt you to the end of the earth.’

Ellis pouted and holding his head to one side. ‘I know you to some degree now, no need to have mentioned it, some would say it was a threat, I’d say it was a guarantee.’

Winston again stood up and looked out the window with his back to Ellis. He encouraged answers that would make him turn round. ‘You know a man called John Stanton.’

‘I know of him, not many people in my profession wouldn’t.’

‘That’s not what I asked you.’

There was silence for a few seconds. ‘I know of him.’

Winston turned around an glared at Ellis. ‘Rubbish.’

‘Then why do you ask.’

‘One of my best friend’s daughter trusts me as a father and you ask a question like that.’

‘You may think I was marrying into money or…..’

‘If that was the case you’d be out of here long ago.’

There was again silence. ‘I’ve met him.’

‘Recently.’

‘No.’

‘How long.’

‘Years.’

Winston slowly sat down at his desk. ‘I asked how long.’

‘Is this going to affect…..’

‘No, lying will.’

‘A few years.’

‘Why did you not tell me when I asked.’

Ellis flew to his feet in anger. ‘Because I don’t want to loose her period.’

The air could be cut with a knife. Winston slowly stood. ‘Anger is a far more useable emotion than despair, sit down.’

Ellis was still agitated, he gestured nervously with his hands. ‘All of a sudden I’m asked to prove something I don’t even understand.’

‘Not any more.’

‘Why.’

‘Because it’s written all over your face.’

Ellis sat down and pulled his chair up restlessly. ‘I feel terrible, the thought of her being taken from me.’

Winston sat down, he looked at his watch and turned a radio on sitting on his desk, he turned up the volume, the cue was right on time, a female voice could be heard. ‘And in the studio this morning from Winston Blake’s stables in Flax Burton we have an absolute exclusive having Lindy Cumberland and Kalika Palmer in to talk about the next race to be run by the steeplechaser Taunton Barr. Girls this has griped the nation, another champion from the Blake stables, one more race and Taunton Barr can put an entry in for the Grand National. Kalika can you tell us where Taunton will be running this event.’

‘Taunton will be running a grade two steeple at Aintree next week.’

‘Oh my goodness, Lindy how do you feel about running the very ground Taunton will take on the national if he makes it.’

‘Hell make it.’

‘Have you run there before.’

‘No, we have trained for some time in similar conditions but without thirty nine other horses, I don’t think this grade two will be much of an indicator, only half the distance and only standard fences.’

‘So you think the form shown by Taunton Barr is not a good pointer as to the outcome of the national should he be drawn for the race.’

‘If he doesn’t make the grand national he’ll race somewhere else on the day.’

‘What do you think the chances are of him making the draw.’

‘After saying that a hundred percent.’ Kalika giggled in the background.

‘Yes he’s filled every venue he’s raced at since his first at Wincanton I think it was.’

‘Yes.’

‘Where the elderly couple from London won a hundred thousand pounds.’

‘We meet them, lovely old couple, was nice to see Taunton’s efforts grace the ordinary people of the country.’

‘I don’t think that will happen again.’

Kalika spoke. ‘Even if Taunton makes it to the national bookies are giving four to one his not the favourite.’

‘Would a convincing run at Aintree change that.’

Lindy spoke again. ‘Probably not, he’s up against only a few horses that may run in the national and the distance is far greater. There are horses in the national that could take it to him just on experience.’

‘Who could stop him from winning.’

‘The other thirty nine runners on the line, that’s why they’re there.’

‘So you respect the efforts of everyone that lines up.’

‘Even the lowest ranked horse could win the race if the other thirty nine were to fall.’

‘Is that possible, the race has always been dogged with controversy.’

‘The conditions and politics of the race are always controversial, Taunton couldn’t give a rats arse he just likes to run and jump, thinks it’s a day out.’

The presenter giggled. ‘Do you get scared when you line up.’

‘No I get angry with him.’

‘Really.’

‘Well he’s such a rectal cavity when you show him a few horses to run against pretty please isn’t in his vocabulary.’

‘He certainly looks dangerous I must say.’

‘If he was dangerous we wouldn’t let children ride his back.’

‘That’s a good point, do you have days when he does such a thing.’

‘Every day children are brought to the complex some as young as four, he loves it.’

‘There has been no formal admission that Taunton Barr is in fact Flaxmead a horse that won the Australian Melbourne Cup at the time was the pet of two children.’

‘If he went back to Australia he would be Flaxmead, here he’s Taunton Barr.’

‘Any reason for that.’

‘Yeah, wallies down at the BHA they need sorting out.’ Kalika had her hand over her mouth crying with laughter.

‘Well we all wish you the best of luck and I must say I have already booked a place at Aintree for April.’

‘Thanks was a pleasure and we hope to see you there.’

The presenter introduced Brahms Third in D minor.

Winston turned the radio off, Graham spoke immediately with a voice of concern. ‘Aintree, are you insane.’

‘They wanted to go to Towcester in North Hamptonshire, or Aintree.’

‘Towcester I’ve never heard of would that not be more suitable.’

‘Yes if they think we’re racing at Aintree.’

‘I’m not with you.’

‘Exactly, me neither.’

‘I need more information.’

‘Ah, you’ll have to deal with not only Kalika but Lindy.’ Winston stood up and offered his hand. ‘Congratulations on your pending marriage.’

Ellis shook slowly with a bland face of stone. He walked round to the bay window and looked out across the complex, he was silent for a while. ‘I have a moral, commercial and social dilemma.’ Winston sat holding his chin up with one hand elbow on the table with an ear to ear grin. ‘Where do you think they will want to go.’

‘Next question.’ Ellis walked slowly round the desk and began to pick up his hat and coat. ‘When’s the big day then.’

Ellis spoke softly, slowly and without malice. ‘Weekend after the national.’

‘Well you learn something everyday turns out you do know more than me.’

‘Not much point in announcing things without foundation.’

‘Well if you need any help with the girls I’ll do what I can, son.’

Ellis was putting his coat on. ‘Your actually enjoying this aren’t you.’

Winston sat back in his chair and folded his arms. ‘Nothing like a bit of good old responsibility, things always look a little different on the other side of the fence, just remember Kalika and Lindy will be sitting here one day. Bit of good old information could be of great assistance, sometimes your life or where you sleep may depend on a scrap of information.’

Ellis coughed. ‘Yes, I see what you mean, we will no doubt have to meet more often.’

‘That’s the idea, tomorrow actually, when you find out where Taunton’s running.’

Ellis looked wide eyed, he pointed at his chest. ‘Me.’

‘Yes.’

‘I didn’t think I would be getting involved in such matters.’

‘Come on now, part of the family now, you’re about to find out what courage is all about man. Ever seen the pocket rocket go off the handle or have Kalika scratch a hole in the ground with her boot while she’s baying at the moon.’

Ellis put his cap on. ‘Humph, no can’t say I have.’

‘Well see you tomorrow afternoon when you’ll give me their decision entries are nearly closed.’

Ellis walked to the door. ‘Will you call Kal….’

‘She’ll be waiting outside the station when you get back.’

‘How do you know.’

‘I’d be reluctant to give even money on it.’

‘I see.’ Ellis left and slowly closed the door.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

Joan Williams was meeting with Beaker and Steve Ciggins in the board room of the BHA, she was not happy. ‘Beaker what an earth is going on with Blake, he won’t meet with anyone, will not take calls, I have everyone from the Ford motor company to Avon lining up for information on how to sponsor this years Grand National.’

‘Well they do have that missing persons thing to deal with now stated as being a murder. The police hit Taunton and made some arrests. Blake’s operation was targeted in the poisoning attempts, not surprising he’s gone to ground.’

‘We need to sort this Grand National thing out, tomorrow we will drive to his operation and I’m sure he will see us, he’s a very polite man.’

Ciggins fired up. ‘Joan careful, may be seen as collaboration for a controlling body.’

‘Controlling body you have that right, I have Scotland Yard onto me this morning the police at Aintree want all the information they can get on the movements of Taunton Barr. Damn things just about causing a riot wherever it goes.’

‘Joan we have people watching.’

‘Yes, who, at least we know Blake.’

Ciggins lent forward and gestured with his hands on the table. ‘We have some whom are not happy with all this at all.’

‘Yes, I’m one of them. Lindy Cumberland was on radio by reports saying the BHA needed sorting out. She indicated Taunton Barr would be running at Aintree next week.’

Beaker attempted to restrain concern. ‘All scripted by Blake no doubt, he seldom talks to people on their own ground so I suggest we do make the trek to Flax Burton if you feel that strongly about it.’

Ciggins interrupted. ‘What if he’s not there.’

‘Risk we have to take, should he learn we are there I suggest he would make himself available wherever he may be, none of them have used the road for some days now, they use a helicopter.’

Williams was unimpressed. ‘Oh lardy bloody dah. We drive up early in the morning.’

Ciggins sat back from the table. ‘I have some pretty important meetings tomorrow.’

Williams levelled some paperwork she had in her hands by dropping the lower edge on the table as she got up. ‘Yes, one is at Flax Burton, be in the car park here at six sharp, will have a hire car take us.’

Beaker spoke. ‘I could contact Blake he may fly us up.’

‘No, looks worse than Steven suggested and I want full control on being able to work from the back of the vehicle.’ She walked out, Beaker followed her.

Ciggins was left looking at the wall. ‘Shit.’

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

Was early next morning that Winston had a war party from the stables in his office, Kalika and Lindy strode in unannounced and without knocking. They had been in Bristol until late the previous night, Kalika was less than happy. ‘Okay, out with it, you put him up to it.’

‘Winston took off the magnifier glasses he was wearing. ‘I beg your pardon.’

‘Graham, you put him up to it.’

Winston’s eyes darted round the room looking for nothing. ‘My ears are working fine but my ESP is down this morning.’

‘Towcester, you want Taunton to run at Towcester, you told us Aintree.’

Winston stood up carrying on like Basil Faulty. ‘Oh have I changed my mind well so sorry know exactly how frustrating that can be. I can’t remember ever telling you girls anything, strongly suggested things but.’

‘We’d like to know what’s going on, it’s all Graham was concerned about when I met him outside the station yesterday.’

‘Sort it out with him I’m happy to go either way.’

Lindy and Kalika looked at each other open eyed. ‘What.’

‘I said go and sort it out with him, you know discuss problems, preferences, options.’

‘What.’

‘Yes I realise will be something new discussing something with someone and making a neutral decision based on fact, but I’m sure your up to it.’

‘You want Lindy and I to discuss where Flaxy runs with Graham.’

‘Yes, did he want to discuss anything else.’

‘No he was very concerned about where Flaxy ran.’

Winston sat down and put his magnifiers back on and went back to casually writing. ‘Well go and sort it our, quite a few people round here need sorting out.’

Kalika stamped her foot. ‘That’s really weird, for Graham to be involved in such a decision makes it difficult for us.’

Winston looked up with a smile. ‘Not unusual for a man to show concern about the safety of his wife. Congratulations love.’

Kalika put her hands over her checks. ‘Oh my god, he spoke to you.’

‘About the week after the national yes.’

‘Oh my god and he’s in.’

Winston stopped writing and put down his pen. ‘Being in is not the issue, the issue is he loves you very much, that’s the issue.’

She started jumping up and down and grabbed Lindy, they embraced shouting and screaming. ‘I thought you wouldn’t approve because of who he is.’

‘Ah but that’s exactly why I do approve, time for you to discuss things with him.’ She ran round the desk and hugged him, then back to Lindy and hugged her again. They scuttled toward the door, just before they left. ‘Lindy.’

She turned and looked at him. ‘You can’t ride Flaxmead for ever, after the national win or loose I hope you find as much happiness as Kalika.’

‘I can’t find it in my heart to move on at present.’

‘I understand, we’re always here.’ She smiled and they left.

Beneath the surface Winston was checking on some concerning developments, some very powerful horses had been brought into the country, unknowns of foreign origin tested only on their home turf. Two horses had form that showed a threat to Flaxmead’s dominance, he searched memory banks of foreign controlling bodies. A mount from the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, Allahabad, named after the town in which it was sired, if the records were correct the horse had dominance in India but was a flat racer, it’s race times were staggeringly close to Flaxmead’s. The Indian syndicate that owned the horse had failed to beat Flaxmead in a group one British derby some years ago. The French charger Moet, owned by a rival wine syndicate, it’s times would propose Flaxmead would have only four lengths on this champion. They had run four miles in record time albeit on their own turf. Their times were faster than Crimson Tide, Backfire and Saracen, but could they jump. All other contenders Winston had extensive information for Lindy to study, these two horses he had nothing, no one he knew had seen them run. Winston knew how dangerous this could be, he didn’t even know where they had been stabled in the UK, both had been in the country for a few months. He realised he felt like the people that had to deal with Flaxmead when he suddenly hit the scene. He paced his office thinking, there were eight horses that could challenge Flaxmead at Aintree, Lindy even knew their jockeys tactics, these two had been brought to the country for one purpose from the writings of Lee Hayford, to run the Grand National, why. Why would conglomerate commercial entities bring champion stud horses to the most dangerous horse race on the planet, money nor prestige were the motives, they already had that, he had a gut feeling and it wasn’t pleasant. He was about to call Lindy when mechanic came in. ‘Beaker and a lady called June Williams are at the gate.’

‘Joan.’

‘You know her.’

‘I know of her, met her a couple of times, let them in.’ Winston remained standing in deep thought looking out the window to the complex. Mechanic brought the visitors in, formalities were interrupted by Mavis as she enquired as to the guests culinary preferences. Once seated in front of Winston’s desk, Winston continued to stand behind his desk. ‘To what do we owe the pleasure.’

Joan was frustrated. ‘For goodness sake Winston we have been trying to talk to you for ages, we have kayos in this lead up to the national and you haven’t helped.’

Winston frowned. ‘I don’t work for the HBA, fail to see where my responsibility covers decisions you make.’

‘The national tends to find it’s forty runners from entrants based on attrition during the lead up after entries received in January.’

‘Taunton Barr has yet to place in a race over three miles.’

‘Oh come on Winston if the thing doesn’t run in the national and you run somewhere else Aintree will be deserted.’

‘Nice thought but a few developments are concerning.’

‘Tell me about it, poisonings, missing persons, commercial entities clambering to back the race. Some stability would be nice.’

‘Taunton will run a three mile plus within the next few days.’

‘Where.’

‘A decision will be made in good time.’

‘Only two places have a three mile in the next two weeks, Towcester and Aintree.’

‘Where we run our horses is out business.’

‘If Taunton doesn’t run before entires close he may not qualify, you would then run him somewhere else according to Lindy Cumberland.’

‘He can run after entries are accepted as long as he places in a plus three miler.’

‘That is not the path.’

‘Hasn’t been tested yet and besides it won’t happen, Taunton will run within the time frame.’

‘What do we have to do to find out before we leave.’

‘Decision is out of my hands.’

‘Oh please Winston.’

‘I’m telling you it’s out of my hands but will be the courses you mentioned.’

‘We are just here to try and get some direction and stability for everyone Winston, you must be concerned about some things yourself, some cards on the table would be nice.’

‘There is something I would like to know.’

Beaker spoke for the first time. ‘If it’s in our power to be able to comment so be it.’

‘About three months ago two horses entered the country, one from India and the other France.’

‘You’d have to be a bit more specific, the list is colossal.’

‘Allahabad from India and Moet France.’

Beaker raised one eyebrow. ‘Mmm, Moet has been here before, Allahabad that I remember, I agree strange, commercial entities rarely take risk like that.’

‘Unless the payoff is astronomical.’

‘If they want big payoffs they could run the Melbourne Cup in Australia with far less risk.’

‘Exactly what I was thinking. Can I be so forward as to ask where the stabling arrangements are listed.’

‘Chalkwall Park Devon for both far as I remember, do you honestly think those horses can take it to Taunton Barr.’

‘As I mentioned before, Taunton hasn’t qualified for the national as yet, but these two horses have, running places in several trials in quiet places. No firsts just places.’

‘Well in that sense all this drama elsewhere has kept the press off everyone’s back bar your own Winston.’

Winston’s phone vibrated on the table surface. ‘Excuse me,’ he answered it, ‘Graham…………..really, still alive are you,’ he chuckled…………‘good man just in time to make some people here a bit happier than they are, will see you this evening.’ He hung up put his phone gently on the table and looked at his visitors. ‘Towcester.’

Joan expressed relief. ‘Well thank goodness for small mercies.’

Beaker jumped in. ‘Tight has sharp turns I know who likes them, will be the biggest crowd they’ve seen for ever.’

Joan interrupted. ‘At least we can inform affected interests and they can make the necessary preparations, some will be happy.’

‘An entry will still be forwarded regardless of if he runs at Towcester or fails to place.’

‘Nor really an issue.’

‘Is if your at the Old Bailey.’

‘Indeed.’ There was a knock on the door and Mavis brought in a tray.

CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

Towcester Racecourse is a horse racing course that hosts a range of horse racing. Situated in the town of Towcester pronounced Toe-ster in the county of Northamptonshire, about one hundred kilometres North West of London. Over the past few years the facilities have been rebuilt and hosts national hunt races in the winter months. It is situated in the Easton Neston Estate. The first meeting took place in 1928, the Towcester Racecourse Company was formed by Lord Hesketh and it was then on his estate of Neston. Towcester is highly popular with the horse racing fraternity, because of the sharp bends and uphill finish which test the horses competing to the highest level. Towcester did not charge entry fee for punters until 2006 and even then only for two prominent races on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday. All other race days are free entry. Jockey Tony McCoy rode his 4,000th career win at this course riding Mountain Tunes in a novice hurdle. Towcester was informed of the entries for an expected low key four mile hurdle trial within the coming week, naturally they freaked out when they saw number seven Taunton Barr.

Winston had run Crimson Tide, Backfire and Saracen far more than Taunton and at different meetings, they had already fulfilled the requirements to enter the Grand National. Graham Ellis had a new found social and domestic problem, he was saddled with information unavailable to many and forced to keep it to himself due to operational requirements. The fact that Kalika and Lindy were out there was beginning to horrify him, he became so involved with Taunton Barr’s run at Towcester it led him to convince his department he should attend for matters within the investigation. Winston left it to Graham and mechanic, he was home catching up with commercial matters around the globe left way behind by matters of heart, when he turned on the radio to listen to the run. The commentator was familiar as had been brought in to call other runs Taunton had made.

‘And a damn lousy day here at Towcester and you can hear this record crowd and the reason no secret as Kalika Palmer releases Taunton Barr at the fence point from the mounting yard clear of the parade ground, and he takes off toward the starting tapes. My goodness me he is such a handful and Cumberland wrestling with his antics, not unusual I must say. A small field here as Taunton Barr a late entry from the Blake stable in Flax Burton, but this hasn’t stopped the record crowd, lining the main road, police everywhere, in comparison to lazy days here can be described as organised kayos. Some misty rain and quite cool with a blustery wind at times coming from the west. And the twelve runners between the tapes, two laps of the course today, twenty jumps and medium going with the track surface in excellent condition. The field gathering at the start point, two late entries here with Taunton Barr, Allahabad, a very powerful flat tracker from India, owned by the Utter Pradesh syndicate, and Moet the French charger forming a portfolio to enter the Grand National from all accounts. Both these horses need only one more race should they place here to qualify for the national and that’s what this is all about I believe. And a false start called, they turn to regroup apart from Taunton Barr want’s to put on a show for the grandstand and they’re loving it. A marshal tries for Taunton Barr’s bridal but thinks better of it, Cumberland eventually points him back to the line and she takes him wide to the far side of the track and oh he rears up the rest of the field well set to go and they are away. Taunton Barr bringing up the rear, Moet into the lead as they head for the first fence, followed by Always, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Walking Home, Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke, Pot The Black, Allahabad and Taunton Barr. Over the first and the field stays tight apart from Taunton Barr flies past Allahabad in the air over the first and Cumberland takes her mount straight to the inside of the field but is blocked by Pot The Black on the fence. Moet over the second with the field in a perfect line apart from Taunton Barr staying on the outside fence passing Pot The Black with Allahabad in tow. Over the third into turn two and Taunton Barr slips up another place passing Duke the rest of the field following Moet with a steady pace. Cumberland takes the inside line and breaks from Allahabad inside Heartbreaker and Seven Stars. As the crowd in the stand can see the pack on the back straight they become vocal as Taunton Barr moves up another place round Jurassic and sits behind Walking Home boxed in against the outside rail as they go over the fifth. Moet steady up the back straight over the sixth, steady run by the pack toward the seventh, and over goes the leader Moet, followed by Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Taunton Barr moves up another place, Walking Home, Jurassic, Allahabad moving up three places in a very short distance, Heartbreaker, Duke, Pot the Black all over safely. Moet into the seventh on the outside of turn three, Serpentine now along side with a better jump, Fiddlers Run passed in mid air by Taunton Barr cleaning every fence, and from nowhere Allahabad is on Taunton Barr’s tail. Over eight on the short straight to the eastern side of the track, Cumberland lands and takes the black stallion toward the rail getting there first, very quick on the turn this horse and Allahabad goes with Taunton Barr, under Serpentine and along side Moet and out of the bend into the grandstand straight and Taunton Barr draws ahead by a head, but the black stallion has a grey shadow called Allahabad. A clean run toward nine and over they go, Taunton Barr pulls a half length on the jump, Allahabad, Moet as these there put light between them and the pack. Over ten into the second lap and Taunton Barr has the lead, listen to the grandstand, into ten and the black stallion holds pace with Allahabad and Moet in procession, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Walking Home, Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke and Pot the Black all still there starting to widen out. Over eleven on the outgoing straight and the three leaders spread across the track along side each other. I can see Cumberland holding her mount back and she eases him in behind Allahabad and the big grey takes the lead, Moet goes with her and Taunton Barr slips in behind both to them. And the time for these three’s first lap a fraction of a second off the record, over twelve and the leading three gain more ground on the pack. Cumberland appears to be yelling at her mount and applying restraint to his efforts and he shakes his head in disapproval, seen this a few times now. Allahabad ups the pace and the procession goes up a gear and over twelve. Allahabad holds pace but Cumberland takes Taunton Barr to the rail and pushes up inside passing Moet in the process and drawing level on the turn and into the lead. Oh and Serpentine goes down at twelve and takes Fiddlers Run out, they are both up and look okay. Heading for fourteen and Allahabad draws level with Taunton Barr but Cumberland refuses to even have a look, over fourteen and Taunton Barr gains on the jump Moet goes with him passed Allahabad by a neck. Over fifteen five to go and Allahabad back in the lead and we are into unchartered territory for Taunton Barr as the distance heads into the extra mile. Over sixteen and they continue to pull away from the pack some ten lengths now, along side each other and over seventeen, still could be anybody’s race. Cumberland gets down behind Taunton Barr’s ears and lets him go, he strides ahead, Allahabad and Moet go with him, this is a hell of a race between these three. Round the last bend and it’s Taunton Barr gains a length on the corner into the grandstand straight, Allahabad and Moet right on his tail by a length. Moet and Allahabad having the crop taken to them, stark difference in the way Taunton Barr runs trained by the late Roger Palmer something many notice as Cumberland doesn’t even carry one. Into nineteen and Allahabad draws level with Taunton Barr on the run home to twenty, Moet pulls up in rank and there’s nothing between them only inches apart across the track over twenty and Taunton Barr lands first and Cumberland tucks herself in not even looking over his head and he bolts, a length, two lengths, three lengths, four. And Taunton Barr wins another steeplechase with Moet and Allahabad in a photo for second place, Walking Home some fifteen lengths back, followed by Seven Stars, Jurassic, Duke, Heartbreaker and Pot the Black. And first second and third places have broken the four mile record here, and the favourite for this years grand national would have to be Taunton Barr. And Cumberland having a hell of a time pulling the black stallion up, she turns him and Kalika Palmer out onto the track and the mount settles and she clips a leader on him, Cumberland dismounts and she makes a fuss of him as they walk him. And the crowd going absolutely mad after that, there he is, now the only undefeated champion going to the grand national. A spirited run by the French charger Moet and one of India’s finest the big grey Allahabad. So if anyone was listening and only just tuned in, Taunton Barr has won his fifth steeplechase and will be legible to run in the grand national. Not only that, a gauntlet thrown down by the French stayer Moet, and Allahabad and I can guarantee there will be some rejoicing in Utter Pradesh in India, they absolutely love that horse there. Now I suggest there are now ten steeplechasers that can take it to the champ in the national, and we will watch their form as the weeks count down toward the great race. And that’s all from Towcester and over to Royal Ascot for the running of the third there.’

Winston turned his radio down, he thought looking unblinking into space, his concerns had been justified. Two horses had taken it to Flaxmead and another eight were coming to say nothing of Saracen, Backfire and Crimson Tide. He mumbled. ‘The great race, now there’s a thought.’ He called mechanic to arrange a meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY

A strange or new mould, Graham Ellis insisted on seeing Winston first thing in the morning, was a meeting that would create a bond. Winston was late up, he slept heavily on the back of worries past, he showered and made ready. Ellis was far younger than Winston but Mavis was as usual up early and talking to Graham in the kitchen. Winston exchanged greetings on the way to his office and Graham followed, Winston asked breakfast be late and the pair sat down in the bay window after looking across at the bustling complex. They watched the foal follow Kristy around the lawn in front of the house, she was rugged up in the bitter morning air and although young kept the same hours as her mother. Winston sat down opposite Graham, the bench seats in the bay window put their faces opposite each other and very close. ‘Looks like a scene from a fairy tale.’

Graham chuckled. ‘Yes.’

‘Noting could be further from the truth, you have some issues no doubt.’

‘A lot of people we didn’t know at Towcester, foreigners, corporate entities vying for a look. Fortunately the place is only small.’

‘Why you got the girls to go there no doubt.’

‘I see what you mean about delicate negotiations.’

‘You did well.’

‘We have some very concerning information from people we pressured in Taunton, the national will be a risk you may want to reconsider.’

Winston thought for a few seconds, he looked down, put his hands on his knees and sighed. ‘I have considered, very good reasons we will push on.’

‘Lindy was shaken by the two horses that pushed Taunton.’

‘Lindy hasn’t been pushed for a long time, she will focus, I speak to her shortly and have an idea to keep her determined.’

‘We have charged someone with the murder of Wilfred and Grant Barton.’

‘Whom.’

‘The elder brother of the Gardner from Glastonbury, Ben McCollum.’

‘Rubbish.’

‘I said we had charged him, I didn’t say he did it.’

‘An attempt to bring the wolves from the lair.’

‘Can’t fine anyone unless they feel it’s safe to show themselves.’

‘What about poor Mr McCollum.’

‘That’s not he’s real name, Ben McAlister is holidaying in Spain, clerical error.’

‘I see. To what degree and why are you so concerned if we go on.’

‘We can’t guarantee the safety of any of us, names we have been given are powerful and in some cases ruthless people.’

‘Mmm, I’m well aware of what you say, I now feel fit to tell you something only I and my doctor know.’

Graham had an immediate look of concern. ‘Your ill.’

‘No, I’m well as can be expected for my age. You are never to tell Kalika or Lindy what I am about to say.’ He nodded and favoured one ear toward Winston. ‘Roger Palmer was murdered, he was poisoned, my doctor did the autopsy and contacted me when he got test results back some days after his death.’

‘Good god are you sure.’

‘His death certificate states a heart attack, true in some ways, so it was left at that. Simple high residues associated with Foxglove plant poisoning. Would have to have been ingested.’

‘Narrows the parameters.’

‘Hardly, I looked at that, Roger was a busy man and ate from a numerous sources, so far and wide like a needle in a haystack. The toxicity could also have been accidental, mixing medications with natural herbs and every day things he ate. However the levels would indicate a pretty big dose of the plants extract at some time in the days before his death. My doctor whom I have know all my life agreed that making a fuss may affect more lives than the one already lost. The point is the person or persons that did it think they are safe.’

‘We are pretty sure that a woman said to be Grant Barton’s wife murdered Wilfred and Grant and left their bodies where they were found in Wick Scotland, the good news is they were poisoned in a similar manner, the bad news is we can’t find her.’

‘Sound’s a bit obvious.’

‘The same residues you say killed Roger Palmer killed the Barton’s. Long red hair was found in the van and on the bodies believed to be from the killer, Grant Barton’s wife.’

‘I believe the science but not the rest, just to obvious, and where is this woman, holidaying in Spain perhaps.’

‘We have a sergeant Grimmer from Taunton, he is assisting with enquires, he claims she was an attractive woman that took advantage of her appearance and ran was having an affair with several men in the area. As you can imagine not many willing to speak about that, even includes Grimmer’s associates, the information we have now is helpful in quite a few areas of enquiry outside of the Barton murders.’

‘Grimmer was paid by Mulberry to keep the wolves from the door, the money got to him, he’s just a pawn. You want a lead pressure Ernst Stuttgart of the HM revenue and customs, I sent him enough information to put Mulberry away for the rest of his life, result, nothing.’

‘Really, now that’s very interesting. Mulberry doesn’t have so much as a parking ticket.’

‘A criminal is a person with predatory instincts without sufficient capital to form a corporation. Pressure Stuttgart and won’t be the people that kick up you need focus on but those that dive in a trench in silence. Our push for control of the national has nothing to do with any of that, however bringing the nation together followed by products endorsed by the process will upset some powerful people. Now who and why, I have no doubt that the little run yesterday would have certain area’s of the stock market in a spin. It’s not national patriotism that fosters deceit, it’s the money trail.’

‘I thought Mulberry could help so proceeded accordingly.’

‘Mulberry is a corporate crook, he’s rather do someone out of twenty quid than earn it, nothing more. He just happens to live in the same lane as the Barton’s, he choose the wrong trench nothing more. The Barton’s knew something that could affect powerful people, the wife thing, it makes no sense. I saw that woman once when we picked up the foal.’

‘Her name is Ella Barton, she has several alias’s, some are terrified of her, she made mountains out of mole hills. She is extremely hard to deal with and apparently took care of all the business dealings.’

Winston rubbed his forehead with his right hand, he squinted with concentration. ‘Ella Barton, when I saw her albeit from a distance, she looked familiar. George Smith merchant banker I dealt with over the years, Miss Campbell his secretary, she looks the exact image. She was flirtatious, I was approached by her once that’s where I recall her, always dressed to encourage. Hardly the fact when I saw her in Barr, if indeed it be her.’

‘I’m at least sure it was Grant Barton’s wife, why would she lead a double life, any way we can find out if this Campbell is Ella Barton.’

‘I’ll get Jenny my secretary to follow that up, a call from me would arouse suspicion. Jenny can use more excuses than I such as ancient paperwork to do with litigation.’

‘You have a secretary but I have seldom seen her.’

‘She does secretarial work, I purposely keep her at arms length for her own good. She comes here from the office in Bristol once a week for a meeting. Everything else is done via electronic contact.’

‘Is that not a risk, can be hacked.’

‘That’s why I do it, nothing to see there and it keeps nosey people busy.’

‘Are you not concerned she’s without security in Bristol, you could be held to ransom.’

‘She has adversaries watching her, they in fact keep her safe, not much point in affecting your main source of information, better to make sure it’s okay. Her husband works at their home premises, she’s never alone. There was a threat when I first returned from Australia, the perpetrators were dealt with swiftly, not many people that mechanic doesn’t know in Bristol.’

‘The man you call mechanic is listed as an enemy of the realm.’

Winston laughed. ‘So am I as you know. You have some pressing decisions to make, Kalika can’t run this place when I’m gone she has no business sense nor moralistic aptitude. Lindy Cumberland will go back home and take Kristy and Flaxmead with her. That little foal out there will wear the name Taunton Barr and no doubt run a grand national in six years. I have a daughter in the US, she has no business interest, she is like her mother into the arts, music and what have you. You marry Kalika you better get used to sitting here.’

Mavis knocked on the door then brought in a tray putting it on the table beside them. ‘Lindy is waiting outside to see you.’

‘Send her in please.’ Mavis left the room.

Ellis stood up. ‘I’ll be going then.’

‘Sit down.’

He slowly sat back down. ‘I would have thought it would be better if you spoke to her alone.’

‘Soon she will run against thirty nine other horses over four miles across thirty fences in a horse race that has the worst reputation on the planet. If you think other things we have been talking about are a risk just think about that.’

‘I have,’ he shrugged his shoulders. ‘I worry just thinking about it, I know what to do within other things we speak of, but, the race itself worries me.’

‘Good, then we start to reduce the risk, can’t be eliminated, run a forty horse race over jumps up the front and the risks are obvious. The faint hearted would baulk at the thought, but Lindy, she was born to it. I must come up with new things, we must make sure she has the best chance that she can be given.’ Lindy came in, she greeted them and pulled up a chair next to Graham, Winston stood up, he walked around the desk and kissed her on the nose. ‘Congratulations, the only undefeated jockey to head for the Grand National, your face is all over the papers. Flaxmead, how did he handle things.’

‘Moet and Allahabad, they could take it to him.’

‘They already have.’

‘That was damn close.’

‘What do you think.’

‘He ran it easy, jumps didn’t worry him, I made a mistake perhaps, held him back for too long.’

‘I’ve noticed you hold him back more these days.’

‘He’s much older, I feel he finds it harder.’

‘His times don’t reflect that.’

‘I’m frightened to let him go, he’s such a knuckle head he could run himself out.’

Winston sat back and shuffled around in his seat. ‘Take him onto the training track and let him go.’

‘He’s got used to actually listening to me and you want me to let him go.’

‘I said let him go don’t stop steering him would be disastrous, probably end up in Bristol.’ Lindy laughed. ‘Let him go for a week, run him with Crimson, Backfire and Saracen, come back and tell me what you think.’

‘He could strain his big heart, he’d do that if I asked him.’

‘How was he when he finished yesterday.’

‘Fine, he was hunting for breath a bit, same as usual really, he recovered quickly.’

‘We can expect the top weight if he makes it to the draw, bit of controversy at the weigh in when you were weighed with your saddle.’

‘Wasn’t a handicap so they don’t know how much weight we had in the saddle.’

‘You came in at eleven stone eleven pounds just as we planned, pound over the top weight ever given to a runner in the national.’

Ellis interrupted. ‘Handicap weight, not sure what you mean.’

Winston explained. ‘To make the race more even horses are given more weight to carry than others depending on their form, Taunton will carry the heaviest penalty ever given mark my words. He trains and runs with the expected weight penalty in his saddle. Speaking of saddles, how is the new one.’

‘Just one more modification and I think it’s right.’

Winston put his hands on top of his head and looked at the ceiling. ‘Put another pound in it and let him go.’

‘I’m so worried about him, we are pushing the limits.’

‘Of course your worried, he’s your brother and mine, I’m sure he would be just as devastated if he let us down.’

‘Okay, but if I think it’s too much I’ll be back straight away.’

‘Of course.’ Winston got up and looked out the bay window, he then turned back to them. ‘If he’s okay, I plan to have you join someone else who is at the top of their game, they control many horses, all at once. Their fans are just as enthusiastic about horses of a different kind, and the rider just as concerned and respectful of their mount. Just how far do you push something before you feel guilty and how do you control such emotions. Peter Stock has won nine endurance races over a thousand kilometres and three Australian touring car championships, he knows just how far to push things and has experience everyone is after. You will ride with him around Brands Hatch in a V8 Australian supercar, bit of a beast just like Flaxy.’

Lindy lit up. ‘Wow, a ride in a race car, far out, with Stock holy shit I’ll be famous.’

‘No one will know.’

‘Ohh, I was gonna make Cecelia Ridgehaven green.’

‘Well you can tell her.’

‘Oh wow, when.’

‘I’m not sure about that but will tell you later today.’

‘Wow I’m going to tell Cecelia now the bitch will be spewing.’ She got up and headed for the door.

‘Let him go this morning Lindy.’

‘No worries.’ She left.

Ellis sat back in his chair, he had a warm grin. ‘That was brilliant.’

‘We shall see.’ Winston sat down and put his magnifiers on to study the computer screen.

‘I’ve never heard of V8 supercars is it.’

‘Yes, an Australian format, I bought twenty of them but they can currently only supply six.’

‘What do you intend to do with them.’

‘I’m not doing anything with them apart from sit Lindy in one but a friend of mechanics has things under control.’

‘I heard something on the news about Bristol Engineering expanding its car race stable, related.’

‘Yes, I bought into Bristol Engineering, they will run a series at the British two litre championships this coming year.’

‘V8 not very popular here.’

‘Tell me about it, the greens are up in arms, attempts by the British motor racing authorities to have it banned, the Australian sports minister calling the UK sports minister complaining about theft of crews affecting the Australian series. They found out I was the involved and they ran away. It is just about getting Lindy to pick Stock’s brains while she is excited about roaring around a race track. Another spin off is we have commercial entities clambering to buy into the idea, so not all bad. Lindy has been sheltered she needs something like that, if she’s away from Flaxy for more than a day she panics.’

‘You think a ride in a race car will fix that.’

‘No picking the brains of another champion just may help her focus. Remember how I suggested we need give her all the best chances possible.’

‘How and earth did you get these people to agree to come here, a champion in his own country agreeing to controversy.’

‘Well allegiances are grand until you get to around about the money area. The one day cricket series was cranked up by the Australians the establishment here was disgusted, look at where it is now, turning the tables a bit on this one.’

‘Mmm, find it quite interesting myself, certainly taken my mind to a far better place, yesterday really worried me.’

Kalika burst in unannounced, she stood on one leg with her hands on her hips and head to one side looking over Winston. ‘How come Lindy gets to ride in a race car and I don’t.’

Winston adjusted his glasses. ‘Em, I can’t recall saying you couldn’t.’

‘Good, Cecelia Ridgehaven is seething this morning when she was told, she’ll have trouble riding her push bike let alone her horse.’

‘I think we should be giving Cecelia all the help she needs.’

‘She has everything she needs plus more can’t help it if she’s a bitch, I’m going to rub it in.’ She headed for the door and vanished as quick as she had come.

Winston looked at Graham over his glasses. ‘Any questions.’

Ellis drew a big breath and got up. ‘No, think I need a quick chat with my fiancé.’

‘That’s a good idea and good luck, I don’t know what happened to the girl she was once so moralistic.’

‘Well she still is, Cecelia can be a bit of a handful, I’m beginning to see why at times she makes a stand and gives it back.’

Winston took off his glasses. ‘Well you’d know more about that than me so I trust your judgement.’

Mechanic waited until Winston was clear of interruption and knocked on his door, he had been asked to meet first chance they could after Towcester. He looked somewhat weary, and as Winston looked up he showed concern. ‘You look drained man, oh I suppose fine for me I was here yesterday must have been a bit wearing.’

Mechanic sat in a warm seat only just vacated by Ellis. ‘I’ve had longer day’s but with different priorities like.’

‘How did the plan go.’

‘Fine, as you suggested we got there early and left as soon as he’d run, only a small place but not much different to the past four. Weigh in was a worry, questions about Lindy’s saddle, carrying a lot of weight.’

‘Our business I’ll follow that up.’

‘They just questioned where the weight was, the saddle is made to hide it well, was no problem when explained like, Hayford was all over it.’

‘She’s followed Flaxy from his first ever run in Australia, she knows how we operate, you tell how much.’

‘No.’

‘The arrangements for Bristol Engineering to practice at Brands Hatch next week are we on schedule.’

‘I met that Peter Stock, just briefly, he’s staying in Bristol while we prepare his car. He’s keen and far as I know they can run next Wednesday, four others are ready but one is in complete disarray. Bristol management are embarrassed like, friend of his but he will find another garage to run it by Wednesday.’

‘That is incompetent mechanic and I won’t tolerate it, friends are a poor choice, fix it soon as you can, we can ill afford a hiccup.’

‘I may have made a mistake, can you buy the rest out and employee a manager, I have to admit friends are just that. He’s out of this depth, this is way past a game.’

‘I have fifty one percent, stand him down and offer a third of what I paid for the fifty one percent for the other forty nine.’

‘We are taking his livelihood like.’

‘He’s free to start another business, he’s cashed up.’

‘He went on a cruise for a few day’s relying on the teams he choose to move forwards, he’s never had money before.’

‘I’ll ring Watkinson management services and inform them I need a manager for the operation on site immediately, we gave him a chance, Watkinson stood of on my request. Man sounds like a dreamer, I have never been on a cruise or holiday in my life. Find a pastime you like and you will never work again just like yourself. Not your fault mechanic, whilst managing things I am responsible for everything, that’s my decision. I refuse to put Lindy Cumberland’s life in someone’s hands that cruises the sea at critical times within their business operations. I would like Lindy in the car with this Peter Stock on Wednesday.’

Mechanic looked startled. ‘What, Lindy gonna drive one or something like.’

‘No, she will pick the brains of a champion so she can better make decisions on race strategy.’

Mechanic pouted and shrugged his shoulders. ‘Makes sense, horses for courses.’

‘We have ten plus horses that could run Taunton down in the national, we need give Lindy and Taunton as much support as we can.’

‘Right I’ll get on it.’ He got up and walked to the door, he opened the door but hesitated looking back. ‘There’s a 1952 Jaguar XK120 in the workshop this morning, you didn’t mention you were buying one.’

‘It’s not mine.’

‘A friends.’

‘An employees.’

‘Blimey, who could afford that.’

Winston looked up from his desk over his glasses. ‘I believe it has your ridiculous Welsh name on the registration papers.’

Mechanic looked flabbergasted. ‘Mine….I.’

‘You mentioned it last week, I secured the vehicle from Sweden and had it flown here.’

‘I didn’t say I wanted it like.’

‘But you did, is that not true.’

‘Well yeah but..’

‘Make sure you drive it to the pub occasionally and have a drink, not like the other god knows how many that are covered by sheets in the storerooms.’

‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘Without people like you mechanic I would be nothing, I know exactly what to say about that.’

Mechanic was chocked and speechless, he left and closed the door slowly without a sound. Winston looked back down at his work with a warm smile, he mumbled to himself. ‘That felt wonderful.’

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

Within twenty four hours a manager installed by Watkinson event management at Bristol Engineering had the supercar race series on page three of the nations press. The pending run at Brands Hatch was kept from all apart from those involved. The local press turned on Blake, the previous owner of Bristol Engineering made a statement saying he felt bullied under the circumstances. Blake released the financial figures and the local press were embarrassed, Blake had paid twice the value of the operation to make sure the family involved were financially stable. A further statement stating management expectations and operational outcomes were at odds between Blake’s commercial entities and the family involved led to Blake buying out the operation. The local press issued an apology but Blake would not forget the smear. Watkinson had made a healthy offer for the idea, it’s personnel and hardware, but Blake held off attending Brands Hatch on the Wednesday with Lindy in tow. Unsure of his gut feeling on the move he wanted to see for himself the writing on Lindys face.

Brands Hatch is a motor racing circuit near Swanley in the county of Kent, England. First used as a dirt track motorcycle circuit on farmland, it hosted 12 runnings of the British Grand Prix between 1964 and 1986 and currently hosts many British and International racing events. Noise restrictions and the proximity of local residents to the Grand Prix loop mean that the number of race meetings held on the extended circuit are limited to just a few per year and generally higher profile events. Brands Hatch was originally the name of a natural grassy hollow that was shaped like an amphitheatre. Although the site was originally used as a military training ground, the fields belonging to Brands Farm were first used as a circuit by a group of Gravesend cyclists led by Ron Argent, with the permission of the local farmer and landowner, Harry White. Using the natural contours of the land, many cyclists from around London practised, raced and ran time trials on the dirt roads carved out by farm machinery. The first actual race on the circuit was held in 1926, over 4 miles 6.4 km between cyclists and cross country runners. Within a few years, motorcyclists were using the circuit, laying out a three-quarter-mile anti clockwise track in the valley. They also saw the advantage of competing in a natural arena just a few hundred yards from the A20, and with the passage of time, a kidney-shaped circuit came into use. The first motorcycle races were very informal, with much of the organisation being done on the spot. Initially the racing was on a straight strip approximately where Cooper Straight came to be when the track was tarmacked. Brands Hatch remained in operation during the 1930s, but after being used as a military vehicle park and being subject to many bombing raids during The Second World War. It needed much work before it could become a professional racing circuit, since then it has become an icon. Gerhard Berger a champion driver once called the circuit the best in the world, with a pedigree history it remains a sacred place to race enthusiast similar to the attraction to Mount Panorama Bathurst NSW in Australia.

The circuit is a commercial entity and not unusual for locals to hear engines in the distance on not only a weekend but during the day. On a particular Wednesday a distinctly different note pierced the air, some locals noticed the roar and some went to investigate, they found a page three motor racing story to have been correct.

Lindy was scheduled to ride with Stock at an exact time, Bristol charter flew them in from Flax Burton, landing in the outfield near the pits. Lindy had no idea what to expect and Winston even less, she was pleasantly at ease when the familiar face of Australian racing legend Peter Stock greeted her in the pit lane garage escorted to the point from the chopper by the Bristol Engineering manager from Wilkinson management. Winston took him to one side introducing himself and making things clear on what the plan was. Stock was a ladies man and appeared taken by the beauty, buttock length black hair and leggy lines of the pocket rocket, he was also belittled by her aura, he had never met an undefeated champion from any sporting genre, he was somewhat distracted. Blake noticed and made a few things clear, Stock focused.

Lindy was introduced to Stock standing next to his car, Lindy had been rugged up in the required suits, shoes, she had a helmet under her arm, she had excitement written all over her face. Lindy was aware that Stock had just finished his third marriage, she was at odds with his known womanising. Blake watched like a hawk as Stock introduced himself taking her hand and gently kissing it, she blushed and looked away. Stock like Cumberland had a distinctively Australian accent. ‘Fair go it’s really you, I remember seeing you win the Melbourne Cup, you look as radiant as you did that day.’

Lindy put on a one sided force smile. ‘You excited Peter or is that a cucumber stuffed down your strides.’

Stock was taken back but his years of smiling for the camera he made a recovery. ‘You were born in New South Wales, the Hunter Valley far as I can recall.’

‘To right, you come from Victoria never mind.’

Stock was given a clear message this was all business. Some of his crew had to walk away in fits of laughter. ‘You would like to know about the car no doubt.’

‘Seen them roaring round on the telly but never been this close.’

He opened the door of the menacing looking vehicle, Lindy climbed in and held the steering wheel looking around the cockpit. ‘Five litre naturally aspired V8, that means it has no turbocharger or supercharger. Six hundred and fifty horsepower revving to seven thousand five hundred revs, top speed of around three hundred kilometres an hour, zero to one hundred kilometres an hour in three point six seconds.’

‘How much does it weigh.’

‘Our minimum required weight is one thousand four hundred and ten kilo with the driver.’

‘So all cars weigh about the same, you add weight and take it away to match the driver or car.’

‘Yes, most cars carry weights to make up the load, in strategic spots to make the car handle better.’

‘Do cars have a handicap, given different weights to carry based on form.’

‘No, a handicap race would be time delay, doesn’t happen.’

‘As you burn fuel and the car gets lighter it goes better.’

‘In some circumstances yes, depends on the track and the traction set up of the car, tyre wear, have to take all those things into consideration when setting pace. These days pace is generally as fast as you can possible go even in a long race like the Bathurst one thousand.’

‘What about other cars in your team, do you work together.’

‘Seldom, idea is to win, fine to support others should the opportunity arise but the would have to stand out like a sore thumb to take advantage.’

‘Do you get blocked by other teams, so their other team cars can gain on you.’

‘Sometimes, some tracks are hard to pass on with the cars performance so closely matched, looks like it but probably not, most are going as fast as they can. Just another parameter of racing, you have to work out how to get round someone faster car or not.’

‘What do all these light’s tell you.’

‘If the car is being pushed to hard, getting too hot, burning too much fuel to make ground, revving too high putting stress on the engine, the things aren’t bullet proof, they need human interface.’

‘Okay I can relate to some of that, lets go.’ She climbed out, a crew member checked her helmet as she did it up and opened the passenger door for her, she was strapped in the seat. They had intercom between the helmets, Stock started the car and idled out of the garage into pit lane, he put his foot down and the car snaked away toward the track entry. Out onto the track and Lindy said nothing, she watched his eyes, hands, the dashboard, worked out what he was doing to interact with his car. She noticed some red lights occasionally but he modified his behaviour to suit. Generally she felt she was with a champion, she felt no fear, in a couple of laps she could anticipate what he was going to do. Six laps and he pulled into pit lane pulling up along side the garage. She pushed the crew member away and unbuckled herself disconnecting the helmet wires before she climbed out. She went up to Winston and lifted her visor. ‘I want to drive it.’

Winston knew her well, he was not surprised, he just smiled at her. He approached the Wilkinson team manager. ‘Fit her up in the seat, let her go.’

‘You think that’s wise.’

‘I think it’s essential.’

‘Not sure Peter will be overly impressed it’s his main car.’

‘I’m not here to impress Peter Stock, prepare the vehicle so she can reach the controls.’

‘The French driver is not much taller than Lindy, his car is here she would probably fit without adjusting too much.’

‘Bring it out.’

It was blue, Lindys favourite colour, Winston explained and she sat in the seat. ‘I’ll take it, how do I start the bloody thing up.’

A crew member lent in showing her the procedure, she fired it up. The crew member asked Winston a question as he closed the door and put up the elastin window guard. ‘What does she drive on the road.’

‘Range Rover V8.’

They stood back and she managed to get it away without spinning a wheel, she entered the track and quickly went up the gears. She remembered exactly where Stock had braked and how hard he had accelerated out of the corner, she noticed the car change it’s handling character as told by crew members on the radio in her helmet. She told them if it felt better or not. She clipped white lines and humps along the edge of the track, he mistakes gradually faded. Ten laps she pitted for fuel and went back out. Wilkinson’s manager called Winston to the computer control panels in the pit garage. ‘She’s within a couple of seconds of Stock, this is amazing, are you thinking what I’m thinking.’

Winston looked at him with a half smirk. ‘You don’t know her, she doesn’t take to instructions very well, she’ll tell me exactly what she thinks when she’s finished. No harm in mentioning this on the lead up to her run in the grand national but at present I’d suggest that’s her focus.’

‘This is incredibly powerful stuff, she could be the face of the series.’

‘Next week you have to deal with Kalika Palmer and Cecilia Ridgehaven, they are very different women, tell me how you feel when they’ve finished with you.’

‘If they can drive like this girl will look forward to it.’

‘Kalika couldn’t drive a soapy stick up a dogs rear end ol man, Cecilia is likely to have Stock pants off in half a lap, just to keep the peace I suggest you are prepared to be very tolerant.’

‘Interesting, could keep Stock amused.’

‘If Ridgehaven gets her hooks into him would solve quite a few social problems I have.’

‘Kalika Palmer is engaged to that Ellis from the police.’

‘Yes, he’ll no doubt be with her next week. I hope things are prepared the press will be here.’

‘We are very interested in this girl.’

‘She rides horses better than she drives, my guess is you won’t see her again.’

‘Shame, her face could sell a Ford Fiesta to a Ferrari fan.’

‘Look I’m a bit tied up and would appreciate you making the decisions, if you vow to put Cecelia Ridgehaven’s face on the series then so be it, you will see what I mean when she rolls up here. Fortunately she can ride a horse as well, very well, but this little dynamo smokes them all she’s so focused.’

‘I could understand that.’

Winston whisked Lindy away, as the chopper banked back toward Flax Burton Winston realised how good Lindy had got at holding a stone face. He could read nothing of her experience, she was quiet and looked out the window at the bustling south London sprawl. He handed her headphones with intercom to get over the noise of the chopper, she put them on. ‘What did you think of that, any help.’

‘If Stock kept his eyes on the track and not my body he’d go a lot faster.’

‘I wasn’t talking about relationships I was thinking of focus and plan application. Motor racing is sport with fine tolerances.’

‘It was a bit exciting, you have to trust a lot of people, they all seem to help in decisions that help you win. I just have Flaxy, up to me to steer him in the right direction.’

‘You going to tell me how letting him go is working out.’

‘It helped with that, not sure yet, like letting me out there without any gauges or lights just the steering wheel in that car. The car doesn’t have a mind of it’s own, only affected by human input. I can’t really say until I test things out over more time, The more I learn the less I know.’

‘Mmm, I think it will help one way or the other, not quite what I expected but as you I know little of things until I become involved.’

‘You sending Cecelia Ridgehaven down there next week with Kalika.’

‘Yes, why do you ask.’

‘Because it’s what I’d do, she’ll chew him up and spit him out. Will keep her amused until the national, Stock will end up a physical and emotional mess. Bitch of a thing may just meet her nemesis, he may just do the same to her, that’ll work.’

‘I didn’t really consider the emotional outcomes, what if she is affected to the degree she fall’s, I would be in some degree responsible.’

‘She’ll just get angry, more of a problem for me than her.’

‘Mmm, same kind of problem Stock had with you in the car, distracted social intervention, do you think I should cancel Cecelia.’

‘No I don’t, they deserve each other, might even work.’

‘Mmm, I may have burdened you with unnecessary review.’

‘No,’ she smiled and looked at him. ‘You just want to make sure I make the best decision when I’m on the line, that’s when I’ll plan the run. You know that, it’s okay. Without you I would be sitting in the corner of my room grieving the fall and death of my brother. My brother would be proud of me if he were alive, I realised that a long time ago. Coming here was a good idea, in more ways than one.’

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

‘I have a lot of people up my arse, becoming most uncomfortable, your being paid copious amounts of money, we expected results for our investment.’ He folded his arms as he looked out across the environmental wastelands of London toward Heathrow from a window in the upper level of an industrial complex, a low flying airliner rattled the window, landing gear down lining up a runway.

‘I am telling you for the last time, it’s gone beyond original plans so far the intention has been distorted to the point of stupidity. You’ll get none of your money nor any of the expected outcomes. Blake became involved and changed everything. My guess is he is yet to find out that you had a go at what you thought to be Taunton Barr. Turns out it’s a double, been around for years. Cumberland’s double is with Delores, you have any idea what they’ve been up to.’

‘Man’s a car salesman and x con, you should be more selective in whom you deal with.’

‘And the horse.’

He looked around focusing on nothing in particular, his nerves had him blinking profusely. ‘A man in a jaguar arrived, he decimated the strong arm help, just happened to arrive at a most inconvenient moment. I think he works for Blake. They didn’t have a chance to noble the horse, we had no idea it wasn’t this Taunton Barr.’

‘Mechanic, that’s what the double is for you idiot, draw people away to where they can find them.’

‘This man, mechanic, he was a mobile cyclone.’

‘Sergeant Major Rhys Llewellyn, unit one special services, no prizes for guessing who he mixed with before rolling up on Blake’s doorstep.’

Anger showed it’s presence with a lifted voice. ‘We’ve been forced underground, our network is not getting the information it needs.’

‘Network, forget it, we thought it was a plan to manipulate the stock market in our favour, when Blake finds out you had a go at this horse the shit will hit the fan. Llewellyn took to the only one of your employees for want of a better word, that he managed to catch, the rest ran away but I got no doubt he knows them.’

‘Surely we can find out what this mechanic or whatever his name is got out of him if anything, remember those people were payed well.’

His cohort went toe to toe. ‘Payed well, would be his last pay day, the person will never be seen again.’

‘You suggesting this man was murdered.’

‘What I’m suggesting is this man will never be seen again, for what reasons no one will ever be able to prove. Remember something else, you could be next.’

‘Now your suggesting Blake will come after me.’

‘He won’t have to we’ll hand you to him on a platter, get out of here and don’t come back.’

‘I don’t take well to snide little bureaucrats attempting to use standover tactics with people they should be answering to.’

‘You want to know something else, your mouthwash just isn’t making it.’

The man sneered at this cohort, turned away and walked to the door, he opened it and looked back with a face of scorn. ‘You have made a grave mistake.’

‘Yes, and I just corrected it.’

The man left and gently closed the door.

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

Ellis was in his office when he noticed the report, was put on his desk to be handled with the utmost delicacy. A vehicle reported stolen from Edinburgh airport had been found in the possession of a one Theo Delores in Australia. Delores had been involved in an accident, he returned a positive blood test and was affected by alcohol and cocaine. Ellis struggled with focusing on the investigation and had asked to be relieved of his duties regarding the Barton investigation, the powers to be had refused the request and stated the alternatives were relocation and possibly overseas. He took the comments as a voice of support although he was now involved with family members that were part of the investigation and outside of police protocol, controlling bodies from elsewhere had voiced support of his involvement. Only one political lead had been established via suggestive complaint in the media, it fell away quickly as Blake with the help of the willing traced the source. Without prejudice and in full view of all that had interest Ellis had a meeting with Blake. Upon greeting they were immediately interrupted by Kalika. She was begging to dress differently, gone at times were the riding pants and boots in place warm dark slacks and a blue cashmere jumper topped with a white cashmere hat. She looked disappointed that Graham had not informed her of his presence. She had become completely polite of late but in this instance dropped formalities confronting Graham. ‘Any reason why I should not know you are here.’

Graham was a bit taken back. ‘Emm, bit of official police business with Winston.’

‘We don’t have official police business round here we have family business.’

‘It’s a murder investigation surely you understand.’

‘I’ll wait in the kitchen with Mavis and talk to you when you come out.’ She stormed toward the door.

As she opened it Graham stopped her. ‘Wait, I’ll come now.’

Winston continued to go about his work and Graham quietly closed the door returning in a few minutes, Winston folded his arms and looked on in anticipation. ‘The dangers of officialdom ring in here as well as out there.’

Graham coughed and looked glum. ‘Yes, em, I am battling with work and family.’

‘Speaking of family, some time now you have spoken of your parents visiting.’

‘Another thing I’m finding hard, my father forbid me to join any government force be it military or civilian. I did so and he has held to his word, we have not spoken for many years. I don’t even know if my mother is still alive.’

‘Have you mentioned this to Kalika.’

‘No, we spoke only briefly of such things and I avoided any in depth conversation.’

Winston raised his eyebrows and gave a sigh looking away briefly. ‘That make’s things difficult for you I can see, we perhaps should have spoken of this earlier.’

‘I find it something I avoid, can’t talk about something that isn’t real, I would indeed be pulling your chain.’

‘Mmm, I understand, I never speak of my daughter.’

‘I would like to meet her some time.’

‘So would I.’

‘This Barton thing is getting nasty, you were right about Smiths secretary a Miss Campbell, she is we strongly suspect Ella Barton. We have had to send female officers to see her, she chewed up and spat out every male we sent. I avoided going personally for other reasons, I did the Taunton investigation and I don’t want her knowing what I look like.’

‘I would have thought it might be a good idea that Kalika doesn’t know what she looked like.’

Graham appeared uncomfortable. ‘Indeed. but I need to know about something else. The Australian police have found a vehicle that was stolen from the Edinburgh airport, a…..’

‘Bentley sports, black, rebirthed and used by a one Theo Delores.’

Graham looked startled. ‘Rebirthed not quite sure what you mean.’

‘Theo Delores, car dealer and once horse race trainer and owner for want of a better title. I planted the car there some time ago, in his driveway in Sydney.’

‘Why.’

‘Cars are dropped at his place on a regular basis, they are then taken away, usually expensive luxury cars and have their particulars changed, he then sells them on. I expected to be able to trace his network as the Bentley is fitted with a satellite surveillance system embed in the frame, I got far more than I bargained for.’

‘In what way.’

‘He decided to keep the car himself.’

‘Why such intensive scrutiny of this man.’

‘He picked up Lindy Cumberland’s double when she returned to Australia a while ago.’

‘So you don’t trust him.’

‘Ha, nobody trust’s him, and he attracts the same kind.’

‘So you think he is up to something, with Cumberland’s double.’

‘No, information we have received via the car is very detailed. He tried but she refused to cooperate, I have however tracked his entire network and have video of his phone conversation in the car. He’s on parole, the information would see him back in prison for a long time.’

‘He was arrested yesterday, under the influence of drugs and alcohol in the car.’

‘Mmm, making mistakes, I dropped some of the transcripts of his phone conversations on his desk via a friend. Just to let him know what he’s up against, the pressure may have got to Theo, not real smart when it comes to that kind of thing.’

‘Well he’ll be put away for quite some time.’

‘No, leave him, he still drives the car, best source of information we have at present in Australia, he is dealing with the equine industry again but not sure how deep as yet.’

‘He is up for some very serious charges.’

‘He’s out on bail, case won’t reach court until well after the national, lawyers handling his case work for me.’

‘These things are highly irregular.’

‘Like police officers posing as drug dealers.’

Was silence for a few seconds. ‘Is any of this information helpful in the Barton case.’

‘No, the only connection is underhanded tactics in the equine industry.’

‘Could still be linked.’

‘Absolutely, only lack one thing, evidence.’

‘Where from here.’

‘I’ll give you the evidence on his entire car network, take it down, will force him into the equine industry further, for money.’

‘I would have difficulty in suggesting any of the things we have discussed.’

‘You won’t have to, knowing about them will help, I have no idea why the Barton’s were murdered, Ella Barton may be the key but I’m not convinced.’

‘Again we have strong suspicions that she was involved but no evidence just rumours.’

‘Ella seems to be caught up in the supernatural, I pressured an associate of Smith’s and he was adamant she was tied up in some kind of druid clan. They held meetings, ceremonies and such, seems strange the bodies were found in Wick in Scotland and from the area of Wick near Taunton.’

‘Current investigation would indicate she is interested in sex and not much else.’

‘Could be she was in these clans for that very reason, reading about them in court manifesto’s is nothing short of disbelief if you read the stuff in a novel.’

‘She has some powerful friends as well, getting complaints from quite a few, one being a government minister.’

‘Can be distracting, they are driven by lobbyists most of the time, probably would have no idea what they are getting into but worth a look, politicians are generally responsible for nothing.’

‘I have to go and talk to Kalika.’

‘Don’t be despondent you have changed her allot, for the better I feel.’

‘Really battling with many things.’

‘So I can see, what tears you down generally makes you stronger.’

‘I may need some more help.’

‘I just gave you as much as I can, matters of heart, you are on your own.’

He said nothing more, just got up and left. Winston waited, his opinion on timing was close, Kalika came in unannounced, she didn’t sit down. ‘Grahams work is causing him great stress.’

‘Mmm, no doubt.’

‘Can you help him.’

‘No more than I already have.’

‘How can I help.’

‘You just did.’

‘What do you mean.’

‘You came and asked for help where you feel you can give none.’

She looked blank and silent, moments passed. ‘I cant do anything for him.’

‘Did raise your voice.’

‘No, I just hugged him.’

‘Congratulations, that’s far more help than I can give him.’

‘Do you think he loves me.’

‘No.’

‘What.’

Winston looked over his glasses. ‘No, I don’t think, I know he does.’

Kalika was taken back. ‘Oh, I see. What do I do next.’

‘Why don’t you go into town and discuss it with Graham over lunch, I can give no more advice than that.’

Kalika shrugged her shoulders. ‘That’s what I was thinking.’

‘Then you don’t need my advice any more, just my support.’ She skipped toward the door. ‘Oh, Kalika, I like your outfit.’

‘Thank you, I think I know what you mean.’ She left.

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

Time passed, the weather began to improve as spring arrived. It had been difficult to use the training track every day as a well worn path had developed. Lindy wanted to avoid using varied lines and saddle and bridle improvements had implemented. A standard run around the outside of the track helped with a few fences to take the pressure of the training track surface. The stock market had rallied in some areas for the Blake group but and one rally Winston was not particularly pleased with was that of the leather manufacturing group that recently sold out to the Chinese, their saddle maker and designer was the culprit. The confidence confided in between the once shop front leather smith in Toulon in the south of France and Blake had been contaminated by commercial intrusion and money. He was far too busy to manage it as an internal problem so he discontinued use of the French expert, saddles identical to that of Lindy Cumberland’s began to appear on the market all over the world. Filling the hole was a problem, local leather smith’s had helped in the past but saddle making for race horses was not their main source of income so was not their forte. Fortunately indulgence by Cumberland had made her and expert in her own right and she worked along side a local female leather smith to maintain her saddles and bridles. Winston was not happy with the arrangement, Bristol had filled with sharks circling to pick up any stragglers that were in the know. Mechanic had an area of the complex modified for leather maintenance so nothing left the complex unless it was going to a race meeting, in doing so he found something he had been looking for but kept it to himself.

Lee Hayford had a front page article picked up across the world, the rise of Taunton Barr and the story behind it. This horse could actually win the grand national but still remained four to one long shot by the top bookies and handicappers. Blake couldn’t even work this out himself, no matter what the horse had done it remained a long shot, only forces below ground could engineer such a set up and it was in Blake’s favour. Being an underdog would rally the public even more, this would favour Blake on his intrepid way to gain control. Many things went through his mind, was it on side elements within the underground network rallying to his cause, or was there an underlying reason he could not fathom. Blake had seen little of Ellis but Kalika was often with him, she had at last learnt to delegate. Lindy had one focus to win the grand national but why the underdog tag, undefeated and condemned, made no sense even to commercial entities driving endorsed products, Lindy had become and extremely wealthy woman without the assistance of Blake.

In Australia, Theo Delores was still in prison, he could not afford bail of two million dollars and no one would help him. His case was also slow, prosecution continued to apply for stay of hearing to accrue and log evidence, and why such a heavy bail for what would appear to be no more than a drink and drug driving case. Blake’s Bentley had been burnt to the ground while sitting in Delores driveway. Ellis had acted on the information supplied to him on Delores movements, his phone conversations and contacts, he had stepped on a lot of peoples toes through Interpol, but within police ranks he was promoted for his work. Two major drug cartels had been taken down and a giant car stealing ring crushed, Blake thought if Delores was a target the easiest place to take him out would be prison, and perhaps the authorities were holding him there hoping that would happen. These things had only been possible because of tracking Delores, in prison he was under control. What if he was out, Blake considered the possibility he may vanish, on the other hand he needed numbers to an equation he just couldn’t fathom. Burning his car was fruitless, or was it just retribution from a car stealing ring, no matter how much Blake thought about it he got nowhere. Blake no longer even trusted his own lawyers, he set up a chain of contact that would take months to untangle and under the guise posted Delores bail.

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

Lindy had her weekly meeting with Winston, they meet in the office after morning training not long after the sun had come up. It was the only time put aside where they would talk openly about business without the context of family being intrusive. As the approach to a common goal was the national, many things intervened that distorted direct facts, Lindy was used to this as much as Winston. Winston was not dressed, he was in his dressing gown and slippers, Lindy thought this was most unusual, she always asked direct questions should they be of a subject that affected business. She was arranging the chair in front of Winston’s desk and looked concerned. ‘You haven’t dressed, why.’

‘I haven’t been to bed, I had a few hours on the couch in the lounge, feel asleep watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’

‘That wasn’t the question.’

‘I was about to when I realised the time, I didn’t want to be late so here I am.’

‘You don’t make mistakes like that.’

‘Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.’

Lindy giggled. ‘You think I should watch Monty Python of a night.’

‘I recommend it to everyone.’

Lindy sat down. ‘Cecelia hasn’t been to training for several days now, we have been running Saracen with a female jockey. He’s picked up a bit.’

‘And where is Cecelia do we know.’

‘The rumour is she’s pregnant to that Stock racing driver.’

‘Rumour, any value in it.’

‘Would appear so, Kalika rang and asked her what’s going on but she didn’t want to talk.’

Winston rolled his lips and blinked several times. ‘Do I have to talk to her.’

‘No, her family has given us permission to run Saracen, they know less than we do.’

‘We will have to get that in writing.’

‘Kalika has written a letter, only yesterday, see what happens.’

‘Okay, keep running Saracen and fix a jockey that he can work with.’

‘They don’t mind running him but no one want’s to know, Cecilia is such a bitch.’

‘Commercially I think you’re trying to tell me Cecelia has problems communicating with others to the point they have problems getting involved.’

‘No I said she’s a bitch of a thing.’

Winston raised his eyebrows and coughed, shuffled some paper on his desk, he looked back up. ‘Offer to buy Saracen from the Rutherfords.’

‘Was Cecelia’s wining horse, they’ll never part with him.’

‘I just bought the entire stable from them apart from Saracen, moving them to Glastonbury, if what you say is true they wouldn’t want Saracen parked up in a yard somewhere, they have other things on their mind at present.’

‘Oh really, good grief. Why.’

‘Not really sure, they asked for help so I gave them some. Offer half a million pounds for Saracen.’

‘He’s won no where near that money of late.’

‘He was the first horse to push Flaxy over jumps, that’s worth a half a million in anyone’s books. How far off Flaxy is he with an alternate jockey.’

‘Four lengths.’

‘Then he’s just as good as any of them.’

‘He hears my commands and because he was trained by Roger Flaxy hears Cecelia’s, can be a problem sometimes.’

‘Why have you never mentioned this before.’

‘I have tried to manage it but they’re both set in their ways.’

Winston thought for a while. ‘Leave it to me, I’ll talk to the Rutherford’s in person.’

‘Why is that.’

‘What.’

‘You protect her.’

‘Who.’

‘Cecelia.’

‘We are talking commercial interest, of course I would, I want the first three places in the national.’

‘That’s not the reason.’

‘Cecelia is missing training, she is supposedly pregnant, hanging around with Stock whom I am no fan of I can assure you.’

‘This supercar thing is taking off, Stock is winning everything apart from the last race, must be a bit disappointing you sold it off.’

‘Not really, I still hold a governing share.’

Lindy hesitated, she knew Winston well and read his face. ‘It’s something else.’

‘Not sure what you mean.’

‘With Cecelia, if we buy Saracen we can shut him down.’

‘Would you deny Saracen a run in the national, don’t even answer, you know you would be the first to jump to his defence. Stop digging, this is not a family meeting.’

‘So it’s true.’

‘What is.’

‘The rumours.’

‘I will be contacting the Ridgehaven’s and you arrange for a jockey to run Saracen he is a contender for at least a place and you need focus on Taunton because you have a lot coming at you. The point you believe Cecelia is a bitch is not of commercial value.’

Lindy remained calm. ‘Agreed.’

‘You’ve put another kilo on Taunton’s saddle, working out okay.’

‘I lost a bit less than a kilo so added some to his expected handicap weight.’

‘You’re scrawny enough as it is are you eating well.’

‘Goes up and down a little bit you know that, you sound like my mum.’

‘He’s picked up half a second and carrying more weight, sounds good.’

‘He’s picked it up over Bechers, he’s really getting used to it.’

‘Took a long time.’

‘Not often you have to convince a horse it should jump into a hell hole.’

‘Sound like we’re on track.’

‘It’s still not the real thing.’

‘Well very soon it will be so focus. Allahabad has pulled up lame.’

‘You believe that.’

‘No, tracked the horse to Scotland where it’s training out of sight, no prizes for guessing who’s running with it.’

‘Moet.’

‘Yes, that’s not all, remember the Australian jumper Angaston.’

‘Was a flat runner, never got near Flaxy.’

‘Just rolled up here, has times the same as the best of them. Now over ten horses within six lengths of Flaxy.’

‘You concerned about our chances.’

‘No, just our focus, things of heart must be put aside.’

‘I feel we’re above expectations.’

‘But not by much, have you given any thought to a race strategy.’

‘I let him go, he’s not sure on what to do, he likes to argue about things, I’m not sure, at times he’s run better but not consistent.’

Winston got up and looked out the bay window. ‘It’s awful close now, from tomorrow he runs with thirty nine others.’

‘We don’t have that many jumpers.’

‘Then run the flat’s around the jumps, throw everything you can at him.’

‘He’s doing well…..’

‘I want to know Lindy.’

She stood up and shuffled the chair. ‘Good idea, so do I.’

‘If there’s any reservations I want to know.’

‘Why, would you deny him a run, and I comes to that.’

‘We need better than fifty percent chance, far better.’

‘Why, my opinion is he is at seventy.’

‘Because when it comes to matters of heart those things are important. You think I’d let you loose in front of thirty nine other horses without the strongest of chances you are gravely mistaken.’

He didn’t turn round, Lindy walked to the door, he heard it open. ‘It’s true isn’t it.’

‘What is love.’

‘About Cecelia.’ There was silence, he stood fast, after a few seconds he heard the door close.

He sat down and called mechanic on his phone. ‘Mechanic, get me a chopper from Bristol, find out where Peter Stock is, that’s the choppers destination, soon as you can please.’

By the time Winston showered, dressed, and purchased Saracen from the Ridgehaven’s a chopper was on the lawn adjacent to the house. It headed for Silverstone race circuit, near Towcester steeplechase circuit. The chopper covered the hundred and forty kilometres in twenty minutes and landed adjacent to the pits where testing race cars was the order of the day. Cecelia was standing against the back outside wall of the pits, inside the pit garage was Peter Stock working with engineers to improve the performance of his car. Cecelia’s hair was blown everywhere by the landing aircraft to the rear of the pit garage, she noticed the insignia of Bristol Charter, she knew who it was, she went pale. Winston climbed out and headed toward her, an official from the circuit stopped Winston part was across the tarmac. ‘Excuse me you can’t park that helicopter there mate.’

‘I have and you’re not my mate.’ He walked on to Cecelia, she walked from the wall and stopped him short of the pit back door. ‘Father no.’

‘Is it true, Im to be a grandfather.’

‘Yes.’

‘Where is he.’

‘Inside, please father no.’

He took her hand and smiled. ‘Not this time princess, wait here.’

Stock had come to the rear door with others to see the commotion, he wore a puzzled face and walked out toward them, Winston saw him and they meet a few metres from Cecilia. ‘Winston Blake, unexpected.’

‘Not if you sit where I do, your performance has dropped away, lost the last race by a considerable margin.’

‘Oh that, we are just attending to that, should be fixed today, that’s why we are up early.’

Cecelia walked up behind Winston. ‘Father please leave us be.’

Stock looked pale, shocked, he swallowed hard. ‘Father, what th…..’

Winston took Stock by the arm and led him from earshot. ‘I’m no fan of yours, circumstances however prevail that I should show myself. You harm one hair be it physical or emotional to Cecelia and you will need a ticket to the moon.’

‘Easy pal, not exactly a fan of yours.’

Winston let go of Stock pushing him to arms length. ‘This is the only language you understand after studying your character and background. Cecelia is part of me, harm her and I will take a part of you plus her from you.’

‘Hey mate, she stays with me, no one takes this one, she’s having my child.’

‘So I hear, that’s my grandchild, how would you feel about that.’

Stock looked wide eyed. ‘Never really thought about it but now you mention it I’d probably carry on like you.’

‘Good, would appear we see eye to eye on something. Just thought I’d drop in and make sure everyone knew where they stood.’

Cecelia again approached Winston and took his arm turning him around. ‘Please father leave us, will be okay, sorry I haven’t been doing what’s best.’

‘But you have, person in your position has made good choices, just failed to tell anyone and that’s understandable.’

‘Dad will be devastated when he finds out.’

‘He’s known for a long time, we just want the best for you.’

She looked drained and upset. ‘He’s known, does mum know he knows.’

‘No.’

‘Father I’m scared.’

He took her in his arms. ‘Nothing is going to happen to you love I promise, I have Saracen, he will run in the national, you can watch him, I forbid you to ride him in your condition.’

‘What about Lindy and Kalika.’

‘They are not stupid Cecelia. They now know why you are like you are, you have been searching for something neither your dad or I could give you, I hope you have found it. Rebellion is over, get on with your life.’

‘What about mum.’

‘She doesn’t know your father knows, will be okay, love will prevail.’

‘I love Peter.’

‘That I’m sure of, if he loves you that I’m not sure of.’

‘Hang on sport give us a go.’

‘Exactly why I’m here, win or get out of it, one cannot serve two masters, especially someone like you Stock.’

‘You have no faith in me a.’

‘Your damn right, get on with it or I’ll take her away from you.’

‘No way.’

‘Now you got your chance.’

‘Fair enough.’

‘Just remember you will have to deal with Lindy Cumberland and Kalika Palmer, I’m not the only one in on this.’

‘That little Sheila that came down for a ride that rides that black thing, Taunton or whatever they call it.’

‘Yes.’

‘Nothing like a bit of incentive, your all wrong, you’ll see.’

‘We hope so.’ Winston held Cecilia at arms length. ‘I have to go princess, just like you asked, will leave you alone, call if you need us.’

‘Saracen.’

‘He’s with Taunton, Kalika and Lindy will watch over him, you sort this out here.’ He let go of her and walked toward the chopper.

‘Father.’ He looked back. ‘Thank you.’

He smiled, walked the fifty metres to the chopper and climbed in, it hadn’t shut down, it powered up and took off, banked sharply and headed south west.

Stock grabbed Cecelia and held her tight. ‘He came to take you away he reckons.’

She looked in his eyes. ‘Up to us, not him.’

He looked off toward the chopper as it faded in the distance. ‘Yeah, he has no chance love.’

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

Winston dropped back into Flax Burton and a family firestorm. Lindy always looked strong and focused but often times were hard for her. She existed apart from Kristy, her nanny, and the local staff pretty well alone. She sometimes went shopping with Kalika but this had become rare since Kalika was engaged to Ellis. She spent an equal amount of time with Flaxmead, she battled with calling him Taunton, she despised how he had been treated in the past, she wondered if she would ever get over her affiliation with horses, especially this one, her brother. She had tried two years back when Roger was alive but lasted no more than three days, she took on board what that did to Flaxmead, he paced the fence and searched the grounds of Glastonbury looking for her clearing fences and anything else that got in his way. She had still not forgiven herself for attempting to what she now believed to be desertion, it was that point in her and Rogers life they agreed that Flaxmead was put on earth to do far more than just exist. When Kristy was born she need not hide, she had been doing that since she left her home in Australia and pushed on with her riding career with Flaxmead, a worldly form she considered to be sent from the earth to fulfil her life, without him she would be lost. She looked at him with a beaming smile every morning they made contact, Flaxmead would cry out when he smelt her in the air, he need not ever see her to be fulfilled. She kept busy, focused, cooked her own and her daughters meals, prepared all Flaxmead’s food, painstakingly spoke to him about what was going on, without it she knew she would sink into hapless despair, what she had lost, her family, her partner, would sneak up and bite her heart. But Flaxmead was a relationship destined by fortitude, Blake knew it the moment he saw them together, two positive elements of earth had collided he had seen such results before but not in context. Lindy and Kalika were the daughters Blake yearned for, he had no idea why his paternal daughter was in comparison irresponsible and without destiny, however it never stopped him loving her and he thought of her every morning when he woke. It sometimes dragged him into the pits of despair and depression, he became angered by his own attitude, it was two girls and a horse that pulled him from anguish and gave him the direction he so yearned. This family he was determined, would give and receive regardless of commercial or family influence, and it was getting harder. The world was on Lindys shoulders and he knew it, he often contemplated what he had done, long nights working on keeping his family together had changed him to some degree, people didn’t know him anymore, outsiders viewed him as doing the strangest things. Taunton Barr will win the grand national, and his pseudo daughter could then contemplate moving on as she wished. Ellis must marry Kalika and move on, Cecelia must be part of the family or she would perish, these things tore at this heart and he yearned for rest.

He expected Lindy but not Kalika and Ellis, they were all waiting at his office, a statement had been issued by Blake as he left Silverstone via the net. He admitted Cecelia Ridgehaven was his paternal daughter, he did it for her, the torrid intrusions in her life that moulded her like a piece of plasticine would now tread far more cautiously. He also announced her pregnancy to hot shot Peter Stock, he pushed the fact he was over the moon to become a grandfather. Cecelia and Stock heard the statements on the news, they immediately left Silverstone and headed for Flax Burton, Stock commented to Cecelia no one had ever put their entire character and career on the line for what he viewed as support for he and his partner.

Cecelia Ridgehaven’s parents had lived in separate rooms and lived separate lives for many years, they created a false home but it had not helped Cecelia, she sensed something was terribly wrong. Assisted at every corner by Blake she wondered why the flamboyant billionaire was always no further away than her shoulder. Her parents struggled to control her as she spiralled out of control on many occasions, Blake always bailed her out. Then she found a second birth certificate, issued later than the original she had been given whilst rummaging through her mothers belongings looking for answers. It listed her father as Winston Blake, she confronted her mother but her mother denied the document was real. She found her mother had for a short time worked for Blake while at Hornswaddle and Fothrington, a night of wine and song in a foreign land and Cecelia was conceived. The destruction of many lives was at steak and Cecelia’s mother left her workplace but Blake tracked and protected his daughter, he explained the situation to his wife, she explained she had also strayed and his daughter was in fact someone else’s. He had an understanding of these things for his wife had far more lonely nights at home than he cared to remember as he pushed on with his commercial banking career, was to late to look back even then. Was it luck that swayed his judgement with Cecelia’s mother, alcohol or destiny. Blake was a firm believer that when managing things even you own life you are responsible for every decision you make. Cecelia is of Blake, she bears his tenacity and confronted him many years back, she loved her parents to the extent they agreed to live as if they were as it appeared, although they knew the truth. Cecelia’s parents heard the news, they hugged each other knowing their child was safe and finally went their own ways relieved of a burden they thought they would never be free of.

However for Blake things were very different, he was about to be confronted by some very angry people. Ellis heard the news whilst with Kalika, she flew into a rage, they attended the Flax Burton Complex and meet with Lindy at the kitchen table, Ellis insisted on being present, he had for some time known what Blake was capable of when cornered, in the Barton case he had not ruled out collusion to murder. Mavis fussed around them listening to some very heated people prepare a broadside for Blake. Mavis had heard enough and intervened with comment. ‘Excuse me,’ there was sudden silence and they looked at Mavis. ‘If it wasn’t for Mr Blake none of us would be here, especially me. He sent money to my sister when her husband was in hospital injured at work a long time ago, was anonymous but I know it was him, took the company involved to the cleaners. He has owned up about Cecelia to protect her from something you mark my words. You Lindy he worships the ground you walk on and you Kalika, to hear you speak of him like this because it affects your self importance all created by his nature makes me sick if you don’t mind me saying. I’m buggered off waiting on you lot you make me sick. And you Graham you think Mr Blake is caught up in this Barton business, if he is was for a bloody good reason and probably involved protecting you girls from something. Some of the things you got up to Kalika make my bleeding hair curl I tell you. You remember when that handsome young man what’s his na…..’

Kalika spoke up. ‘That will be enough thanks Mavis.’

Graham wasn’t so inclined, he looked very inquisitive. ‘Handsome young man, go on Mavis.’

‘You shouldn’t throw stones when in a glass house young lady.’

‘I see what you mean thanks Mavis.’

Ellis pushed on. ‘Handsome young man, I thought you were rather distant with men, until I meet you.’

Mavis continued milling about the sink whilst talking. ‘Was what put her off men, three days in hospital she was, or she wouldn’t have an Olympic gold medal, was Mr Blake who took care of all that. Was a young football star from Bristol, he vanished not long after it all.’

Lindys face had fury creep across it, she fixed her gaze on Kalika. ‘You aborted.’ Kalika looked away. Lindy stood up. ‘You aborted your child.’

Mavis jumped in. ‘She was bleeding badly when riding, Mr Blake had her rushed to hospital, nothing they could do.’

Lindy sat down, he face displayed remorse. ‘Forgive me.’

Mavis continued. ‘Your mum worked with Mr Blake the exact years of your age ago, perhaps you need talk to him about that as well.’

Kalika looked at Mavis with daggers in her eyes. ‘Why would I need do that.’

‘I hear a lot here, like I said, people in glass houses need to settle down mate.’

Lindy spoke. ‘That’s why your on the will.’

Kalika squinted at her. ‘What will.’

‘I was in the office, Winston asked me to sign some papers, I rummaged around looking for them on his desk and while I was doing it found a new will he had just signed.’

‘And.’

‘To my daughters Kalika Jacqueline and Cecelia Jacqueline I bequeath my commercial estate in even amounts to be determined by the executor.’

Kalika looked petrified. ‘When did you see this.’

‘Just recently, few days ago.’

Kalika shook her head, she looked around dazed and confused, she looked at Mavis. ‘Mavis, please.’

‘He’s your father, Cecelia is your half sister.’

Kalika held her face in the palms of her hands shaking her head, she began to cry, Ellis comforted her. ‘Oh my god,’ she sobbed. ‘I’m related to that bitch.’

Lindy spoke. ‘Makes a bit more sense, your both drop dead gorgeous, long blonde hair, blue eyes and have the will of a lion. I think Mavis is right, she didn’t live next door to her real father and suffered the consequences. Same kind of problems I and Winston have with distance in relationships, I understand these things because I was involved and have experienced them. Cecelia may have just found what she’s been wanting.’

Mavis interrupted. ‘She knows.’

Kalika glared at her, lowering her hands from her face, she stood up. ‘That bitch knew she was my sister.’

‘She’s known for a long time, she’s kept it to herself just like they agreed.’

Kalika stamped her feet and shook herself sobbing as she spoke. ‘My entire life is a sham, what a pack of bastards.’ Ellis turned her toward him and held her tight as she sobbed on his shoulder.

Lindy had other ideas. ‘She protected you, became someone she wasn’t to protect everyone just like Winston.’

Mavis gave Kalika a damp face towel. ‘Better clean yourself up, I hear a helicopter you know who that’ll be.’

Lindy stood up. ‘We say nothing, just play along, we have a goal we are nearly there.’

Kalika pushed Graham away. ‘I’m in no condition to talk to Winston.’

Lindy became stern. ‘Get your act together, Cecelia’s pregnant you want what happened to you to happen to her.’

Kalika suddenly glared at Lindy. ‘No, she stops riding period.’

Lindy continued. ‘We have a jockey for Saracen.’

Kalika drew a big breath and wiped her face clean of running mascara. ‘There is no way Cecelia goes near a horse.’

Lindy smiled at her. ‘Would appear blood is thicker than mascara, we better decide what to do the choppers on the ground.’

Ellis spoke up. ‘No point in dividing the truth, we know about Cecelia, if Cecelia is your sister we treat her as such.’

Mavis started to put come cake and tea in front of them on the kitchen table, a grand wooden affair with ornate carved legs of oak. ‘Here, you better pull yourselves together, some nice strong tea is about all I can offer.’

The kitchen went silent, they heard the chopper lift off and the back door to the patio open and close, but Winston did not enter the kitchen, he went direct to his office. Lindy broke the silence. ‘I need to talk to Winston about something.’

Kalika spoke with sudden rage. ‘I need to talk to him about a few things.’

Lindy forced a half smile as she rose to her feet. ‘Well that’s an improvement over the past few minutes.’

Ellis took Kalika’s hand on the table, she looked away. ‘Some things are a lot clearer to me now, no wonder he protects you like you’re his daughter.’

Lindy walked to Winston’s office and went in without knocking, she sat down in front of Winston at his desk. ‘You left the will out on purpose.’

Winston looked fresh faced and prepared, his fingers locked together on the desk in front of him. ‘No, an oversight.’

‘You’ve never asked me to go to your desk before.’

‘I’ve never been so busy, old and at times incompetent.’

‘Well you were certainly busy a few decades back.’

‘My wife Jacqueline was unwell for a long time before she passed.’

‘I figured that was her name.’

‘This is going to be one of the worst days of your life.’

‘Depends how you look at it, I planned to leave it till I was gone but couldn’t do it.’

‘Cecelia is not far away, where did you go, only takes twenty minutes by chopper, you’ve been well over an hour.’

‘That’s why you’ll win the national, nothing gets passed you.’

‘Wasn’t the question.’

‘I looked for Graham, only to find he was here.’

Lindy looked around with suspicion. ‘Roger knew something but never told me.’

‘I cant help you there, he knew many things that would affect many people, if I knew who it was they would have been caught very quickly.’

‘Or vanished.’

Winston sat back in his chair with a look of stone. ‘Some things are beyond my control.’

‘They can’t find the people who got Roger because they are gone, am I right.’

‘I don’t know what you mean.’

‘Graham has heaps of leads, some very obvious, he would have moved on them if he knew by now. I think he knows who did it but can’t find them, they’ve vanished.’

‘Not unusual for wanted people to hide.’

‘My partner was murdered wasn’t he.’

‘Im not sure, test results would suggest that, but Roger was not a well man, he was haunted by the same disease that took my wife Jacqueline.’

‘You agreed to do things for him should he pass.’

‘Of course.’

‘Did he know about Kalika.’

‘No, one thing that haunts me, I wanted to tell him and had it planned but he passed before I could carry the plan out.’

‘Why do I have to ask about these things.’

‘Because I promised Roger I would look after you as my own, and I wish you were.’

‘What was wrong with him.’

‘Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, generally brought on by stress, when I got him involved with Flaxmead it took it’s toll.’

‘That’s why he went to the hospital twice a week.’

‘Yes.’

‘He refused to tell me.’

‘As I would have.’

‘You blame yourself.’

‘One can be a catalyst but bear no blame, I asked the question he became angry I would suggest such a thing.’

‘Why haven’t you told me these things before.’

‘You didn’t need to know, especially when he came to me and told me you had become very close.’

‘Bit of a mess.’

‘We only had one shot at it, I have no comparison to make a validated fact sheet on how many mistakes we made. At the time it was rather difficult, from where I sit now I have three wonderful daughters, doesn’t get much better than that princess.’

‘When I came over here you visited my dad, what did he say.’

‘He didn’t say anything, he knew you were going where you wanted to be and that I would watch over you as my own. What I can tell you is your parents will be at Aintree.’

‘They never call.’

‘They don’t have to I call them every week.’

She stood up, her face beamed. ‘Really, I didn’t know.’

‘We agreed you must be left to think for yourself. You can present them with a granddaughter.’

‘They don’t know.’

‘No, as I said, they leave you to get on with things.’

‘Why haven’t you told them.’

‘I would never do such a thing under the circumstances, takes time to instigate such things, sometimes we run out of time.’

‘Do you think they will disown me when I tell them.’

‘Don’t be absurd, your parents are wonderful people.’

‘They bought Greedy Piggy Creek coal mine and shut it down, where did they get the money, I assume….’

‘You assume correctly, they wanted me to have Flaxmead, the Fields were devastated when Dylan was killed, I arranged indirectly for your parents and the Fields to gain control of areas of the Valley that threatened their lifestyles. A considerable amount of money was given to them when I was given Flaxmead, your parents took the money and indirectly injected it into the Fields property by buying Greedy Piggy Creek, they have no idea it’s in their name, they think your parents own it. As you think I own Flaxmead but on the papers I only appear as the trainer.’

‘Then who owns him.’

‘You do.’

Lindy slumped down in her chair. ‘What….he’s mine, but I’ve never signed anything to do with him.’

‘Always has been yours, to suggest someone else should have him is ridiculous. you signed the paperwork but Roger didn’t explain what you were signing.’

‘Do you have more money than sense.’

‘No, if I did things would be a lot different, life’s not like that unfortunately, you said I was going to have a bad day but turned out good for you.’

‘No, I was wrong, I didn’t have enough information about anything it seems.’

‘No one does, your goal is to win the national, things that distract from that are hardly going to help. Nothing is as it seems. You mentioned it so many times to Roger nothing became more important to him. Not only that you can.’

‘It’s hard to run forty horses here, having trouble getting enough riders to put in saddles.’

‘Mechanic has informed me it won’t happen.’

‘Why.’

‘Because the risk of infiltration is too great.’

‘We have twenty two.’

‘Then that’s what we use, nice to see you have focus again.’ Lindy went on to discuss diet and some other minor points when they were pulled up by a loud knock on the door. Winston looked toward the door with an inquisitive squint, Lindy froze. ‘Come in.’

In walked Kalika and Cecelia hand in hand, they closed the door behind them and walked to stand beside Lindy in front of Winston’s desk. They had both been crying and let their hair down from being worn in the usual bun, it was obvious there was a genetic trait. Winston got up and looked out the bay window standing behind his chair with his back to them. ‘So, you know who you are now.’

The spoke in unison. ‘Father we…..’

‘Know nothing of why and never will because I’m not sure myself. Had I a magic phrase I could hand you that told how fortunate I am I would indeed deliver it but find myself humbled and embarrassed. The traits in both of you are my responsibility and I have never shied away from that, thank god I had the courage to follow my instincts for today they make me the luckiest person alive.’ Lindy got up to walk out. ‘Lindy stay where you are.’

‘But I think….’

‘Rubbish sit down.’ He turned and looked at his daughters. ‘Looks like you have been healing wounds.’

Kalika spoke. ‘I’m riding Saracen in the national.’

A look of fury crept across Winston’s face. ‘What did you say.’

Kalika stamped her foot on the ground and took a step closer stopped by the edge of the desk. ‘I said I’m riding Saracen in the national, Cecelia is carrying my niece or nephew but we both want Saracen to run, she thinks I would be the only person she would want to run him.’

Winston took a deep breath. ‘I absolutely forbid you to go anywhere near that race.’

She squinted and wore a look of determination. ‘Don’t you tell me what I can do and when I can do it, I’m a Blake I’m sure you know what that means.’

Winston yelled at the top of his voice. ‘Get out!’ They stood in silence. ‘I said get out and come back when you have regained your intellect.’

Cecelia stepped forward next to her sister. ‘She’ll ride Saracen if she wants, we’re Blake’s and there’s not much you can do about that so suck it up.’ She looked down at Lindy. ‘Come on Lindy, leave him along to get used to it for a while.’

They left the room and drew big breaths holding their chest with their right hands in the hall gathered around each other. Kalika shook her head. ‘That didn’t go well.’

Lindy chuckled. ‘Bullshit, we only had one Blake now we got three, come on, if you’re going to ride Saracen we have a lot of work to do.’

‘What about Dad.’

‘Not the time for Dad, time to focus on what we are doing, leave him, a wise man told me once anger is far more useable than despair. He’ll watch us like a hawk from the window so we better get on with it, we won’t impress him with luvy duvy shit at this particular time. What will reassure him is results.’

‘He said he was lucky to have us.’

Lindy huffed. ‘Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.’

Kalika looked around at rear. ‘I haven’t ridden or trained much lately I got a fat arse.’

Cecelia looked at her with a frown. ‘Your arse is identical to mine you saying I got a fat arse.’

‘Well no… I was just…..’

Lindy rolled her eyes walking away. ‘Come on get on it.’

‘What about Dad.’

She turned and spoke as she walked backwards. ‘He’s scared just like we will be if we don’t have our act together on the line. He’s scared he’ll loose us, I’m scared I’ll loose him now get with it.’ They strode off toward the barn complex three wide and in deep conversation.

Winston watched them from the window then sat down at his desk, he held his forehead in both hands leaning on the desk with his elbows, he was as fearful as he had ever been.

CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

In a warehouse adjacent to Heathrow airport, a man sat at his desk pondering several lines of communication, he was tired, weary, slow, his system laced with caffeine from endless cups of coffee. He folded his arms and looked in a gaze at his computer screen, he had been left to rot by those he trusted. He got up and paced around attempting to bring on a second wind when he was startled by a pounding on the roller door of his establishment and a loud voice shouting above all. ‘Customs and excise, we have a warrant to search these premises, open the door!!’

He immediately became wide eyed, short but stocky and dark skinned he ran to a cupboard, he fumbled with his keys attempting to open the door. An enormous crash sent him sprawling to the ground as an assault Land Rover equipped with a battering ram broke down the roller door, it collapsed onto the pallets and drums of goods staked inside having a domino effect across the lower floor and shifting the mezzanine floor above. Several armed personnel followed the land rover brandishing assault rifles and wearing bullet proof apparel. They were obviously familiar with the layout, they checked the lower floor and several members of the team shouted clear. They scaled the stairs slowly with weapons cocked and raised to eye level, the man appeared at the top of the stairs with his hands on his head, they cuffed his arms behind his back, took him inside the office and sat him down with his back to a window overlooking the airport. A shout of clear was given at the top of the stairs and personnel began to remove balaclava’s and helmets.

A female member of the crew sat down at the computer the man had been using. ‘Got him off guard.’ was her comment. She viewed several screens and then called a male member of the crew that had searched the man and was busy inspecting the contents of his wallet. He lent over his colleague and read the screen. ‘Not exactly what we were expecting,’ she added.

Her male counterpart studied the screen with a squint. ‘So it would seem.’

She rolled through a few documents then noticed a name folder of interest, she opened it. ‘That’s it, if he cooperates that’s it.’

The male officer walked to the window and looked backward and forward along the street adjacent to the commercial premises. He activated his communication system in his ear, ‘Move on the street, two vehicles one south and one north, immobilise and question.’

An assault team left the building and began working their way to both ends of the street, in teams of three. As soon as they were in view of the parked vehicles they took off speeding away one having to do a u turn. The officer at the window got a report on his ear piece. ‘We lost them, down to aerial surveillance.’

‘Okay, got it, vehicles report.’

‘Both stolen yesterday.’

The officer was a big man, huge hands and spoke in a voice that low you had to be a bison to understand the details. He looked down at the cuffed man beside him, he spoke with a wide cockney accent. ‘You’re in a lot of trouble me ol fruit, we’re your only hope sunshine, no one loves you anymore, you have a chance to cooperate.’

‘An if I don’t.’

‘We call off the choppers and they know where your family lives.’

The man looked down at the floor. ‘What do you want.’

‘Everything you have.’

He had a middle eastern accent. ‘They will find me.’

‘Not if we find them first.’

‘There are two lap top computers in the draw of my desk, I will need them.’

The female officer opened the upper draw and there they were, she pulled them out. ‘Anything else,’ she asked.

‘No, just the main station you have been looking at.’

The male officer pulled him to his feet and handed him to two officers still rigged in full face covering. ‘Take him back to the Cross, don’t let anyone near him, let everyone know we have him but keep him out of the way.’ They took him and shuffled him down the stairs to the Land Rover, he was placed inside the rear compartment and the vehicle reversed from the building dragging the roller door with it and leaving it in the car park. It speed of down the street with several support vehicles in tow.

The female officer looked at a few more documents on the screen before dismantling the main frame of the computer and removing it. She spoke to her partner. ‘Not exactly what we expected to find.’

The male officer was assisting, they were the only two left in the building. ‘Someone is pulling our chain, this geezer could be very valuable, couple of names there rang a bell straight away.’ The burley male took the computer under his arm and they headed down the stairs. ‘I’ll call in the civvies and they can clean this up.’

‘What about his family.’

‘He sent them to France this morning, can only wish them the best like.’

‘Well you play with fire you get burnt.’

‘Not sure if he is the one with the lighter, ask intelligence to track all names found in his files for movement out of the country soon as you get back to the office.’

‘Some of the names are a bit er.’

‘Touchy.’

‘Yeah.’ They threw the computer frame into the boot of their jaguar. ‘Lets get out of here before the press roll up.

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT

Winston watched from his bay window as Taunton Barr and Saracen battled it out on the training track, every time they tackled Beachers Brook he looked away. One daughter replaced by another, he had gained nor prevented anything, the battle for the national had become more important to the three girls than he. He no longer paid mind to outside influence affecting the national, the focus and dream had turned into a nightmare for him internally. He lost control of the training regime as Kalika, Cecelia and Lindy took control of everything, wasn’t that he approved of anything that they were doing, just that he loved them to much to control the risk. He thought by now that a suitable jockey would be riding Saracen and his girls would be clear of ever present danger, he had also become attached to Kristy Lindy’s child, she called him grandpa. The pending showdown with destiny was something he racked his brain on how to control, he had no answers, only more questions. There was a knock on the door.

‘Come in.’

It was mechanic, he closed the door and quietly approached Winston’s desk. ‘Couple of things you should know, you aren’t venturing out like so thought I’d give a heads up.’

‘You come in silence, what’s wrong.’

‘Saracen is four lengths off Taunton every run.’

‘I have eyes mechanic, not chastising you for your diligence.’

‘I just heard them talking about changing the training regime like.’

Winston turned round and looked at mechanic with a stone face. ‘And.’

‘They say the pair are becoming set in their ways, they’ve worked out the hierarchy and just adjusting to who runs where and why.’

There was silence. ‘Go on.’

‘They are talking of several changes, separating them till the race, Lindy riding Saracen for a while, putting big gaps in the start so one is behind the other on a regular basis to encourage competition.’

‘There’s something else what is it.’

‘Don’t know if I should tell you.’

‘It’s up to you I trust your judgement, I can’t force family information from anyone blood is thicker than water.’

Mechanic coughed and looked around nervously, he swallowed hard. ‘Both Kalika and Lindy have fallen twice.’

‘What!’

‘Over the past few days, at Bechers.’

Winston contained himself, he rubbed his forehead with his hand. ‘Were they hurt.’

‘No, they remounted immediately and got back on it like nothing happened.’

‘What did the horses do.’

‘Pulled up and turned back to them from what I can gather, they remounted on the rail.’

‘Exactly what Flaxmead did when as Lindy took him toward the starting line of the Melbourne Cup, she got off and gave him a serve about his attitude. If he does that in the race they’ll be decimated by the field.’

‘Not all bad, making them think about strategy harder, they talk of running wide at certain places even if it means loosing ground.’

Winston sighed. ‘I’ve lost their trust, support and respect.’

‘You acted like a father.’

‘Not what they wanted.’

‘Not so sure, I can see them over your shoulder on the way here.’

Winston looked around then back at mechanic. ‘You wish to stay.’

‘No, gone as far as I can go like, up to you now.’

‘Thanks mechanic, I’ve not been real sharp, just had a call on the satellite phone, things are not as they would appear, how much security can you muster that you trust for the big day.’

‘Allot.’

‘The race is only two weeks away, bolster as much as you can, cover everything we have ever spoken about and then cover that with a contingency plan, I’m not going to stop this, I cant, all I can do is reduce the risk.’

‘Done.’ Mechanic walked out and passed the girls in the conservatory. Kalika stood in front of him blocking his path.

‘You told him did you not.’

Mechanic smiled. ‘Told him what.’

‘Everything.’

‘I told him what he needs to know, I’m a father as well like.’

‘You basta…’

Cecelia jumped in. ‘Leave him alone.’

Lindy pulled her to one side to let him through. ‘Leave him,’ she turned to mechanic. ‘Why did you tell him, that we have fallen that is.’

‘Because I love the man as much as I love you.’

Kalika’s eyes welled up, she looked down in disgust with herself. ‘Forgive me.’

‘Forgiveness is not for destiny, it’s for mistakes and wrong doing, no one has done anything that requires forgiveness.’ Mechanic walked away.

Kalika kicked the floor tiles. I’m a bitch.’

Cecelia hugged her looking at Lindy with her head on Kalika’s shoulder. ‘Yeah, so am I.’

Lindy chuckled. ‘We all are, what the hell we going to do, we’ve been in charge of a procession for the last three weeks, we should have thought about this two weeks ago. I was so familiar with things that I fell, lack of concentration.’

Kalika held Cecelia at arms length. ‘Me too, what if Taunton and Saracen turn to us like they did when we fell, could be curtain for them.’

Lindy thought a second. ‘We had the pack behind us, they weaved past them pretty well.’

‘We are taking on the opposition, wont be any organised hierarchy in the race.’

Lindy sounded sad. ‘I wish Roger was here, he’d know.’

Kalika smiled. ‘Dad will know.’

‘We have been absolute bitches to him, now we want his advice.’

Cecelia wore a reassuring type smile. ‘Yeah, he’s our dad, how lucky are we, come on.’ She led the charge to his office. She waited for them to bunch at his door.

Lindy began to walk backwards away from them. ‘He’s your dad, you go in.’

‘Hey wait a second.’

‘Yeah a second, that’s all we could stand alone, your fathers been in here alone for weeks, savvy.’

Kalika took offence. ‘Your a bitch Lindy.’

Cecelia turned on Kalika. ‘She’s a bitch, well this kettle is not going to call the pot black.’

Lindy fired back. ‘We’re arseholes, spoilt arseholes, so full of our own importance we let your father rot in his office.’

There was silence for a few seconds then Kalika raised her clenched hand to knock on the door but before she could a voice was heard. ‘Come in.’ They all looked wide eyed, Kalika opened the door and they walked to his desk closing the door behind them. Winston stood looking out the window with his back to them.

There was an uncomfortable silence before Kalika asked. ‘You knew I was going to knock.’

‘I heard muffled voices then sudden silence and made an assumption.’

‘We need to talk about the race.’

Winston was distracted. ‘When I was cavorting with your mothers had it been made public I would have been condemned, how’s that looking now.’

‘We didn’t come to talk about that.’

‘And I needed to know you had both fallen at Beachers.’

‘If we told you we were worried you may stop us.’

‘Had you not considered the race was irrelevant in comparison to your safety.’

‘Yes and that’s why we’re silent.’

Winton continued to look out the window with his back to them. ‘I ask again how are things looking now compared to only months ago.’

‘Dad for god’s sake we need your help.’

‘Saracen is still four lengths from Taunton and yesterday Taunton picked up half a second to the fastest time he has run the course yet.’

‘Yes.’

‘But Saracen remained four lengths in arrears and made up the same time.’

‘Yes, as soon as Saracen steps up Flaxy kicks up a notch.’

‘For this adventure his name is Taunton Barr and there is a very good reason for that.’

Lindy spoke. ‘You wish Roger was here.’

‘Yes I do, what’s your plan from the line Lindy.’

‘I go wide and hold him to the front runner until the final half mile.’

Winston nodded and folded his arms. ‘Mm, and a very wise plan, even the opposition will be expecting that, not that we can engineer a plan better than proven fact. What is you race plan Kalika.’

‘Run the rail as much as I can, draw the opposition in to pocket me while Taunton Lindy runs wide.’

‘The last half mile.’

‘Saracen will chase Taunton, we have been unable to stop the behaviour.’

‘What about Backfire and Crimson Tide.’

‘They are as you have seen running well behind Taunton and Saracen.’

‘They stick together as well, why is that.’

Lindy replied. ‘We wish Roger was here, he’d know.’

‘They are off their normal pace but both ran well in a steeple a week ago when tried, they led all the way.’

‘Why did you do that, give them an unexpected run, some more mind games and politics.’

‘No, we can assume by fact that they will come at you in the national.’

‘Along with ten others.’

‘Indeed.’

‘No horses have the form of Taunton and Saracen.’

‘When you run them with the pack alone they dawdle.’

‘Saracen is the only horse we have that can push Taunton, he rises to the challenge when pushed.’

‘Mm, you don’t think I’ve noticed.’

‘So what do we do.’

‘Nothing, nothing will stop him, he was born to it.’

‘So it’s game on.’

‘It’s no game Lindy, should something happen to either of you we will all die inside.’

‘You trust Taunton and Saracen.’

‘As much as I trust mechanic.’

‘We go to the line as the underdogs, the press is having a field day, they believe Taunton and Saracen are not up to it, that’s why we haven’t run them beyond minimum qualifying requirements.’

‘The press have played into our hands, something I do know how to manipulate, I have belittled the controlling body as well to the point Taunton will carry the heaviest weight penalty a horse has ever had in the national.’

‘Why did you do those things, you had them eating out of our hands.’

Winston turned around and faced them. ‘Because that’s what the people need, an underdog so tainted and reviled by the establishment that when it rises to the top the cheer will be so loud it will shatter the foundations of the most robust castles.’

Cecelia spoke for the first time. ‘Can we expect worse.’

‘Yes, we will be considered losers before we start.’

‘Betting on Taunton will still make him the favourite.’

‘In a weeks time no one will be game to put a penny on Taunton.’

‘How the hell will we achieve that.’

‘Lindy, take Taunton to Glastonbury tonight and run his double around for the next two weeks.’

Lindy looked shocked. ‘His double has trouble jumping a fence.’

‘Exactly, this place is watched by hawks, Saracen will end up favourite.’

‘What about Taunton.’

‘Run him on the Glastonbury golf course, see how he takes to a bit of revision, you stay there with him, we put one of our female jockeys on the double with a long wig.’

‘I would rather go with the flow.’

‘Only dead fish go with the flow.’

‘Its fake news we see it on line all the time.’

‘The problem is not fake news but fake government, please I need a hero and Taunton fits the bill.’

‘Well send every bookie broke, they’ll come after us with a vengeance.’

‘We cant shoot at someone that hides, we need them out of their trenches to do that.’

‘We could destroy something we’re trying to reform.’

‘Building a new house is easy in comparison to restoring a Victorian stately castle is simple, you have a get of guidelines to follow, a stately castle has treachery embedded in its walls, and a set of guidelines to keep it there. Whichever way it goes we are poised to create change.’

‘Is this a game or a horse race.’

‘I remind you again Lindy this is no game.’

‘What have you been doing behind our backs.’

‘If I had something you should know I would tell you, you know that.’

‘We assume it’s all quiet on the western front then.’

‘Indeed not.’

‘We are worried that you are doing something silly and will get into big trouble.’

‘Protecting my girls is not silly, when you talk like that makes me wonder where you think fathers place their morals.’

Kalika interrupted Lindy. ‘You always treated me like a father, I wondered why, made me feel precious that not only my father would embrace a child in such a way. We all need stop bickering about moralistic fibre and adolescent history, we are as one.’

Cecelia was battling with emotional contrast, she fought tears her voice a little broken. ‘I’m carrying our heir, we better not cock this up, I don’t want to be a dead fish, never have. I had no idea why you supported my families every move, I saw you as the kindest man we knew, I drew pictures of you by our horses when I was little. I hope I never wake from this dream.’

Kalika scalded her. ‘Can it Cecelia, we need to focus, reduce risk, improve chance, review plans and double check direction, what do you think dad.’

Winston for the first time during the conversation smiled. ‘I think you are my daughter, the fastidious organiser, and Cecelia the dreamer, Lindy the lone wolf a daughter I wish I had in my arsenal within the realm. Fortunately we do have her. We must remember where we are going, we all have a vested interest in success for different reasons. Radical people are snakes, people of moderation are the grass they hide in. Now go and win the national because currently we can’t see the forest for the trees let alone the grass.’

Lindy looked puzzled. ‘What are you on about.’

Winston smiled and folded his arms. ‘And that’s why you’ll win, you have no other current goal, no other misted focus, just the winning post as you squint with concentration between Taunton’s ears. My heart is heavy but we continue to reduce the risk as I am torn between the protected and the fearless, who dares wins, and the price can be greatly reduced by what we have done. I would like to know what happens every day, one of you will have to come to me and discuss progress. Lindy will be moving around so Kalika or you Cecelia will need to touch bass with each of you as the time draws near, I must talk to all of you alone the day before the race.’

Kalika looked at Winston with stern resolve. ‘You stop this for reason of fear and we will be dogged the rest of our lives.’

Winston hesitated. ‘Have I ever stopped you from doing anything you wanted to.’

Kalika looked down and around. ‘No, you just support us.’

‘Then is it not too much to ask that I am to the least reassured.’

There was a pin drop silence for a few seconds. ‘No.’

‘Then I will see one of you here tomorrow lunch time, I would like to know how Taunton runs Glastonbury and how Saracen takes to a horse that has trouble running out of sight.’

Lindy chimed in. ‘That’s exactly what I’d like to know.’

CHAPTER THIRTY NINE

Winston had not been out of his office for over a month, with morning was now less than two weeks to the race, was not long before the results of the plan became reality as mechanic knocked at the door. ‘Come in.’

Winston was a little more jovial after the encounter with the female members of his family, he looked up at mechanic with a warm smile which was hardly what was written on mechanics face. ‘The phones are running hot, the media all over us about Taunton, what’s happened to him, I could run faster than him this morning and he’s refusing jumps.’

‘Taunton’s in Glastonbury, his double looks just like him but has trouble running.’

Mechanic looked scathing. ‘Why was I not told.’

‘Journalists aren’t stupid, they would have picked your reactions on the phone as realistic, had we told you your reaction would be calculated, now you know I suggest you continue to answer questions in the same manner as you did this morning.’

‘I don’t get it.’

Winston looked over his glasses. ‘What are the odds on Taunton.’

‘Even money.’

‘Mmm, and believably so.’ Winston took off his glasses and lent back in his chair. ‘All the mums and dads robbed of their hope and adulation by those whom continue to benefit from a system that is rigged against them. Expectation in this case jubilance for those whom believe in Taunton but disappointing when it comes to reward for such loyalty, sound a bit like politics does it not.’

Mechanic looked interested. ‘Mmm.’

‘By the race Taunton will be lucky to be twenty five to one. The media will turn on him and we will be attacked and ridiculed for running a champion into the ground and embracing him in front of millions.’

‘Keep talking.’

‘Mums and dads however are supportive, as I have found lately to my discomfort. If I thought we were going to loose or the girls be hurt I would call it all off.’

‘Not much chance of that.’

‘Indeed, mums and dads will still back him and with the same gusto, for they have hope. I’m not going to tell you what to say, because you don’t need to know.’

‘They are asking to talk directly to you.’

‘I’ve been out of sight for a month, I could be in hospital or on the moon for all they know.’

‘We always issue statements.’

‘Yes, and now is the time to capitalise on saying nothing.’

Mechanic nodded with a pout, then a smile. ‘I’ll see to it like.’

‘Be careful with Hayford, she’s dangerous.’

Mechanic nodded, he left.

At times Winston buried his face in his hands, deep in thought at the barrage of information that came across his desk, he had delegated much of his empire and just handling the empowered was full time. But mostly his mind was full of three girls.

Mavis entered the office with lunch, she began to lay it out on the table. ‘When you coming out of here Winston, you’ve been in here for a month, probably them girls bleeding hand full they are I feel sorry for you sometimes like.’

Winston got up from his desk and moved to the small table set up to one side in view of the bay window, he began to pour tea. ‘It’s two lumps you have is it not Mavis.’

‘Yes, why do you ask.’

He poured a tea and stretched out offering it to her. ‘I have a hell of a lot to do I was late this morning.’

Winston place the tea on the opposite side of the table and sat down. ‘Sit down Mavis.’

She sat slowly with a worried look on her face nervously wiping her hands on her apron. ‘If it’s about being late I …..’

‘Its not about being late Mavis I’m not concerned about what time you get here never have been.’

‘Oh.’

Winston began to sip tea and select salad from the gathered cuisine. ‘We now have less than two weeks to the race.’

‘Oh, I know, people an arf excited.’

‘Please Mavis allow me to finish.’ She was silent, Winston rubbed his hands together before he spoke and he stopped what he was doing with his lunch. ‘Things will be confusing for the next few days and the media is going to come at you, I have seldom asked you for silence but in this case I request your cooperation. I am going to tell you nothing and ask you say nothing for reasons our safety is not compromised, not that I don’t love you any less, just I know silence is most difficult for you when it comes to the community.’

‘Is something wrong.’

‘Physically and commercially no, inside me as a father yes, I trust you understand.’

Mavis was silent and looked stone faced, without reason or tranquil concentration. She blinked allot then looked down. ‘I’m as worried as you Mr Blake.’

‘I wish you didn’t understand then you would not feel as I, but you have been with us for a long time for very good reason, be very careful of a journalist called Lee Hayford.’

‘Is there something she needs to know.’

‘You may have heard us talking with concern about Taunton Barr’s current poor form.’

‘I saw him this morning, he came last, he wouldn’t jump over a fence.’

‘Yes and Hayford may look elsewhere for confirmation.’

‘Oh I see, I don’t really understand this but no doubt you have good reason. I was going to bet on Taunton in the race, bit sad really. Probably still will put a couple of bob on him like.’

‘Gather as much money as you can and on the day within the last hour put it all on Taunton.’

‘Doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me Winston.’

‘When you’re a baker you get your bread cheap.’

‘Sounds like you talk double Dutch to me sometimes it really does.’

Winston giggled and began prepare his meal. ‘You’re talking when you should be listening.’

Mavis scratched her head as she rose to her feet and headed for the door. ‘Oh I don’t know, all the money we can scrape up wont be much anyway.’ She left the room.

Winston eat his meal, he sipped at a second cup of tea and looked at his watch, he was unsure what the girls regarded as lunch time when Cecelia walked in the open door and sat down at the table with him. ‘We don’t know what time you consider lunch time to be.’

‘About now I’m just finishing lunch.’

‘Oh, looks nice.’ She took Winston’s side plate and filled it with salad and cold meat, she tucked in. ‘I’m bloody starving.’

‘I noticed. What can you tell me.’

Between mouthfuls she gave an update. ‘I was talking to Lindy on that stupid phone you gave us.’

‘It’s a satellite phone, no one can trace or hear your call.’

‘Oh that’s important, not. Lindy says Taunton ran fearlessly and really enjoyed himself.’

‘And Saracen.’

‘That black thing that looks like Taunton is absolutely useless, giving kiddies joy rides was where it belongs and should go back there. He knew the double wasn’t Taunton and led the pack but didn’t run as faster time as usual.’

‘There were several horses that looked like Flaxmead, that one was chosen because it’s manner with children was like Flaxmead’s.’

‘It’s a lovely horse and you probably saved it from the Pal factory.’

‘It’s one of Flaxmead’s sons, the mare just didn’t produce offspring that shared all of his traits nor hers. Just like hopefully your child will not be a juvenile delinquent like its mother was.’

Cecelia looked disgusted. ‘Dad!’

‘What’s the progressional plan.’

‘We are waiting for Lindy to roll up then we will have a meeting.’

‘A fly on the wall there wont be bored.’

‘Ohh we really are in good form today, do you have any more lunch I’m starving.’

‘Well, you are eating for two.’

‘In more ways than one, I had an ultrasound yesterday evening, Im having twins.’

Winston was wide eyed. ‘Good gracious, another two of you, shit I better mentally prepare for this.’

‘Dad, really!’

‘Make the meeting a bit later tomorrow so Kalika can attend, she must still be looking at track work.’

‘She’s dealing with Janice Portland on Backfire and Roslyn Brooks on Crimson Tide, they are asking questions about Taunton Barr.’

‘That needs to be managed, they go home and talk.’

‘I’m glad it’s them dealing with my sister, what a bitch of a thing.’

‘I thought we were over that.’

‘I use it as a term of endearment.’

‘Oh I see, sorry, I can’t wait to be endeared by you, should be an uplifting experience.’

‘If I carried on like that in the school that you no doubt had us sent to I would have been cleaning out the dormitory dustbin for six months.’

‘Where you first encountered your sister.’

‘Don’t remind me, what an upstart little bitch, but I felt some kind of connection.’

‘And you followed the same path.’

‘Was one thing we had in common, horses.’

‘You had a lot in common, seeing yourself at times may have been rather confronting.’

‘That is not fair.’

‘That is fact.’

She was silent with a look of scorn, she folded hear arms. ‘I am not like my sister.’

‘Indeed you are, one of the strongest things you have going for you.’

‘Wonder what your childhood was like.’

‘Wonderful.’

‘Come to think of it so was mine, could be because of you.’

‘Indeed not, you are of your mother as well.’

‘You see some of her in me.’

‘All of her.’

‘Really.’

‘Really.’

‘She was a bitch.’

Winston laughed out loud. ‘No, she was determined, loving, hopeful, courageous, handled risk without it clouding ambition, sounds like someone I know who won many show jumping championships.’

‘Kalika did that as well.’

‘What do you expect she’s your sister.’

‘But she has a different mother.’

‘But the same father.’

‘We are different.’

‘Until it comes to determination and achievement.’

‘Do you think I’m any good at this arranging shit.’

‘No.’

‘Why.’

‘Because you put little value on other peoples opinion even if it is an educated and experienced one.’

‘But I’m looking into that.’

‘Agreed.’

‘Do you think that’s all my fault.’

‘No, it’s mine.’

‘Why.’

‘Because I monitored your every move and applied counter measures, life’s not like that, you have to do that yourself.’

‘Then why would you put me in a position like this.’

‘Because your sister and Lindy’s life depends on it.’

‘What if I get it wrong.’

There was silence for a few seconds. ‘I can’t answer that.’

‘Why.’

‘Because it’s your call.’

‘Then give me the strength to make better decisions.’

‘I am.’

‘But I’m alone.’

‘When you won countless titles for show jumping were you alone.’

‘No, I had family, you I didn’t even know about, and Saracen, you gave him to me.’

‘You delegated and trusted no one, it’s okay, that’s who you are, nothing wrong with independence.’

‘If I had lost.’

‘You didn’t, we trust your judgment.’

She looked a little forlorn. ‘Wow, I thought I was a failure, my school grades were average.’

‘Your strength was not in academia, you have the same traits as Flaxmead when I first saw him. Written off by academic judgement of what is perfect he continues to devastate the very people that turned on him.’

‘It’s you not me.’

‘Rubbish, if that be the case Flaxmead would be long gone in the Pal factory, and you would not be sitting before me as one of the most decorated dressage champions we have. Cecelia Ridgehaven, everyone knows who she is. The Rivers boy, brilliant mathematician sent to me for a job when he left uni, he lived at the property next door to you, he still works at the bank in Bristol, hiding behind the veil of financial treachery he is trained in. No one knows who he is.’

‘You’re after them aren’t you.’

‘Yes I am.’

‘I don’t understand that stuff.’

‘I’ve noticed that’s why I put you on a horse, defying the odds, just like Flaxmead, he is nothing more than what he has made of himself, you are no different.’

She reached across the table and took Winston’s hand. ‘When you came to see us I would be really excited, you were such a lovely man, I’ve seen you turn on people, it scares me. Please don’t do anything silly dad.’

‘Only the dead are free of war, the rest must fight on.’

‘I thought we were free of war.’

‘Within yes, there are many real wars going on right now, soldiers against soldier, gang against gang, commercial entity against commercial entity. Our minds are trained to think wars are fought only by soldiers against other soldiers for people who claim they are right but have no part in the fight. Tis the law of the jungle that the most intrepid and feared head the fight, intelligence and deceit have turned us into a game of chess. Check mate is when your opponents king is has nowhere to go because it is covered by the opposition to the point of no return. You are now an important and noble piece of our chess set and you have earned that by using the talents you do have well, the law of the jungle respects that.’

Cecelia looked blank. ‘I think I know what you’re talking about, can’t say that I’m very keen on putting it that way.’

‘Political correctness, another way of protecting the arse of people like me.’

‘But you aren’t like that.’

‘But I was.’

‘Then if you were like that perhaps had you not been, I would not be who I am.’

‘Indeed.’

‘Then what do you want from all this.’

‘To see you rise and take control.’

‘Now I’m shitting myself.’

‘You have a gut feeling, a second brain, you used it on board Saracen many times.’

‘Yes, I get that.’

‘Use it to help us all make better decisions.’

CHAPTER FORTY

Was forty eight hours before sunny mid morning brought Kalika to Winston’s office, he had been seen out and about but still spent most of his time tucked away in his headquarters. He was looking sharp, showered, shaved and impeccably dressed, a gleaming white shirt but open collar in the warm spring air. He was however without complacency as Kalika or Lindy was due the day before and he had missed his update but pushed nothing opting for a low key approach. The kissed each other gently on the side of the face before being distracted by Mavis fussing around them with some tea, they settled at opposite sides to Winston’s desk, Kalika taking Winston’s seat with her back to the bay window as she had a quick look over the complex while Winston disposed of Mavis. ‘Must she fuss like that, I’m not a child.’

Winston stopped sipping his tea and chuckled. ‘At our age you are all children, wow I really needed that.’ He put his tea down on the table. ‘You busy yesterday.’

‘Lindy was going to come, she was late back from Glastonbury and we just got snowed under.’

‘I see.’

‘I was doing a bit of background research on the net, the three horses you ran in Australia, they were called the untouchables, I remember now.’

‘Celtic Storm, Flushing Meadow and Flaxmead, yes I recall the Australian press being typical of the Australian press.’

‘You didn’t influence them at all, you know, use them like you do here.’

‘Didn’t really enter my mind, the push for the national has a different flavour to it, I just wanted to find Rose and the press were left to do whatever they did.’

‘Tell me about Lee Hayford.’

‘She is a freelance journalist.’

‘From the Hunter Valley in Australia.’

‘I believe she was born in Melbourne.’

‘Mmm, she followed the career of Flaxmead.’

‘Still does.’

‘You permitted her to stay at Shangri La winery for a week, studying the training regime of Flaxmead.’ Winston folded his arms and was silent, he wore the face of an ace poker player. ‘I said you perm….’

‘I heard you.’

‘Absolutely made her career, she still dominates the pages of equine news.’

‘She’s very good at what she does.’

‘She’s very pretty as well, is she not, looks a little like my mum and Cecelia’s mother, they are black haired blue eyed buxom beauties.’

‘You spoke to her yesterday.’

‘She was here.’

Winston fixed his gaze on her eyes. ‘I didn’t see her.’

‘We asked her to come.’

‘Oh I see.’

‘And bring her nine year old daughter.’ There was complete silence. ‘She looks just like Cecelia and I at that age.’ Winston remained silent and still. ‘She attends a private school in Westminster, she is sharp as a tack and Cecelia and I had this incredible sense of connection with her, she didn’t want to leave us and I didn’t want her to go, can you explain that.’ Winston remained steadfast. ‘Gracemere private school, her father would have to be a member of a very elite club to attend, you are a member of that club.’

‘What are you getting at Kalika.’

Kalika shot to her feet and yelled at him. ‘She’s my sister is she not!’

Winston looked around, down at his feet, away to the ceiling, he found no solace from the confrontation, he looked at her with a pale drawn complexion, he mumbled. ‘Yes, yes she is.’

Kalika shouted with an aggressive sneer. ‘Then you will bring them both here immediately.’

‘Why, a complication beyond reverence.’

‘Because if I can find out anyone can.’

He looked at her sternly. ‘You searched things on the net, made phone calls.’

‘Yes, the more I discovered the harder I looked.’

He stood up and faced her. ‘My god your activities would be monitored by god knows who.’

She feel back in Winston’s chair with a look of stark realisation. ‘Oh my god.’

‘You should leave these things to me,’ he fumbled for his phone and waited impatiently for an answer. ‘Mechanic get over here please, immediately.’ He threw his phone on the table.

‘Tell me, do I have any more sister or brothers I am unaware of.’

‘Yes you do.’

‘My god,’ she shook her head with a blank look. ‘And we thought you’re virtues were beyond question.’

‘I will not discuss elicitation of virtues with you as I know more about you than you could imagine, I watched your every move should someone find out who you were then you would have been in the same position you have put Lee and Grace in. Cecelia once loved a man so dangerous my hand was forced, it is to some degree why she is like she is, I took something she loved away from her for the good of us all but love would have made her blind. I did the same to you now I must interfere in a natural course for need of my own love. You think I planned these things, you think I would endanger my own for my own gratification, you don’t know me at all. I sincerely hope we get to Lee and Grace before anyone else for an intrusion on their health and safety would surely bring me down. Now you have saddled the same horse, I blame only myself for I am in charge of my life and responsible for everything. I have indirectly burdened you with my own fears, I’m so sorry my love, you are of me.’

Mechanic burst into the room hunting for breath, he handed Winston his satellite phone. ‘It’s for you.’

Winston took the phone. ‘Hello….Lee,’ he listened for half a minute, the room was silent. ‘Stay where you are, we’ll be there as soon as we can.’ He shut the phone down and handed it back to mechanic. ‘You have someone close.’

‘Not that can be trusted, I have to contact Vauxhall Cross.’

Winston looked around in despair, he got angry. ‘Get a chopper and get down there, make the call get it covered till you get there, all hell will break loose.’

‘You really want to do this like.’

‘Mechanic the girl is my daughter.’

‘Blimey,’ he ran from the room.

There was an uneasy silence, Winston stood motionless and without expression, Kalika sat at the desk stone faced and pale. ‘If something happens to them is it my fault.’

‘No, blaming yourself is a natural emotion, managing it is all you can do.’

‘What did you mean by all hell will break loose.’

‘Things you don’t need to know.’

‘I’m a spoilt brat with a silver spoon in my mouth.’

‘You are a person of exemplary talent that continues to reach her goals.’

‘How can you say that when I may have endangered the life of my young sister.’

Winston focused and sat down looking at her. ‘I never wanted you exposed to all this, however I always wanted you by my side so I went about it in other ways. There are many ways to manage what appears to be insurmountable obstacles but it can be done. With all we do we have great responsibility, but none is more important than family. Lee just told me she had to go to the school this morning as Grace had disappeared, they searched everywhere, they found Grace hiding in a cupboard, troubled no doubt by meeting her sisters yesterday. She did something she should never do, contacted us, she’s scared Kalika. Scared about what she knows, scared her daughter will grow up not knowing who she is and I have experienced that by watching you and Cecelia. It’s not easy but it’s how things are, they are in great danger but I will hunt anyone that harms you to the end of the earth and beyond, they know that and that in this present time is all we have going for us.’

‘What happened to the man Cecelia loved.’

‘He had an accident.’

‘Is he dea…’

‘Yes.’

She was silent for a few seconds. ‘Would you do that to Graham.’

‘If nothing else worked, yes.’

She was again silent and stone faced. ‘My god I’m an evil tyrant, educated by experience to the point of supporting you. You’re right, I should have minded my own business and some things are better left alone.’

‘Karma has a strange way of forging destiny.’

‘I was just a spoilt little girl riding my horse around without a care, I had no idea who I was.’

‘We need focus, you better call Cecelia here.’

‘She knows.’

‘Of course she does, she would have encouraged you to do what you did after she held Grace.’

‘How do you know.’

‘I would have done the same thing.’

‘Who are the others I asked about.’

Cecelia burst in, she confronted Winston standing over him. ‘She’s my sister isn’t she.’

Winston folded his arms and waited for her to calm. Kalika chuckled as she spoke. ‘If you’re waiting for her to calm down forget it.’ She got up and walked around to Cecelia comforting her and putting her in Winston’s chair. ‘Calm down or your baby will be worse than you, sitting in this chair things look a bit different.’

Cecelia had not settled. ‘Mechanic just left in a helicopter, where the hell is he going in such a tiff, he rarely gets frustrated.’

‘He’s going to get your sister and Lee.’

‘Oh you remember her mothers name how quaint.’

Kalika was angered. ‘Leave it out Cecelia.’

Cecelia stood in a rage. ‘How many more damn siblings am I related to, is a rag from the local knock shop going to turn up here with a long lost family member.’

Kalika roared at her. ‘Fucking can it Cecelia.’

Winston slowly stood and Cecelia looked lost and in shock, she slowly sat down. Winston spoke softly. ‘I’ve never heard you use foul language, ever.’

‘I’ve never had to before. You think this is easy sis, we just had our sister come out of a trench she’s been hiding in, now someone can shoot at her. Sound familiar, has our father not been protecting us from the same for god knows how long.’ Cecelia sat back in her seat, she began to weep. Kalika closed her eyes and let out a big sigh, she lent down along side her sister and whispered to her. ‘And now we are three, she is gorgeous just like us.’

Cecelia wept on her sisters shoulder. ‘I don’t know what’s going on, my moods are all over the place, now this.’

‘First just calm down, or your child will be a little shit like us.’

Cecelia chuckled, Kalika handed her some tissues from a box on Winston’s desk, she began to wipe her eyes. ‘Dad, please help me.’

‘You don’t love him do you.’

‘He’s after your money.’

‘Mmm, everyone is, not uncommon, you think you can handle him being there.’

‘No, I want him gone but I’m scared dad.’

Kalika glared at her father. ‘No.’

‘Come up with alternatives Kalika, I see none.’

‘He’s the father of your grandchild.’

‘He is without reverence when it comes to Cecelia, look at her, not a mistake, a learning curve of the most damaging kind.’

Kalika stood up in defiance of her father. ‘I’ll take care of it.’

Winston looked at Cecelia, her face yearned for her fathers embrace. ‘You want to see him again.’

‘I wont ever answer the phone to him.’

‘Kalika.’

‘Im too angry to deal with it.’

‘Anger is a far more useable emotion than despair my love.’

‘I leave it to you father, some things we don’t need to know.’

Winston walked around and knelt beside his daughter. ‘You realise you will never see this man again.’

‘It’s my fault dad, I despise everything about him, the responsibility of my child has changed my life. He would no more be a father than pigs can fly, he’s a narcissistic, manipulative bastard, he just uses everyone. I have no idea what I saw in him.’

‘You could see the rebellion you so much craved, against everything I stood for, tis I that drove you to this point and I that will foster you through it.’

‘Dad, I did this.’

‘For good reason it would seem, the man you loved is long gone, he will never come back, I understand that for I have lived through it more than once.’

‘What do I do.’

‘Whatever you want now.’

‘I want someone to be my child’s father, I had two it was wonderful.’

‘Things have a habit of working out, one day you will meet that person, for now, you stay close to us.’ He stood and looked at Kalika. ‘She goes everywhere with you, when Lee gets here we can plan a crèche by the looks.’

Kalika folded her arms with a smirk. ‘With you about the place pretty easy.’

Cecelia stood and scalded her. ‘Leave it out sis, I can understand why things are like they are, don’t throw stones from inside a glass house, remember that….’

Winston interrupted. ‘We have a family member to embrace and a horse race to win, petty misdemeanours and human short comings are of no use when the hand of fate is upon you. We wait to hear from mechanic.’

 

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY ONE

Was two days before Winston would see Lindy attend his office, he had been out and about in Bristol, a meeting no one knew about in the dark corner of a cafe, he returned in time for an update. Winston was apprehensive, Lee Hayford and Grace his nine year old daughter were on the premises but he had not been given access, a grey cloud of discontent hung over all. Winston assessed his girls were foraging for information to better come to grips with the current state of affairs, he noticed although they were busy they still had time to be together watching training from the track rail in a group.

Lindy was direct as she always was and opened dialogue with fact and circumstance, she was still dressed in her riding gear her hair streaming down her back, she fought with it’s maintenance as she sat down in front of Winston. ‘Taunton is ready, if he is beaten would be some horse to say the least, since Taunton’s been at Glastonbury Saracen has gone backwards.’

Winston appeared pre occupied, no real story was written on his face. ‘He was born ready, I have everything in place for race day.’

‘We need information on transportation times and the meeting schedule, first time you have failed to supply the plan.’

‘A meeting this morning changed things.’

‘Lee knows Taunton is at Glastonbury, she asked about it this morning, have any more surprises for me.’

Winston got up and looked out the bay window. ‘What do you think we should do.’

‘Nice timing on the family expansion, I’d like to say it has completely cocked up the balance of power but I wouldn’t want to make an understatement.’

‘Kalika and Cecelia are not silly, was something unexpected.’

‘I got the gaff on it last night, we were up till late, I listened, gave answers when questioned, it’s just a bump in the road. Grace is rather excited, she has some pretty cool sisters all of a sudden.’

‘They haven’t come to see me.’

‘They came this morning, you weren’t here, didn’t go down very well.’

Winston sat down again, he fixed his gaze on Lindys eyes. ‘We have a problem.’

She thought out loud. ‘Taunton is running better than he ever has, he’s twenty to one outside underdog, Backfire and Crimson Tide have just today logged their best times. Taunton’s underdog status has brought down his weight penalty and you have your entire family here to see it all.’

‘Not quite.’

‘Not sure what you mean.’

‘Graham Ellis was arrested this morning by MI5.’

Lindy looked stunned. ‘What, why.’

‘Selling information to the Russians.’

‘What an ear…I’

‘No one is sure on what else he’s been up to, I have a meeting with mechanic this afternoon, things will change.’

‘Kalika will be devastated.’

‘Yes, just before she gets angry.’

‘What information could Graham have that was of interest to the Russians.’

‘That’s hardly the tip of the iceberg, Graham works for MI6, he’s place in the police force is just a cover.’

‘What do they do, he must work with Mr Stanton.’

‘You don’t want to know, the thing is Graham has information that could bring us down, he may barter for clemency with information.’

‘Why you telling me.’

‘Because you are the only one of my girls that can handle the truth at present, will take Kalika and Cecelia more time and we don’t have it.’

‘Can you get to him.’

‘What do you mean.’

‘Come off the grass Winston, you know what I mean.’

‘Everone’s after him now, he has the information on his contacts, makes him a target of his employers, he has been talking to the Chinese and factions in the Middle East, business we need steer clear of.’

Lindy fixed a stern gaze. ‘I said can you get to him.’

‘I thought you’d understand.’

‘I do.’ She accentuated every word. ‘Can you get to him.’

‘Would involve a lot of risk.’

‘And what is the risk of his current conversations with authorities, please don’t treat me like a child Winston I’m not one, you are the one that made me what I am, now can you get to this bastard.’ Winston was quiet. ‘Well!’

‘I’m thinking.’ He looked at the surface of his desk for a while, then up at Lindy. ‘Tell Kalika Graham called and left a message that something on the Barton case had come up and he has had to fly to Australia for a few days.’

‘You think that will hold out until the race.’

‘He’s been away for far longer times.’

‘She may need him at the race.’

‘Mmm, a delicate balancing act.’ He got up and again looked out the window in deep thought. ‘That is the ultimate deceive but under the circumstances may be a better option.’

‘You could swing that.’

‘I can better control him while he’s loose, after the race it’s every man for himself.’

‘You need a more defined outcome, he has to go.’

‘He only need call Kalika, that’s reasonably normal, especially of late.’

‘I don’t think it will be as tragic as you perceive, she’s been seeing someone else.’

Winston turned glaring at her with a look of stern stone. ‘Explain.’

‘About a week ago, a youngish blonde guy rolled up here selling a new range of stable feed.’

‘And.’

‘She was attracted to him, Graham has been away allot.’

‘She’s not like that.’

‘Oh get real Winston, we all have needs, perhaps we should tell them where mine are gratified.’

He looked away then back. ‘She has meet with him.’

‘Oh she’s meet with him alright.’

Winston sat down. ‘Who the hell is he.’

‘I have no idea.’

‘Mechanic has mentioned nothing, if there was a threat he would have mentioned it.’

‘He rolled up here the day after Kalika started to delve into her new sisters history.’

‘Well that takes a bit of pressure off the Graham Ellis dilemma.’

‘Just knock him off.’

‘You appear to be aggressive when it comes to the issue of Graham.’

‘There was just something about him, I’m angry I haven’t expressed concern.’

‘Don’t demean yourself I’ve known for sometime, Kalika was the reason I tolerated him.’

‘If you knew surely you could see he wasn’t good for her.’

‘Not sure that’s the case, field research generally yields results you can trust.’

‘I think she became suspect herself.’

‘Her conduct would suggest that.’

‘Agreed.’

‘You asked if I can get to him, yes I can.’

‘You’ll talk to mechanic then let me know.’

‘Some things you just don’t need to know, this blonde man you speak of, he comes from round here.’

‘Mechanic knows all about him, he works for you indirectly, the feed line he is selling is a new mix released by one of your organisations. Wonder you don’t know about it.’

‘Thousands work with us, my delegated managers operating the business would be relying on personnel when it comes to employees. They probably have no direct contact with him.’

‘Well, that’s where we’re at, you better be here when they want to see you next time.’

‘This thing with Ellis was unexpected at this time, they had to move he was about to release some very delicate industrial information.’

‘Who did you see this morning.’

‘It’s not important, the information you’ve given me is. We are only a few days away from the race, mechanic will arrange a meeting tomorrow to outlay the race day plan.’

‘Can you tell me a bit now.’

‘No, the plan is standard this could change on the eve before the meeting. Just focus on the daily lead up.’

‘Will Taunton leave from Glastonbury or come back here the day before.’

‘What do you think is the best thing.’

‘We need to be spread out I reckon, the press will be all over the place, at least we have Lee here.’

‘Find out if she thinks anyone else is suspicious of the double and may think Taunton is elsewhere.’

‘Driven by their benefactors they want to believe Flaxy has turned into a slug, makes them feel good in the lead up.’

‘Never the less we need maintain as much stealth as we can.’

‘Now Lee’s here she may be a bit more forthcoming, will see what I can find out.’

‘Bit all over the place when you think of the primary goal in all this, one can never expect the unexpected to deliver anything but scepticism.’

‘Oh I don’t know, pretty exciting waking up and watching who Kalika and Cecelia are related to, could write a book later but I haven’t taken any notes.’

‘What are you going to do when you enter the BHAs committee.’

‘I haven’t thought about it, was a pipe dream of Rogers, he believed you couldn’t change anything without becoming involved.’

‘He’s right and you better think about what you intend to do, if you get time in your mind.’

‘We are so busy seems I just don’t have the time.’

‘It’ll happen, you want something done get a busy person to do it.’

‘I’m pretty excited now I think we made it.’

‘Mmm, never take your finger from the pulse, the race plan you know what it is but you won’t tell me.’

‘Why is that, and you don’t push me to know.’

‘Some things I don’t need to know, especially if I’m sure of them.’

Lindy smiled and stood up. ‘I better get on with it.’ She walked toward the door, as she opened it she turned back to Winston, he had become preoccupied at his computer. ‘Winston, if we were poor what would happen.’

Winston looked up over his glasses. ‘We would win the national and no longer be poor.’

‘It doesn’t interest me, is it wrong to have money.’

‘They piss on us and tell us it’s raining, pays to have at least an umbrella.’

‘Is money your only goal.’

Winston pouted and shook his head. ‘Don’t know, never stopped to think about it.’

‘Would I still be sitting in the corner of my bedroom in Australia had we not crossed paths.’

‘I can tell you the past, but only predict the future, you’ll win the national by twenty lengths at least.’

‘How do you know.’

‘I don’t know I just do, never had any idea but learnt to trust it when I was a teenager, whomever I predicted to succeed at something was always correct. I once backed a musician I thought was incredibly talented but knew nothing of musical theory, I knew little of quantum physics the pinnacle of mathematics, but our figures defy belief. His talent was cultural and genetic, they say you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink. If the horse can drink, makes things far easier. Two and two is four, all I needed to know, I just find those whom fit the equation, I have no idea how. That’s what the musician told me after his tenth success and we were financially rewarded many times over. Took him only a few minutes to concoct each song, just lived in his gut. Taunton and yourself were obvious regardless of background or experience. We should not condemn ourselves with the guilt of poverty when born to a gift.’

‘A lot of people hate us.’

‘I hate myself sometimes, will be worse if I hold you up any longer and distract from focus, I have ten phone calls to make within the hour, that’s reality.’

‘I hate phones.’

Winston looked down at his cluttered desk. ‘So do I, at times they keep us apart, but other times they bring us closer.’

Lindy blinked into space, she thought of her father and mother, she left with a smile.

 

CHAPTER FORTY TWO

Mechanic was waiting in the kitchen talking to Mavis and entered Winston’s office as soon as Lindy had left. He set the bar as he sat down. ‘You were right about Ellis.’

Winston took off his glasses sighed and lent back in his chair. ‘I don’t think he is guilty of some of the things being thrown at him, I’m not condoning his conduct by any means, the man should be sanctioned. Some of the allegations just don’t add up.’

‘When they have it in for you not much will stop them, he won’t be able to show his face anywhere, they release him he won’t last twenty four hours like. That’s how they work, they won’t even have to dirty their hands, they could do the same to me or you.’

Winston lent on his left elbow leaning forwards to the table supporting his chin with his hand, fingers around his mouth. He thought for a while, he lent back again. ‘I think not, do unto other first. Do you think you can grab him when they let him out.’

‘He’s at Vauxhall Cross, be nearly impossible, when they release him will be a crossfire on who gets him first, that’s if he hasn’t condemned himself already.’

‘I can get him released, I can tell you what time and where, can you do anything with that.’ Winston crossed his arms.

‘That’s nearly impossible, but if you tell me I have to believe it. If I’m taken out who takes my place, only a few days to the race like, I think as much of the girls as you do.’

‘The risk is high the benefits insurmountable, who dares wins.’

‘To achieve it I would expose channels that can be traced, possibly prior to the race.’

‘Suggestion, they drop him at my lawyers offices in London, looks like he is seeking legal assistance that is what will get him out, not suspicious. He gets taken to the Battersea railway bridge heliport, you have a chopper waiting for him, he is dropped at Exeter International Airport thirty five miles from Taunton. You pick him up in a Rolls Royce, the car is registered to a high court judge from the Old Bailey, currently under investigation for corruption. A young man will pick you up from the Ring of Bells pub in Taunton with the Rolls, he is a car thief and has done work for us before, his name is Terry. You let Terry drive vehicle pick up Ellis and dispose of them both. Leave no trace of your presence, where and how you dispose of them is up to you. Leave the car wherever you have them disembark, leave plenty of evidence of their presence in the vehicle, but none of yours.’

‘I understand Ellis but what has this young Terry done to deserve this.’

‘If I was to tell you it may affect your focus to the point of rage beyond culpability.’

‘Blimey.’

‘He has had his uses, I have resisted action but every time he is of use brings back the memory of reason he is compelled to do whatever is asked of him.’

‘Fair enough like, Ellis is of no use should we turn him around.’

‘We have several people that are of the utmost danger to our families, currently Ellis tops the list, he must be eradicated, he is aware of our security network, should he fall into the wrong hands we will have to cancel everything.’

‘The ol bill spends months investigating a high court judge who knows nothing so he can tell them nothing, Terry gets the blame for everything and will never be found.’

‘Possibly, should thing go as planned.’

‘Pardon me for saying Winston but this is irrational behaviour on your behalf.’

‘Then you would realise how serious the situation is.’

Mechanic drew a big breath and looked around the room. ‘What if something goes wrong.’

‘You contact me immediately.’

‘What’s the price of failure.’

‘We loose.’

‘We will be followed.’

‘The chopper will head for Bristol, drop from radar level and divert to Exeter, should they get past that as soon as the vehicle is identified they will abort surveillance.’

‘You are sure.’

‘It’s all I have.’

‘A chopper disappearing from radar.’

‘I appreciate the fact you question a plan, I fly under radar all the time unless in local airport airspace, expected from the charter company we use, could be me in the passenger seat. These are the things we have up our sleeve, besides they see you no one would want to be recognised conducting surveillance on your arse. The plan is radical and bold, do you want the release time.’

‘Yes.’

‘Nine tomorrow morning.’

‘I can handle that.’

‘You tell no one anything not even me, should you feel a diversion from the plan is warranted so be it as long as we have you back here and a result, should things go pair shaped call me immediately, I’m managing this and responsible for everything.’

‘I’ll be back by mid afternoon.’

 

CHAPTER FORTY THREE

Mid Afternoon the following day Winston was blessed with the attendance of both his senior daughters, Kalika and Cecelia were in good spirits and openly chatted about progress on and off the training track. They explained how long talks into the night with Lee Hayford had given them a positive edge to things that found difficult to come to terms with, their new sister possessed traits very familiar to them. Whilst watching Taunton’s double on the training track she commented it was a nice looking donkey, reflected by the odds offered on Taunton amid the latest betting information. She played with Kristy and the spotted foal from Taunton, she told Lee her mother the little horse had a mean streak a mile wide and ran and jumped just for fun.

Although burdened with concern, Winston listened with great interest, the qualities of his family began to form hope in his mind. Every hour of every day somewhere within his organisation there was trauma and at times disaster, he was used to it but he looked at his watch as mid afternoon began to wain. He was relieved when mechanic knocked on the door and entered when given permission, he approached the desk but remained standing. ‘Excuse me Winston, I have some very bad news, there has been an accident.’

Winston rose to his feet. ‘On the training track, one of our girls or horses.’

‘No sir, far more serious, Miss Kalika will be shattered to hear that Graham Ellis has been involved in a fatal accident.’ Kalika looked on with a stone cold face.

Winston waited and amid silence. ‘Go on.’

‘Mr Ellis was leaving Exeter International airport, the vehicle he was travelling in collided with a fuel truck resulting in the death of Mr Ellis and another person driving the vehicle, the vehicles caught fire all were lost.’ He looked down at Kalika. ‘I’m sorry Kalika, was apparently just an unfortunate accident.’

Kalika slowly stood looking stone face daggers at her father. ‘I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, he had been detained in London, he told me he had done wrong and was scared.’ Winston was silent. She looked at him with reviled scorn. ‘You bastard.’

Winston and mechanic wore no hint of message within their faces. Kalika stormed toward the door, her sister stood and called to her but she slammed the door behind her. Winston looked mournfully at Cecelia. ‘You best go console your sister.’

She looked her father in the eye her own eyes on fire. ‘You did this.’ Winston was silent and still. ‘Is there anything you would not do for power.’

‘Yes, for you and your sisters no.’

‘You are blaming us for the murder of a completely innocent man his only failing to love my sister.’

‘You assume much and know little.’

‘I know what he had done, he told us, asked us for help.’

‘You don’t think I know those things.’

‘My god, you knew he had come to us for help.’

‘Yes.’

‘And you did nothing.’ There was silence. ‘No wonder I’m like I am.’ She walked toward the door with her head bowed but hesitated just before grabbing the handle. She stood motionless for a few seconds then turned toward her father and walked back. She looked him directly in the eye fact to face, she half smiled and kissed him on the check gently. ‘I would have done the same thing for you.’ Her father kissed her gently in return, she walked toward the door but stooped half way, she didn’t look round but asked a question. ‘Is Peter safe.’

‘Should circumstances prevail absolutely not.’

‘You really are a bastard of a thing, harrowingly sad sometimes when you see yourself with your own eyes.’

‘Mirrors are handy sometimes when you need them.’ Cecelia left and closed the door softly behind her, Winston looked at mechanic. ‘Where did he end up, he was taken, doesn’t sound like your work.’

‘They came out of nowhere, we were right behind him and lucky to avoid the accident ourselves, a chopper landed as the accident happened. I pulled Ellis clear he was injured and burnt but okay. All I can tell you is that it was a man called Hurst.’

Winston squinted with a look of deep anger. ‘Not surprising, everyone would be after him, it was no accident.’

‘You know this man Hurst.’

‘Thin faced collar length black hair about fifty years of age, wearing a black tie crisp white shirt’ and black suit with black shoes you can see your face in. Obvious body holster for a large side arm beneath his suit jacket.’

‘Yeah, that’s just about spot on like.’

‘You’ve struck him before but never knew he was there, man called Bruce Hurst. He would have been backed up by several other people of similar appearance.’

‘So you know more than I like, some blocked the road, two more helped this Hurst geezer, the truck driver went with the chopper, like a well oiled machine.’

‘Fortunately sounds like Ellis has fallen into the correct hands, he would be on his way to Australia.’

‘And if he talks.’

‘Either way he’s finished, the organisation that has seized him is ruthless beyond comparison.’

‘We should worry.’

Winston pouted and shook his head. ‘No, should we need to know anything I’m sure it will fall from the sky.’

‘Fair enough, wish I knew a bit more.’

‘So do I, you now know as much as I.’

‘That’s a worry.’

‘You may notice people similar to Hurst milling about the place, especially in public, if they have on gold rimmed ray ban sunglasses ignore them. Watch the girls like a hawk, you may not be the only one watching over them, should things still be unstable this time tomorrow I need know, they do not leave the premises.’

‘Since when do they take any notice of us.’

‘Since they weren’t stupid, going on shopping trips because it annoys us is one thing, putting themselves in harms way when aware of mitigating circumstances is something they can work out themselves I’m sure.’

CHAPTER FORTY FOUR

Was the day before the Grand National, Winston had been away for the morning and as soon as he arrived back mid afternoon he received a call from Beaker. Winston had not heard from anyone at the BHA for many weeks although they had tried he refused to take calls, again he rejected the call.

Beaker had gone to lunch to meet a commerce committee representing overseas interests investing in the horse racing industry. He was picked up by a chauffer driven hire vehicle as agreed, the vehicle did not head for the dinner destination arranged. Beaker became scared, he said nothing, the vehicle made its way to Heathrow airport, he attempted to question the driver but a safety glass installed in the limousine to protect the driver was up and communication was impossible. Attempt to use the phone intercom also failed, he tried to get out at traffic lights but the doors were locked. The vehicle pulled up outside a warehouse office complex to the western side of Heathrow airport, a man was waiting outside the door, the doors unlocked and the man opened the door and gestured to Beaker with his head to go inside. Beaker climbed out and gently closed the door, the driver speed away. Beaker followed the man, he scaled flights of stairs to the upper third floor and at a table overlooking the airport by a window was a man of middle eastern appearance and a deep Arabic accent. ‘Sit down.’ Beaker sat down opposite the man, he was terrified. ‘I had a deal with a Mr Ashby of the BHA, we deposited a lot of money in his bank account, he assured me Winston Blake’s horses would never make the Grand National, tomorrow he has four running, can you explain that to me.’

Beaker fiddled his fingers as he spoke. ‘Ashby is still being looked for by the authorities, I have no idea what you are talking about.’

‘You will call Blake and have him withdraw.’

‘I cant do that, you must under…..’

‘This is a serious matter, Beaker I believe they call you.’

‘I have no idea what you are talking about and Blake is running the show at the moment, his mounts dominate the media and….’

‘You tell me things I already know, call Blake or your mother could meet with a serious accident.’

Beaker blinked profusely and coughed. ‘Please leave my mother alone she’s all I have.’

‘We just know where she lives, call Blake.’

Beaker fumbled nervously with his phone, he pressed a few buttons put the phone on speaker, the phone rang out and a recorded message from Blake played. When prompted Beaker left a message after the call Blake had purposely ignored. ‘Winston, it’s Beaker, please call me as soon as you can It’s most urgent.’ He hung up.

The man put out his hand, Beaker gave him the phone, he inspected the screen, grunted and gave it back. ‘We wait.’

‘Blake has not returned a call to us for months.’

‘He will by the tone of your voice respond, he is a compassionate man.’

Beaker looked around the empty room, bland iron walls and cheap kitchen furniture. ‘What are you going to do with me.’

‘It depends on what you can do for us.’

‘I can do nothing Blake is a powerful man.’

‘Blake plays by the rules, we don’t, the balance of power is about to shift.’

Beaker showed despair, anger was not an emotion he could muster. Blake was not the only one that had received the call, a point Blake was aware of and hence never answered the phone when delicate matters may be discussed. With information from Ellis MI6 tracked and hacked Beakers phone. A man with gold rimmed ray ban sunglasses, a crisp white shirt, black tie and black suit entered the room, he walked to the table and looked down at Beakers assailant. ‘Allow me to introduce myself, Bruce Hurst British Military Intelligence, Muhammad El Mustafa you are under arrest.’

Mustafa stood up and glared at him. ‘Who the fuck do you think you are.’

‘Resisting arrest.’ Hurst pulled his side arm and blasted a round into Mustafa, he fell back breaking the window and falling to the ground below. Hurst walked to the broken window and looked down, a group of men and a woman dragged Mustafa into the back of a vehicle, Hurst holstered his firearm and walked toward the door.

Beaker stood in shock, he yelled at Hurst. ‘You just killed a man.’

Hurst turned back toward him. ‘He’ll live.’

‘Who the hell are you.’

Hurst took off his glasses and looked sternly at Beaker. ‘We’ve been looking for that man for ten years, do you know how many people that man has killed.’

‘I have no idea.’

‘No, obviously, you were to be the next. Ashby can’t be found because this man killed him quite some time back.’

Beaker sat down, he was pale and lethargic. ‘My god, what’s going on.’

‘Cat and mouse and the mouse just took the cheese. There is a vehicle outside, two of my colleagues will take you back to the BHA.’

‘The threatened my mother, maybe they ha…..’

‘Your mother is fine, we have someone watching.’

‘Who the hell are you people.’

‘Tell no one anything, just go back to work.’

‘I need inform the police.’

Hurst chuckled and walked slowly toward the door stopping before he left the room. ‘You think they’ll believe you.’

‘Well of course, someone must care, shooting people in broad daylight.’

‘Don’t waste your breath Mr John Wainwright Williams.’

Beaker stood again, he looked startled. ‘You know my name, that’s impossible.’

‘Your mother is Ester Williams, you don’t know your father do you.’

Beaker, his emotions again taking a hit slumped down in the seat. ‘No, do you.’

‘Yes we do, we know everything about you Mr Williams, go back to work, forget you were here, you have been most helpful.’ Hurst walked out.

Beaker sat there for a while, suddenly men in coveralls entered the room with replacement glass for the window, they said nothing walked past him and hastily went about their work. Beaker gathered himself and slowly walked down the stairs, he opened the access door and walked out into the light. A neat young man in a black suit opened the door of a Range Rover directly in front of him with a smile. Beaker hesitated at the vehicle door looking in the mans face. ‘You can smile after seeing this.’

‘Seeing what Mr Williams, please get in we are in haste.’

Beaker slowly climbed in with a hallowed look, he said nothing as the vehicle made it’s way back to the BHA offices, his escorts were laughing and joking but he didn’t listen. They pulled up double parked holding up traffic in front of the BHA, the door was opened for him by the passenger, he climbed out and the vehicle speed off. He watched it fade into traffic, he looked around up and down the street, people payed him no mind, he walked into the office complex to the solace of his office.

Grant Farnsworth The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport had witnessed Beaker being delivered to the BHA, Farnsworth was destined to be part of the meeting Beaker had just experienced. He was hiding in the Old Red Lion behind a newspaper, once Beaker was clear he threw down his paper and walked out into the street. He ran into two men in black suits, they blocked his path and one spoke. ‘Grant Farnsworth.’

Farnsworth looked startled, he snapped at them. ‘Who wants to know.’

‘Bruce Hurst, British Military Intelligence, you are under arrest.’

‘For what.’

‘We’ll start with the murder of merchant banker George Smith, and work up from there.’

‘Civil police matter nothing to do with you.’

Hurst put his hand inside his suit jacket. ‘Resisting arrest is a serious offence, considering other matters not yet mentioned I would shoot you without a mark on my conscience. I know how many of our agents deaths you are responsible for, then we have the Barton murders to add to many other things.’

‘I had nothing to do with that, look I want to speak to my lawyer.’

‘No problem, he was arrested ten minutes ago, you can liaison in the same interview room, that’s if you make it there.’

‘You’re mad if you think you can make this stick.’

‘Mad, no, angry, absolutely. I have to think if you should be put through the system or sanctioned for blatant misuse of parliamentary powers.’

‘My god who gave you the authority to terrorise people on the street.’

‘You did, now get in the vehicle or I’ll shoot you dead, the man you sent to tackle the Barton’s was my brother.’

‘I tell you I had nothing to do with that.’

‘Evidence that has just come to hand clearly shows that is not the case, now get in the car the traffic is building up.’

Farnsworth was shuffled into the rear of a Range Rover, he struggled, coughed and became short of breath. The vehicle roared off down the street, Farnsworth objected. ‘Now look here good man, when the foreign office hears of this you will be in big trouble.’

‘The people in the foreign office sing better than birds, of no real interest though, know a man called Muhammad El Mustafa.’

Farnsworth lent back in his seat, his face changed to that of dread. ‘You know this man.’

‘You can visit him in hospital, resisted arrest and fell through a window, nasty piece of work, is rather annoyed by your incompetence, states you can’t carry out the simplest of murders without cocking the whole thing up.’

‘Now look here I am subject to certain privileges, there are good reasons these things were done.’

Hurst folded his arms. ‘Yes, all financial, not one of them in aid of the interest of British citizens, more the interest in your bank account.’

‘It’s not against the law to make money you know, most respect the practice.’

‘Good god you really are an ear hole to say the least. Now what can you tell us about Muhammad El Mustafa and his dealings.’

‘I’m not saying a word, I’d be as good as a dead man.’

‘Well, one thing you’ve said that’s right.’ Hurst lent across the drivers ear. ‘Head for the docks.’ He settled back in his seat he studied Farnsworth’s troubled face up close. ‘Your no longer able to quibble about right and wrong, you have more blood on your hands than most, you fail to see the wood for the trees, time you went fishing with us.’

Farnsworth breathing was fast and shallow, he looked startled, his eyes darting all over the place looking for direction. ‘I need think about this, we have laws, you can’t just go around making decisions about people without consultation.’

‘Who said we made the decision or failed to consult, you no longer have the support of anyone. The people whom would be affected by a public airing of your conduct just happen to be your associates. They turn a blind eye to how this is dealt with, they could be next.’

‘How do I survive this, must be a way.’

‘There are some things we don’t know.’

‘You think I can help.’

‘Your choice is limited to cooperation or extinction.’

 

CHAPTER FORTY FIVE

Blake was an extremely troubled man, it was the day before the race and he did not sleep well. For the first time in his life he broke down at this desk, he sobbed into his hands, he lent back in his seat, his glasses had tear drops on them, he began to clean the lenses with a fine cloth kept in the top draw of his desk specially to do the job. He stopped, beneath the cloth face up was a picture of his daughter Rose. He pulled himself together, cleaned his glasses, he lifted the picture from the draw and studied it in front of him his hands resting on his computer keyboard. He mumbled to himself. ‘All because I lost you.’ He was thinking at a hundred miles an hour, not unusual but about different things. His family social foundation had over the last few months dragged the carpet from beneath his feet. He had built a runaway train and felt doomed to failure should he allow it to pick up speed, and felt absolute failure should he stop it. Decisions of success were being hampered by the very social fabric that had created his current heart felt dilemma. He was on the brink of cancelling everything, he thought about scratching the all entries in the national, but what would that bring. Would one of his children be that affected by a fit of rage they could be in harms way just driving down the road, would his commercial interest be that poorly affected that his children would be become penniless paupers. He studied the picture, what would Rose like to see, was she watching, he heard nothing of her. Was she disgusted by the latest news reports around the globe on his hidden past. Had he given her too much that she had no respect for anything or anyone including her own father, why the hell had she not come home when she could. He whispered. ‘It’s really none of my business what you think Rose.’ His phone rang, he had vowed to take no calls but his phone console told him it was a call from the United States. He knew of no commercial entity in the US that had his home number, he was puzzled, he stood Rose’s picture beside him and cautiously picked up the receiver. ‘Yes.’

‘Dad.’

He shoot to his feet. ‘Rose.’

‘Yes dad, I woke from sleep, the strangest feeling you needed me, are you okay.’

‘Yes I’m fine love, I was just looking at your picture.’

‘And I yours.’

‘You have a picture of me.’

‘Of course.’

‘I had no idea.’ There was silence for a few seconds. ‘You need something.’

‘No father, I have never wanted for anything. My sisters, are they with you.’

‘Yes they are love.’

‘There is something I need you to do for me.’

‘Just name it love.’

‘Let Lindy Cumberland win the grand national on Flaxmead.’

‘Why do you ask.’

‘Because if you feel like me and I know you well, you would be thinking of stopping things.’

‘You think correctly love.’

‘Lindy stood by you all her life and so has Flaxmead. They made you who you are today, I want to watch the race live here and see Lindy at least try.’

You could hear a pin drop. ‘It will be done.’

‘Then I want to come home, I want my sisters.’

‘The door is always open, we all want the same thing.’

‘Dad I love you.’

‘I bought Flaxmead to bring you home, at last he’s going to do it.’

‘I just had some information come out of nowhere, a answer to a question I have been asking myself for a long time. Do you want to know what it is.’

‘No, none of my business.’

‘I’m very proud of you dad, you have twenty four hours dad, don’t mess it up.’

‘Everything is ready, except my heart.’

‘Nothing will stop them now dad, you’ve done it all, leave it to Lindy and Flaxmead.’

‘Agreed.’

‘I want you to do one other thing.’

‘Yes.’

‘Scratch my sister from the race.’

He was silent before cautiously answering. ‘That will be difficult Rose, she will turn on me.’

‘Dad I have a bad feeling about her in the race, there is something wrong with Saracens right front leg.’

Winston sat down slowly. ‘How do you know.’

‘I don’t know I just do.’

Winton remembered from a young age Rose had told him many things that came to pass, he thought about it, she was a child of the universe type hippie free spirit. He disposed the gift as he found it hard to fathom being a man of science, but he also had gut feel. Where did he get this thing and had it passed on to his daughter. ‘I’ll check it out.’

‘Please dad, I used to play with her when we were little, I felt this uncanny connection, now I know why, she’s my blood.’

Winston nodded. ‘Your call is so important, the most important call I have ever had.’

‘Sorry it has been so long, something tells me it’s the right time.’

‘Come home love.’

‘Win the national dad, it’s our destiny.’

‘It will be done love.’

‘I love you dad.’ Overcome with emotion, she hung up.

Winston gathered himself, he shook off emotion, he did something he would never normally do, showed himself on his commercial satellite network to verify a family matter. He traced the phone number used by his daughter, it checked out to source from her address. The wireless provider was Verizon, America’s biggest wireless phone company, he made a call via his satellite system to hide his source, his daughter answered the phone with several hellos and anyone there. He hung up, she was calm, there was no distress or concern in her voice. He realised how much danger she was now in, he again gathered himself, many things filled his head, did she have a current passport, what was her family status, he realised how little he knew of something that was so important. He knew mechanic was really busy with matters of the utmost importance, one thing he thought he really needed to do was to act on his daughters concerns. He rang his vet, he was with a client, he became agitated and demanded he speak with him immediately, the phone was passed to Trevor Hocket his trusted vet interrupting a consultation on a sick cat. Hocket passed the consolation on to one of his counterparts and left immediately to see Blake. Winston thought hard, he did not want to draw attention any more than the phone calls made between he and his daughter but he knew the call could have been tapped. Many knew Rose was Blake’s daughter although it was common knowledge they had little to do with each other. He contacted his lawyer Pigeonberry via email, a man he trusted beyond many, they had a code of communication to confuse hackers. He indirectly asked via their system to have his daughters home and her family put under obvious surveillance for the matters of security, and to give her all the legal help she needed to return home. Hocket roared into the yard skidding to a halt and Winston meet him in the conservatory, he directed him by word of mouth to inspect Saracens right front leg. Hocket appeared displeased he had been interrupted with such a request based on motivation outside of science, but he was quickly brought back to earth by an outburst from Blake, something he had never experienced.

Blake waited his office attending to several matters raising there head as the grand national was now less than twenty four hours away, he expected it. Lindy had arrived with Taunton Barr from Glastonbury as Hocket inspected Saracen under the rage glistened eyes of not only Lindy but Kalika and Cecelia. Kalika was short with Hocket. ‘Did my father send you here.’

Hocket was closely inspecting the area suggested by Blake. ‘Yes he did.’

‘He’s up to something, what exactly ar…..’

Hocket interrupted looking her in the face. ‘You ran this horse this morning.’

‘Yes.’

‘It would have struggled am I right.’

Kalika said nothing she just stood with her arms folded, there was silence, Lindy jumped in, she confronted her. ‘Well, did he struggle.’

Kalika looked away. ‘Yes, he did.’

Hocket weighed in. ‘Acute tendonitis, this horse is to be rested for at least a month, it will have to be scratched from tomorrows race.’

Lindy looked daggers at Kalika. ‘You would have let him run.’

‘I was going to wait till the morning.’

Hocket again interrupted. ‘This horse would have been struggling for some time.’

Cecelia confronted Kalika. ‘My god Kalika we could have lost both of you.’ She turned to Hocket. ‘Start to treat him, how the hell did you know.’

A voice not heard in the barn for some time came from a figure standing at the door. ‘Rose, your sister Rose, she called, she knew.’

Kalika walked toward him with a puzzled look. ‘Rose, my sister, she called and mentioned this. You expect us to believe that.’

Hocket raised his voice with his hand on Saracens flank. ‘No matter who called about what this horse is not running anywhere for some time.’

Mechanic stood to one side summoned by the commotion, Blake beckoned to him with a hand motion and they both walked to Kalika’s side, she turned with them and bringing all into vocal range looking at each other. Blake sternly gave direction. ‘Mechanic, scratch Saracen, Backfire and Crimson Tide from the race tomorrow.’

Kalika turned to him wide eyed and stepped back. ‘What, Flaxy will be out there alone, we have worked on thi……’

Lindy raised her voice. ‘Let him finish, I want to know!’

Blake hesitated looking around. ‘Trevor you can go, prepare a recovery plan for Saracen and send it to Cecelia, she can make sure her horse is rehabilitated.’ Hocket left, he felt uncomfortable amidst the tension. Blake waited until he was clear of earshot. ‘I was wrong, putting more people in harms way will not help our best chance.’

Lindy spoke up. ‘At last I know exactly what I’ll do.’

Blake walked over to Taunton standing quietly in his stall. The horse came over to him, his head towered above Blake’s face, he whispered to him. ‘You did it, you brought her home, thank you, I have my reward. Tomorrow you will have yours, carry her carefully, all rests on your impeccable shoulders my friend.’ The horse grunted and threw his head around. Winston walked back toward the door, as he passed Kalika she spoke.

‘Rose they know where she is.’

‘Yes, she risked it to save you and Saracen. May be many reasons why she stayed away and is suddenly coming home.’

‘She knew he was hurt.’

‘Yes.’

‘How, sounds surreal.’

‘Last week I bought a company in so much trouble it would appear ludicrous to do so. I just had a gut feeling nothing more, it’s value and economic outlook yesterday went up many thousands of percent, one of its drill’s struck a gold reef so rich it defies belief. If you can tell me why I acted on impulse I would appreciate that because I have no idea, I just do. Ridiculous to think that any of my offspring would not posses the same genes.’

‘What have you done about Rose, will she be safe.’

‘As much as we can do has been done, until she’s here we wait, as she waits to see Flaxy win the national tomorrow, she asked we do that.’

‘There will be some disappointed people here when we tell them of the scratching’s.’

‘Will be a lot more tomorrow if we loose, one will be Rose.’

‘Do you think he will win.’

‘I just scratched all his support why do you ask.’

‘Because I value your opinion more than anyone.’ They all looked at him waiting for a reply. He turned to face them all.

Blake looked across to Flaxmead’s stall, he smiled at the towering black figure and remembered his first sight of him as a foul, bold, fearless and free of care or burden. He thought briefly of all that had been thrown at the steed, his smile widened. ‘Yes, he’ll win.’ Blake began to walk toward the door. Cecelia stepped forward along side her sister, she looked at her, there was a deep question in their eyes. She shouted. ‘He’s our brother isn’t he.’

Blake stopped dead, he looked at the ground, Kalika backed up her sister, Lindy stepped forward and stood beside them listening with intense interest. ‘Dad, he is our brother isn’t he.’

Blake did not look round just continued to look at the ground. ‘Who.’

Kalika interrupted Cecelia before she could speak. ‘You know who we are talking about or you’d still be walking.’

‘Yes he is.’

‘Does he know.’

‘No, if people knew he’d be dead.’

‘You going to tell him.’

Winston turned around and faced them. ‘I think he would be very pleased to be informed he had some wonderful sisters, I’ll leave that to you.’

‘You don’t have the courage.’

He looked at Kalika. ‘Do you, do you have the courage to endanger someone’s life just because you selfishly wish to demean someone else.’

Cecelia laughed and looked her sister in the face. ‘Check mate you bitch.’

Lindy laughed out loud and joined the fray. ‘Yeah you got a fat arse to you bitch.’

Kalika flew into a rage, she kicked her boots on the ground and folded her arms screaming at Lindy and her sister. ‘My arse is not fat you pair of morons.’

They doubled up with laughter, Winston grinned at his enraged offspring, he chuckled as he watched her turn in circles kicking the dust from the ground her hair flying all over the place. Cecelia spoke through broken laughter. ‘Yeah we know that just wondered if you did.’

‘You bastards!’

Blake raised his voice. ‘Lindy, take Taunton onto the track for a run.’

Kalika wore a face of rage and stood there looking at her father with her arms folded. Lindy asked. ‘Someone will put the watch on him.’

‘Good, time to confuse all, where’s Lee.’

‘She’s in Bristol at a press conference for us.’

‘You best call her Kalika and tell her to expect the unexpected.’

‘The press will go mad.’

‘Meltdown hopefully, will get them off our arse, give them something to write about, with the scratching’s and witness of a form comeback by the time they get their act together Flaxy would have crossed the line.’

Lindy looked at Kalika and Cecelia standing right beside her. ‘Yeah, we better get on it, we have to change heaps of things, we have to speak to Janice and Roselyn about their mounts being scratched.’

‘I sent mechanic an email about an hour ago, he will pass it on to them, a plan over the next year on a path they can take to run in next years national on their own accord. Talk to them after they receive it.’

‘Lee’s going to really cop it in about twenty minutes.’

‘Lee will be fine Lindy.’

He turned and began to walk away, Lindy ran forwards. ‘Winston.’ He turned back. ‘Thank you.’

He smiled, wide and warm. ‘Today all in the world I ever wanted was mine, tomorrow it’s yours, who dares wins princess.’ He walked away toward the house.

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY SIX

The British Grand National is a hunt horse race held annually at Aintree racecourse near Liverpool England. The race was initially run in the year 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase of just over four miles or six point nine kilometres. horse and rider have to negotiate 30 fences over two laps of the Aintree course. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of one million pounds. An event that is prominent in  British culture, the race is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year, similar to the Melbourne Cup in Australia.

The course over which the race is run features much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these such as Bechers Brook, The Chair and Canal Turn, have become household names, combined with the distance of the event, create what is considered the ultimate test for horse and rider.

The British Grand National is broadcast live, an estimated five hundred to six hundred million people, they watch the Grand National in over one hundred and forty countries worldwide. It has also been broadcast on radio since 1927 generally by the BBC. Commentary is done in so many languages it is claimed to be the most multicultural televised sporting event on the planet.

Despite it’s popularity over it’s history it has been burdened with condemnation and ridicule, in the last fifteen years it has seen many changes that equate to safer and more humane approaches on how the race is conducted. There is still pressure being applied to eradicate jump racing, but it’s popularity and professionalism prevail. It has been won by as many rank outsiders that struggled to make the grade, as flamboyant wealthy stakeholders that have no other agenda than making sure aristocracy and wealth prevail.

One thing is prominently obvious after each race, it is the horse that is held in admiration and respect, it’s bloodline and officiating owners are left in the wake of what are usually battling opinions of politics and one upmanship. This book is for every horse that could have made the grade had someone had faith and diligence, this book is for all the Flaxmead’s that have been sacrificed to indignant opinion, that means nothing when they stare into the face of a champion.

It was very early in the morning of the April day that had the worlds sight and sounds focused on forty horses at Aintree racecourse in not far from Liverpool in the British midlands, the sun had not yet come up. Lee Hayford stationed in Bristol controlling the press and media had no immediate answer when a snap question on Taunton Barr’s form was suddenly thrown at her amid scuffling journalists and cameras, she held face but thought for a few seconds. There was a communication blackout for all in the Blake stable, there was no way information could be passed to Lee and her father trusted her experience and bloodline. ‘Probably a ploy by certain aspects of commercialism that would benefit from such unsolicited information.’

The journo fired back at her, the pack was silent. ‘Journalists Grant Balderdash and Levin Graceless were at Blake’s operation yesterday, they witnessed a scorching run by Taunton Barr on the training facilities hunt track. They report and quote by Grant Balderdash, I was scared by the Taunton Barr’s aggressive performance when pacing past me within a few yards, I withdrew in fear. And Graceless states he timed the horse himself, it ran over a second faster than the quickest time stated by the Blake stable for the hunt training track. Why would Blake suddenly invite these journalists to a training session, sounds like Blake to me and the reports sound more like Taunton Barr than many others I have been sent over the past weeks.’

Hayford didn’t hesitate. ‘I know nothing of Balderdash or Graceless being on our training grounds, all I can do is suggest Taunton Barr’s form has not changed but will still run.’

Bookie Bret Hafflinger was present, he had also read the reports by Balderdash and Graceless, he raised his hand and Lee was interested to hear what he had to say, she pointed to him from the raised stage overlooking the gathered. ‘I have Taunton Barr twenty to one, if these reports are true I have already taken thousands of bets at odds that would send me broke.’

Lee again didn’t hesitate and with a smile. ‘We don’t pass comment on matters of commercial interest, like the stock market bets are often controlled and set by the investing public. We can only supply information of the time to better allow people to make their own decision, I’m sure you understand that Mr Hafflinger.’

Hafflinger stormed from the meeting with a scowl. Lee gave the floor to a journalist she knew nothing of. ‘All of your fathers entries apart from Taunton Barr have been scratched, the only horse left is one that appears to have insufficient current form to perform, have all horses been struck with the same thing that currently dogs Taunton Barr.’

‘That’s a good question apart from the mention of my father, as I, my father makes decisions on the welfare of many things. The well being of jockeys and mounts, the affect on commercial enterprise coveted by the Blake stables that are of course extensive. People affected by information and form in the negative are always derogatory of things that may affect them as we have just witnessed in this arena. My father as he has been mentioned has made many decisions on gut feel, over his life I believe he has earned the right to make decisions that should be taken seriously. If he makes the call a horse called Taunton Barr should be the only mount that represents us in the grand national, and people disrespect that call based purely on a financial forum, it is their decision not my fathers that would invite catastrophe.’

‘So you are saying that Taunton Barr will win the national.’

‘Why an earth would we enter the horse if we didn’t believe it could win.’

‘That’s I just asked you.’

‘And I answered the question, you are not listening.’

‘I’m confused.’

‘It’s your job as mine to inform the masses, we are currently doing that.’

‘We need to know if the time suggested by journalist Graceless is correct.’

‘What if it is.’

‘That’s what we need know.’

‘You are asking me to predict the outcome of a poker card game with forty players, I would suggest the best player regardless of financial status would be a possible front runner.’

‘I’m none the wiser.’

‘You have not been listening, Taunton Barr will win the national, Lindy Cumberland predicts twenty lengths.’

‘That’s ridiculous, French entry Moet and Allahabad from Uttar Pradesh have been running faster than Taunton Barr for quite some time now. They both won major hunt races only two weeks ago. We have seen nothing of Taunton Barr apart from reports of runs at Blake’s training facility, he has by all reports turned into a donkey.’

Lee smiled and looked directly at the female young female journalist. ‘If my father puts a horse on the line in the grand national, it should be that fact and that fact alone that would foster support. You can report on everything else, if you take those things as being supportive of misjudgement or failure, the shock you feel will be devastating when Taunton Barr crosses the line. It would be your own fault or anyone else whom deserted Taunton Barr, a horse otherwise known as Flaxmead. Undefeated champion deserted by the suspicion of poor form, only support in times of hardship can lift all involved. Those whom have deserted him will indeed feel the lash of disappointment when he triumphs and one of them will not be me. Regardless of the facts you question he will remain undefeated. Those whom ran for cover and chose to desert him are the perpetrators of their own doom, they are mainly aristocracy, governing bodies and commercial enterprise. They continue to cloud the issue but this is a two way street. They continue to degrade and have firm belief he is finished, I again insist that this afternoon they will be crushed beneath his hooves. Should the public or the gathered feel otherwise it is because we can, that right should remain for all.’

‘How long have you followed Taunton Barr’s career.’

‘Your only young, most would know but since he ran his first race nearly ten years ago in Australia.’

‘I wrote something down while you were talking. It reads I think Taunton Barr will win the grand national.’

‘I think you’re right.’

‘Has your father ever bet on a horse race.’

‘He bet on the Melbourne Cup in Australia once while attending the race with my sister Rose, long before he found Flaxmead. He said it was fun.’

‘I think Taunton Barr will win the national, what will happen to the odds currently offered.’

‘Not much, mums and dads can only afford a few quid. The real high rollers will avoid the risk, it’s not full proof enough.’

‘Why.’

‘They don’t know if I’m lying or not, Moet and Allahabad will remain favourites and bear most high roller backing.’

‘Could it be a case of mistaken identity.’

‘Absolutely, we have several horses that look like Flaxmead, and several jockeys with the stature of Lindy Cumberland.’

The young girl looked at her notes and bit her bottom lip. ‘That could be used as a tool in itself.’

‘People sell information that people want to hear, people buy information they like to hear. Stretching the truth is not against the law.’

‘So you are aware your father set this up.’

‘I’m aware of no such thing, I’m here to deliver a statement on our entry in the grand national later today, I again state, Taunton Barr will win the national, take it or leave it.’

The room had begun to empty, only the young girl remained as others scurried away to report. ‘If your dad set this up it’s wrong.’

‘My father is playing by the rules, the rules need to change, things change all the time. We have to be in it to commit to change, we have to win it to instigate change. The losers are the perpetrators of their own doom, my father has lost many times, he always comes back.’

‘How do you know this, you must have planned it with him.’

‘No, far from reality, it’s what I’d do.’

The young woman left without further word, Lee thanked the TV and radio presenters and was gone.

Winston was up early, he listened to his daughter on the BBC as he watched people milling around in the lights in the stable complex, he lent back to his desk and turned the link off on his computer, he went back to watching out the window, he mumbled. ‘And I once questioned her DNA asking for proof, second time I am given a nasty shock.’

It would appear Winston was watching over the loading of Taunton into a float to leave for Aintree, but the truth was much different. Taunton Barr was still sleeping silently in a float parked on Aintree grounds, he was surrounded by mechanic and his friends and Lindy Cumberland slept deeply and silently beside him. Kalika and Cecelia followed the path a float would to Aintree carrying no horse at all and watched by seething eyes, the involved had learnt nothing from the past. The had abandoned, attempted to kill, degraded publicly and finally place no faith in an obvious champion and Blake had used their weakness to his advantage. He stayed at this post until he could no longer watch over them via his informative network. He had to leave, it was only a short time to the start of the race. He had planned to arrive ten minutes before the start and make it obvious to Lindy via the use of his usual helicopter that he was there, horses can also fathom sight and sound. He disliked watching but listened to the commentary during races, all that could be done was done. He heard the chopper circle, it hovered to land beside the house, he walked out into the days sunshine, he looked around at the clear sky and the soft breeze caught his face. It was time.

Weigh in and presentation in the mounting yard had been a handful for Kalika, she struggled with Taunton as he sensed the competitive environment and the odour of competition filled his nostrils. Kalika had to take him to the centre of the green as she was spoken to by track officials. After weigh Lindy appeared and he settled a little, she pulled him down to her level and spoke in a raised tone, it caught the attention of all. Rail position to view the competitors was at a premium and many had to go by the commentators or watch the big screens placed around the open areas. Kalika assisted Lindy into the saddle and Taunton began his sidewalk boogie taunting the opposition and generally scaring all around him. Kalika was near the end of her tether, a clerk of the course on a big grey attempted to enter their space, his horse refused the idea. He summoned Kalika, she unclipped the bridle lead and walked up to him, he lent down. ‘Unless you control that mount in a more acceptable manner I will have to ask it be withdrawn for reason of safety.’

Kalika in no mood to negotiate looked daggers at him. ‘That’s my fathers horse Winston Blake, you want to spend three years in the old Bailey arguing the point or just get out of his way so he can run round the track.’

‘He is the last mount here, we have ten minutes to the start of the race, could you lead him to the rail entry.’

‘I certainly could if you get off our arse.’

The clerk raised his eyebrows. ‘Indeed.’

Lindy dismounted, she grabbed the edge of the bridle and Taunton followed, Kalika walked behind, Lindy broke into a jog, they reached the track rail and again Kalika used her cupped hands to launch Lindy into the saddle. She took the reins and he bolted onto the track in a half uncontrolled match of side walks and circles, she screamed at him and the more he played up the more the crowed roared. Gently heeled his sides with her stirrups, he took off up the track like a rocket. They had come into view of the course commentator’s keeping people amused and informed prior to the race call. ‘And onto the course finally Taunton Barr, appears to have forgotten he has a four plus mile race to run when he gets to the start line.’

His accomplice butted in. ‘In all reality if you look at that horses background and achievements it could probably run the race twice and still win.’

‘Well that’s a grand statement as of late he’s been running backwards.’

‘We have reports of the last forty eight hours that would question that.’

‘To some degree I agree with you but odds on him have not moved that much, Blake is well known for being unpredictable.’

‘He’s also well known for winning just about every horse race worth winning on the planet, and this one is worth wining.’

‘He’s scratched the rest of his field I think he is just admitting defeat.’ A helicopter flashed above the mid field and banked around the starting gate near the Lord Sefton Stand, Taunton reared up screaming at the familiar sound. Lindy at last cracked a smile leaning forward to settle her mount and avoid disaster off slipping off her tiny saddle. The chopper was only just below the media air cameras, they focused on Blake’s arrival, he remained just above the permitted ceiling height. The chopper landed in the infield, Blake alighted and the chopper quickly made an exit, he place himself near the inside rail on the far side of the course in earshot of commentary. He had his back to the rail and looked over at the start line. The close presence of major grandstands and the sounds of familiar family was a problem as Taunton reacted to all these things happening at once. She had always planned to hold back from the line anticipating her mount as always would be difficult to control, the commentators had to hand over to the race callers as the race was upon them. ‘Well regardless of opinion or weather Blake’s arrival contravenes track protocol, we are about to find out which horse will be the victor of this years national and I hand over commentary to our two race callers.’

The race callers awaiting their que had been studying the field as it mustered. ‘And we are awaiting starters orders, bit of a jumble at present nothing new for this event, forty horses and riders forming a line for the starters. We are a few seconds beyond start time and we should be ready as thing begin to look partly organised, the main pack looking good with the only exception Taunton Barr already responsible for quite an amusing build up to the event start, way very close to the outside rail not a good starting position. Lindy Cumberland struggling to control her mount showing signs of disapproval and stress. I’ve seen this horse run before and not sure that is a good anomaly of his behaviour. Oh he’s turned away from the line but the starter lets them go and we are away in this year national. It’s Stargazer that leads the field out on the inside rail followed by Always, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Walking Home, Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke, Pot The Black, Allahabad the favourite, a mount from the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, Moet second favourite the only French entry this year, Tudor, Oslo, Blanco. And Taunton Barr starting several lengths behind the last horse notably racing past the back markers toward the outside of the first fence, he must have passed some thirty runners in a hundred yards and slots in behind Allahabad on the outside of the field as they are upon the first fence. Taunton Barr splits from the outside of the pack goes way wide in just a few yards passing more runners, and as they take the first fence Taunton Barr has gone from stone last to the first hoof to strike the turf at the first. He stays wide and powers on ahead of the pack, Allahabad and Moet kick up in response to the lighting start by the outsider but parts of the pack block progress as Allahabad’s jockey weighs heavy on the reins to pull him up with nowhere to go and a bold move toward the outside of the pack to keep track of the leader, Moet edged in alongside goes with the move. A lot of bold moves in the first few hundred of this race. Stargazer still holds the pack behind Taunton Barr, Always, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Walking Home, Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke, Pot The Black. The field still banked up right across the track. But it’s still the colours of the Blake stable wearing number seven, that of the tiny frame of Lindy Cumberland carrying the heaviest penalty weight ever given in this race. She looks under her arm I notice and shouts at her mount, he responds and eases pace, the pack begins to pass on the inside, Stargazer again takes the lead, and Cumberland muscles Taunton Barr in behind Allahabad now running sixth but ever changing the field spread across the track still twenty wide toward in the middle pack. I am as the rest of the people here somewhat distracted from the body of the race field as we have the three most successful stayers going head to head here. Taunton Barr still the widest horse just to the rear flank of Allahabad with Moet in behind Taunton Barr, they clear the second fence and again it’s Taunton Barr that clears the tips and gains ground but Cumberland continues to shout at her mount. The field holds pace steady with Stargazer gaining ground on the pack, Always, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run, Walking Home, Allahabad wide with Taunton Barr and Moet on the outside like shadows. Over the third and Stargazer goes down, taking Always, Serpentine, Fiddlers Run and Walking home with him. A mess of mounts and riders getting to their feet and the big winner is Allahabad now leading the field toward the forth, a massive fall and so early in the race, we are down to thirty five runners. Allahabad swings to the inside fence, Moet follows but Taunton Barr goes wider to the edge of the outside rail, spraying turf cuttings all over the crowd. There is a lot of commotion back at the third, officials and jockeys attending to several falls there I can see nine mounts held up in the fray we are down to thirty one runners, over the forth, hard to say if it is Allahabad, Moet or Taunton Barr that holds the lead as they spread out wide.’

Blake was crouched down listening, he picked at the fresh grass throwing strands away as he listened, he avoided view by studying the grass strands he picked at and mumbled to himself. ‘Stay wide princess, run him down on the back straight and stay wide, he will come back at you and the pace will bring more down.’

‘Over the fifth and Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke, Tudor, Oslo, Blanco form the pack line all survivors and gaining from the fall at the third. They trail the leaders by five lengths as Allahabad steadies the pace, over the fifth and on to the big one at the sixth Bechers Brook and its Taunton Barr that races into the jump and gains a length in the process taking the lead and Cumberland stays wide obviously holding her mount to purpose. The crowd is deafening, and we loose another two at Bechers twenty nine runners now, and mid field its Harp Of Erin and Indelible both going down along side each other, both up and looing okay now down to twenty six before the seventh jump. Over seven Foinavens on the first turn and again Taunton Barr braver by a big step well wide Allahabad’s jockey eyeing Taunton Barr as they gallop toward the eighth Canal Turn, just before turn two and I hand you over to commentary from the back straight commentary box.’

The crowd is deafening well audible over here as well albeit from a distance, they are getting exactly what they want, its Moet makes a move going under Allahabad directly against the rail taking Allahabad’s rider by surprise, to focused on the progress of Taunton Barr. And they are into the grandstand straight toward ninth Valentines for the first time. Taunton Barr still sitting way wide and will pass the officials no more than a few yards from view, the crowd screaming their lungs out in favour of the brisk pace. Over Valentines clean as a whistle for Taunton Barr and Cumberland drops the reins and he strides out, Allahabad responds as does Moet as they let the mounts loose, the hardest paced national I have ever witnessed. Four lengths to Taunton Barr as he clings to the outside rail.’

Blake again mumbled as he listened. ‘Thank you princess, stay wide, we now find out what he’s made of.’

‘Allahabad throws down the gauntlet and comes back at the black stallion, I can see Cumberland screaming at the top of her voice as she peers across at Allahabad and Moet clinging to the rail, we can just hear her on the audio of Moet carrying the big screen camera. Over ten and she holds the lead picking up a length, Allahabad and Moet scratch for pace I can see the reins loose, very early in the race for pace of this intensity. You could imagine these mounts and riders think it’s over after the first lap. Into eleven and it’s Taunton Barr by six lengths, Allahabad matched for pace by Moet into the jump and Moet takes second from the Indian charger. France takes it to the Australian champ gaining ground on Allahabad two lengths, three. Over twelve toward the thirteenth the entire field spread out between two jumps the mid field led by Samoyed pulling away from the wide pack. Jurassic, Seven Stars, Heartbreaker, Duke, Tudor, Oslo, Blanco all still in and close enough should the leaders tire of this incredibly hard pace. Taunton Barr stays wide and turns directly toward the thirteenth, he flashes across it, Moet and Allahabad strike the fence at an angle from the inside and it forces them wide out toward the path of Taunton Barr. They cross toward the inner rail and loose ground to the leader. Samoyed has gained massive amounts of ground along the back straight and is beginning to bear down on Allahabad and Moet. Samoyed is a hundred to one outsider and is bearing down on the best there is, a flashing run in a on the corner. Taunton Barr is already over the chair and approaching the water at Sixteen and I hand it back to the grandstand commentary.

‘A commanding lead now as leader Taunton Barr sweeps across the track to the inner rail for the first time clipping the edge the white fence and heading directly back out to the first of the second lap jump one now seventeen. back on the outside rail and along the deafening roar of this capacity crowd. They came to see a champion and the only undefeated runner in this race currently leads the pack. And Cumberland is sitting up slightly and struggling with her mount as he takes fence seventeen, he doesn’t like her ideas by the looks. Samoyed out of nowhere and up behind Moet whom has been taken by Allahabad on the inside run of turn four. Over seventeen and Samoyed takes the lead and Moet goes with him. Allahabad kicks up a notch to stay with them, surely this pace has to take its toll. Toward eighteen and into the fray comes Just For Fun over seventeen a few lengths short of Samoyed, both these runners making massive ground in only three or four fences. Cumberland struggles with her mounts pace hard on the reins she thinks as I this pace will not last, they are currently four seconds ahead of the fastest time to this point ever run. And two more down at seventeen at the front of the mid pack twenty five runners still in it, Jurassic and Seven Stars tangling with each other on the over the jump. They split the pack and cause a slowing of the followers putting them in further behind the leaders but if you look at the past times for the event they are actually doing really well, unless the leaders can hold this pace they may well be up front with them at the last fence. Taunton Barr has slowed and Samoyed, Just for Fun, Moet and Allahabad are bearing down on the leader. Over nineteen and Just for Fun, Samoyed, Moet and Allahabad draw up to within five lengths of Taunton Barr still holding the outside and sparing turf all over the crowd. Even though he has slowed he still holds the pace of what could be considered a wining run. Over twenty and the four holding the rail are now level with Taunton Barr. Cumberland continues to hold pace I can almost hear her yelling at her mount from here and clearly hear her as all on the big screen. And over Twenty one and Samoyed takes the lead by a head. Holding pace toward Bechers and Taunton Barr doesn’t slow at all and cleans it with ease landing first. Samoyed, Moet, Allahabad and Just for fun draw past the leader sitting wide. Over Foinavens and Taunton Barr losses more ground on the outside. Just For Fun kicks it up to twenty four Canal Turn taking the lead, as they shuffle for positions at turn six toward twenty five and the final long straight. I hand it over to the back commentary box for the final run home.’

‘And over the twenty five Just For Fun holding the lead, a head to Samoyed, Allahabad and Moet respectively as they cling to the inside rail. Taunton Barr has lost more ground clinging to the outside rail and down goes two more at twenty five, Duke and Blanco had picked up pace and tangled at the jump on the inside line we have lost half the field. The field has bunched up as the mid line kicks up and the leaders currently hold pace, over twenty six and Taunton Barr holding the outside line streaks into the jump and clears it clean. Cumberland drops the reins and sits down behind her mount ears and I’ve seen this before, he takes off like a rocket. Moet, Allahabad kick up to go with him but he begins to streak away. Cumberland holds line on the outside rail and her mount streaks over twenty seven and hunts down twenty eight and there are three to go and it’s Taunton Barr by three lengths, four, five absolutely striding out like a mile charger. Stays wide over twenty eight, Moet over some six seven lengths behind followed across the field by Allahabad, Just for Fun and Samoyed. Cumberland steers number seven hard on the outside of the final turn and into jump twenty nine and he doesn’t even touch it. He powers on Cumberland hiding behind his ears she is looking through the middle of his ears I can see her clearly and steers him toward the outside of the last fence. Over he goes another clean jump and all eyes on this horse as he thunders toward the finishing line. Twelve lengths on the rest of the field, fifteen as he bypasses the chair toward the finish, seventeen lengths to Just For Fun leading the gallant four that tried to chase him down. Streaking past and bypassing the water jump toward the final yards of the national and Taunton Barr wins the grand national by twenty lengths. Second will be as he strides on passing Just For Fun, Samoyed, a hundred to one outsider, Moet and Allahabad their jockeys sitting up and cantering over the line third and forth respectively. And a string of runners clinging the inside rail gradually crossing the line in what has been a record run here today, Taunton Barr, otherwise known as Flaxmead slices a massive four point two seconds from record and remains undefeated. And he hasn’t finished running, Lindy Cumberland cruises him along the grandstand side of the field as she cools him down and the crowd here at Aintree are letting him know what they think of this horse. Discovered by Winston Blake in Ireland, nobody wanted him, purchased for a hundred pounds, sired in Australia, an incredible chain of events that has given us a champion like no other. And for one day, we are all winners, last week this horse was ridiculed and condemned, today the world is his. And for those listening via radio, Lindy Cumberland dismounts in front of the grandstand crowd and leads her horse toward the winners circle past the most deafening roars. What an absolute fairy tale finish to the most exciting race I have ever had the pleasure to call. And we leave you from Aintree with the news, that Taunton Barr has won the grand national at the Aintree racecourse here in the UK.’

A helicopter from Bristol charter landed on the infield, a man had stopped crying into his hands, whilst on his knees, he climbed in the chopper and was whisked away.

CHAPTER FORTY SEVEN

A chopper landed in the middle of the meadow next to the Blake training facility, it was precisely where Roger Palmer had fallen and passed away, it was where his ashes had become the grass. A lone person in a crisp white shirt and tweed slacks disembarked, he had said nothing all the way to his destination. He waved the chopper away and sat down on the ground, he looked into the blue sky, was a fine afternoon with a cool but pleasant breeze. He could smell some fresh cut grass some distance away carried on the gentle wind, it made him smile. He then burst into tears, he didn’t know how long for but it was a long time. A chopper landed behind him, he didn’t look round, after a few seconds it lifted off, he could hear the door slam, he gathered himself. The chopper faded into the deep blue as quick as it had come. His daughters Kalika and Cecelia came and sat down either side of him. His red eyes just kept looking ahead. ‘How did you know I was here.’

Kalika looked across at her sister and chuckled. ‘Mechanic called another chopper to pick us up, your pilot transmitted your location, we aren’t surprised, we were all worried about you especially mechanic he was freaking out.’

‘Lindy.’

‘She won’t leave Flaxmead.’

‘Lee.’

‘She is handling a few problems created by her father. Accessing prohibited areas in helicopters, you told the clerk of the course to fuck off.’

‘I’m sorry was all I could think of, I planned it this morning, I really didn’t know what to do, I’ve found I’m just a father and at times not a very good one.’

Cecelia smiled at him although she knew he wasn’t looking. ‘It’s okay to cry dad, we all cried, would have been nice to cry together.’

Winston looked down and drew a big breath, he plucked up enough courage to look at them. ‘I have deceived you all, and myself, I’m wondering where to now.’

‘Lee is going to talk to our brother, Beaker is helping Lee with fall out, will he be surprised.’

‘I have no idea.’

‘Do we have any more surprises.’

‘Yes.’

Kalika butted in. ‘I think Roger would be laughing his head off, we did the impossible.’

‘If it was impossible we wouldn’t have been able to do it, some think the sky is the limit but there are footprints on the moon.’

‘Where to now dad.’

‘I don’t know, I just wanted to get through today.’

‘Here’s you struggling through the day and Lindy is on top of the world because she did what you asked of her. She thinks it meant everything to you.’

He put his hands on top of his knees and looked across at Rogers humble home, he shook his head slowly. ‘I dragged her through this, I just wanted Rose back, how selfish of me to put her in harms way so many times.’

‘She never let Flaxmead put a foot wrong, when she first got on him she knew, her life is just how she wanted it. She wanted to be a champion jockey, she was crying because her brother didn’t live to see it.’

‘I coveted your mother Kalika, I’m just thankful Roger didn’t know.’

‘I remember things when I really think about it, you loved my mum, I am the result of the deepest love, not the deepest dishonesty. That’s one of the problems you have fought with for so long, you love everyone. You see no boundaries in commercialism, socialism or love, we have the same genes.’

‘I’m not sure those genes are worthy of respect or success, especially on a day like today.’

‘You really stuffed them up dad, doesn’t matter, Lindy has been approached to be patron for the BHA, she will end up on the board.’

Winston chuckled. ‘God help them.’

Kalika lent on his shoulder with the side of her head. ‘I would like to know who else is part of the family. Are you going to tell us.’

‘Well. It’s a very long story.’

‘We can listen for as long as it takes, can we not Cecelia.’

Cecelia looked at Winston, she smiled at his profile, he turned to her face. ‘My mum told me many times you were a wonderful man, I never realised how wonderful she thought you were. I too, am a result of the deepest love, not just an accident. My mum wanted me to be like you.’

The dark chestnut foal with white markings from Taunton had been galloping around the meadow, he jumped the fences whenever he pleased, he stopped in front of them and lifted his head in keen defiance with a fixed gaze on Winston. Winston smiled at him with a barely audible chuckle. The foal reared up and thundered off toward the barn complex. Kalika looked down at the grass, she wore a solemn face. ‘The little girl in the lane when we found the foal, she wore a blue dress, it was Kristy, when Lindy brought her here you said nothing.’

Winston sighed. ‘Nor did you, you held her, you knew her face, her voice, you knew there was some kind of connection. Perhaps it was just too much to think of at the time. Stuck in the back of your mind and was probably the thing that pushed you to later look into things a little deeper, and here we are.’

‘You risked everything for us, the red haired lady the police were looking for, was Kristy’s nanny, am I right.’

Winston capitulated. ‘Yes.’

‘You found out what Lindy and Roger didn’t know, they’ll never find them will they, none of them.’

‘No, I’d say the odds are one hundred percent against success in linking my daughters or Lindy to any of that, should be the last we mention of it.’

‘Will they come for you one day.’

‘They come at me every day’

‘Is Graham still alive.’

‘I have no idea, some things I need not know.’

‘I get scared sometimes dad.’

‘I’ll fight them from the outside, I’ll fight them from the inside, should it mean they perish to protect my daughters so be it.’

‘How come we feel so sad on such a wonderful day.’

‘The sacrifice made to achieve things is sometimes overbearing, only the dead are free of guilt. I can only imagine that eternal sleep is free of all things and wish all that have passed eternal rest, I hope Roger feels none of these things as we sit here. We all have to face tomorrow with scars that cannot be seen, I can bathe those scars in as much love as I can for you, I as yet have not been able to do no more to hide those scars, it seems to create more scars that need more love. That’s what fathers do, or as far as I can currently work out.’

‘What’s Rose like.’

‘I have no idea, she has never let me find out.’

‘I think it’s time I told you she called me after the race and will be here tomorrow.’

‘That will be a hard day.’

‘She told me a few things, she is so frightened of you.’

‘Yes I know.’

‘She knew you wouldn’t approve of her friends, she was a drug addict, the police still have warrants for her here.’

‘No they don’t, and she has been clean for nearly ten years.’

‘That’s why she’s scared of you, you can do things like that, you weren’t there but you just kept coming at her, she knew it was you. You were around every corner she turned, yet you openly claimed to know nothing of her. I know what that’s like, I lived through it as well.’

‘All I did was make the authorities aware of things they didn’t know, as she wants to come home, could have been done any time, took only a few minutes, was only her mind that needed to change. Attacking her past would have been their biggest blunder and helped no one. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.’

Winston stood up. He put his hands down to his daughters and helped them to their feet. ‘We should head for home and Mavis will be waiting, she’ll be worried. I want to drop in on Saracen see how his leg is coming on held up in the barn he’ll be really pissed off.’

‘Walk slowly we want to know, now, who else has such a story as ours.’

They shuffled off holding hands toward the barn complex a mile away. ‘Well, a long time ago, I was a bit of an idiot really, when you come to think of it, fortunately I was good looking idiot.’

His daughters cracked up laughing, he put his arms around each of them as they strolled along. ‘Dad tell us something we don’t know, are they brothers or sisters, where do they live and when do we meet them.’

They strolled off into the warm clean afternoon air, among familiar sights, sounds and smells Winston began. ‘Well, perhaps I should start at the beginning, for this end you already know and I could never see. I was just fifteen.’

‘Dad really, fifteen that’s disgusting.’

‘I haven’t said anything yet just mentioned a point in time.’

The girls laughed out loud. ‘Go on, once upon a time dad.’


Taunton Barr

Winston Blake was once a fearless merchant banker, part of a financial empire built on risk and speculation. He suddenly retired to look for his daughter missing for some years in Australia, he had an idea. He would find a horse that could win the Melbourne Cup, an event he knew his daughter was fond off, he had attended the event with her, he liked it. He wished his efforts would bring her from her hiding place, or at least he felt better trying. Years of gut feeling and indulging in risk beyond reverence he found a foal in Ireland, destined for nothing he observed what he considered to be traits of a champion. Not exemplary bloodline, or majestic majesty, but a sparkling eye, fearless posture, stout indignation and an air of determination. He purchased the foal and put his years of negotiation to work on convincing the right people to become involved. The horse, 'Flaxmead', became the fastest stayer on the planet and brought a nation together as a petite young female teenage jockey eventually took the black beauty to a crushing win in the Melbourne Cup. A key part of Flaxmead's success was his initial trainer, a horse whisperer, Blake's neighbor in the town hamlet of Flax Burton in Somerset England. His name was Roger Palmer, it was some years since 'Flaxmead' had retired. Winston Blake looked no older than he did a decade back. He was somewhat lost and in need of direction, horses were still trained by Blake's organisation now the biggest on the planet, it was a business run by Palmer's daughter Kalika, well that's whom she thought she was. Roger Palmer would again become the catalyst to bring down the establishment, a battle to control something Palmer and Blake detested, the British Grand National. In a heartbeat, the task falls on Blake's shoulders. An epic battle of cat and mouse to put a champion with a petite woman on it's back between the starting markers of the most controversial horse race on the planet, the British Grand National. One would think that murder mystery and mayhem moves among the most maligned members of society, as the cards play out on the table, Blake faces his biggest foe, his past.

  • ISBN: 9781370796564
  • Author: Brian Cain
  • Published: 2017-05-08 05:35:23
  • Words: 109919
Taunton Barr Taunton Barr