A Paul Nichols Novel
An excerpt from the Prologue:
She sat in the deep green leather armchair, her slim hands clasped in her lap, opposite the antique desk behind which sat a grey haired deeply set man of great presence in his light grey double-breasted wool suit that hung open and striped regimental tie. His ruddy lined face was matched by his grey beard and thick bushy eyebrows. The thumb and forefinger of his right hand played with his grey beard while he passed the neatly typed envelope to Martina.
"I have had many of these envelopes over the years." He tapped two envelopes that sat in front of him on the desk while looking into her green eyes over the rim of his half-moon glasses which sat near the tip of his nose. He first met her as a young twenty five-year-old and conceded to himself that at thirty-six she had maintained her slim youthful look, her flowing black hair shined under the harsh ceiling lights, her lightly tanned skin accentuated by her white blouse and cream skirt. "I do not know what, in their entirety that is, what they say, nor what is within this thicker envelope here, only that they were to be given to you, this smaller envelope first, this one second." He paused from curling his beard to tap the larger sealed envelope as Martina took the first envelope slowly from him, her hand trembling. "You must read that letter here, in my office before I can give you this one. Those were his strict instructions." He said in his heavily accented low voice that betrayed his Jewish ancestry. He began filling his pipe, his dark blue eyes watching her carefully. "It was hard for him, writing that letter." He picked up his gold lighter, flicked the wheel and turned it on its side and brought the flame over the bowl of tobacco and sucked deeply on the stem until the tobacco glowed red. He let a cloud of smoke curl from his lips towards the yellowed stained ceiling. "I could see it every time he came in with a new letter. It was ripping him apart but he would never explain to me why. He always took away the older envelope. I asked him on numerous occasions what it was all about, all he would ever say was that he could not tell me. Only that if anything happened to him, you were to be looked after. I never understood why he said that and he would not explain, he confided in me throughout his life on everything else." He sat back thoughtfully in silence and watched as she opened the envelope and unfolded the crisp white page, letting the envelope drop into her lap. She lay the letter on the edge of the desk and removed her glasses case from her handbag and carefully put them on. She lifted the letter in both hands and started to read out loud.
Martina my dearest love, this is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write. This is my tenth attempt and I still do not believe that it will say exactly what I want it to say, but alas I will continue on, in the vain hope that is does. I do not know when you will read this, but you will, of that I have no doubt and I am so deeply sorry. I owe you an apology and an explanation for many things that you will not and never have been aware of actually needing an explanation for, during our time together. As you are reading this letter, then what I have always feared would happen, has finally happened, my passing on from this earth. My funeral would have taken place already and you will be reading this with our lawyer, the old grey-haired portly Albert Seifert, sitting in that drearily decorated office with its old curtains and that ugly worn 1950's patterned carpet. One would think with what he charges, he could afford to redecorate. I have no doubt that the ceiling is still yellow and he is puffing on that infernal pipe of his.
I seem to have drifted from what I want to say, no, no, what I need to say. I hope the funeral proceeded smoothly and you do not feel too sad, I chose music that we both loved, happy and uplifting music filled with many happy memories. Please no tears, be joyous in remembering all the good years we had together.
Mr Seifert has, on that large old antique wooden desk that he loves so much, a manuscript that I have written during the course of the last few years. On the news of my passing, he was instructed to print out two copies and to give them to you without reading it himself. I am sure that with his deep-rooted integrity he would have done as I asked. The period of which I have written about starts a month before we met and will explain everything. It is very important that you read it all. The police have no doubt explained to you that I was killed in an accident, probably a car accident. The truth is, I can assure you, it was no accident. My accidental death would have been meticulously planned, precisely executed and professionally covered up by a crack team of experts. I know why I was targeted and I know by whom. Proving the fact will be nigh on impossible. The perpetrators of my demise, members of the SIS, our Secret Intelligence Service will be protected by the Government who gave the order for my early retirement from life. They will ensure a full cover-up and block every avenue you try to go down to investigate. Be warned they are ruthless and I should know. If you persist in investigating, you will also, very likely, become a target for removal, please do not try.
If you wish to do so, you may pass a copy to Albert who has a confidentiality form ready for you both to sign and after you have read it, you can send one copy to the media. He has a form for them to sign ready just in case. They will I am sure enjoy investigating it and causing the Government some anxious times unless they too are threatened and silenced. I feel that there must be an investigative journalist out there somewhere who will feel the need to pursue it. But only do so once you have given Seifert the order to sell up and get you settled in Monaco where I have purchased and furnished an apartment ready for this eventuality. Everything is prepared, all he needs is a phone call from you.
I warn you now that what you will read will be uncomfortable and upsetting, at times gruesome and emotionally draining and make you question what life you have led and with whom. Yes, it may make you question who I was and whom it was you shared your life with, but there is one thing that you must know before you start reading the manuscript as I do not want you to have the wrong impression of me and our lives together. Although I purposely arranged to meet you, I never planned on falling so deeply in love with you. My love for you has always and will always be true and from the deepest part of my heart. It is that love that has led to this regrettable outcome.
If there is one thing in my life that has shone in the darkness within which I lived, it has been the time I have spent with you, however long or short that time will or has been I do not know and have no control over.
With my deepest love, your late husband, Paul.