When a courier for the powerful crime family descended from Niccolò Machiavelli realizes he’s being followed by a rival family assassin, he takes a detour through the English countryside to shake his pursuer. He manages to hide his precious cargo—a fortune in blood diamonds from Sierra Leone—before his pursuer collides with an English family on a holiday drive.
The courier drowns in a swollen river; the mother and son die in the crash. The father is emotionally devastated, and retires in despair from his MI5 cipher career.
Five years later, the head of the Machiavelli crime family, Alberto Lorente, is still in pursuit of his missing diamonds and is ready to launch an ambitious scheme to recover them. What follows is a twisted trail of murder, kidnapping and layers upon layers of subterfuge.
The British Security Services are seriously compromised, but no one knows how or by whom. And suddenly, our former MI5 cipher expert is on everyone’s shopping list.
“The many elements in The Diamond Seekers come together effortlessly to create a novel of terrific suspense and richness. The mystery in the book was what grabbed me the most; the way Coles and Everett applied contemporary styling to classic suspense gives the book a truly unique place in the world of mysteries. Its tone felt at once as timeless as an Ian Fleming novel while the setting maintained a fast-paced and contemporary energy. As a result, The Diamond Seekers is a book that will captivate its reader with page-turning suspense, entertain them with its cast of lively characters, and leave them satisfied with a thoroughly engrossing story.” — Casee Marie, Literary Inklings
“A well-told tale with interesting and expertly drawn characters. Even the villains have depth, which is sometimes lacking in thrillers. A very interesting read with a bit of everything: adventure, action and even a bit of romance. Once started, it’s a hard book to put down, you want to know so desperately what’s going to happen next.” — Annette Gisby, Books & Tales
“An engaging and worthwhile mystery whose characters are believably realistic. Like Machiavelli’s prince, the felonious and proud patriarch is openly devoted to his grandson and his family, and shrewdly dotes on his hired help with a strategic wisdom which earns their love and admiration at the very moment he is engaging them to serve his interests. Realistic characters make the best entertainment. I will certainly be looking for their next book.” — Carol Marrs Phipps, Carol & Tom Phipps Fantasy Blog
“The mystery of who REALLY are the movers and shakers at work behind the scenes only comes together in the final pages. The author’s subtle—but riveting—approach to international crime fiction vs. the usual adrenaline-fueled race of the thriller genre makes this impossible to put down.” —Adele Abbot, author, Of Machines & Magics
“If you enjoy mystery and a clever story told through well-crafted dialog played out by a memorable cast of characters, you’ll enjoy The Diamond Seekers. There is room for more and I hope Coles and Everett hook us into a sequel that picks up where The Diamond Seekers left off.” — Greg Lamb, Author, The People In Between: A Cyprus Odyssey
Time had not been kind to Philip Madden. Five years before, he would have described himself as pleasantly debonair, a sort of English answer to George Clooney; a slim dark-haired man with a winning smile and easy-going attitude. Now he saw himself as mainly devoid of humor, somewhat boring. He still had his slim and intense face but there were streaks of grey in his hair that he tried to ignore in the mirror.
Philip’s cell phone vibrated against his chest. He took it from his shirt pocket and opened it up, failed to recognize the number, then wondered why he should when no one ever called him. He only kept the phone in case he broke down out here in the countryside.
“Hello, Philip Madden here.”
The voice was male, educated, baritone. “Hi. Is this the Philip Madden that used to work at MI5?”
Philip paused. He was retired because of his “health” and MI5 seemed a long way away. Okay, he thought, let’s see where this is going. “A long time ago,” he answered. “In a different life. Who is this?”
“My name’s Carl Fletcher, Mr. Madden, though that won’t mean anything to you. And you’re right; it has been a long time. Not just the four years since you retired, though.”
“Look, I’m sorry, Carl. I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Sure you’ve got the right Philip Madden?”
“Pretty sure. You see, I’m almost certain you’re my father.”
Philip sat bolt upright in his chair, looking at but not seeing the lines of print and numbers glowing on the screen of his laptop. His heart thumped painfully in his chest and his breath came in small ineffectual gasps. His mind traversed back through time to a day he had long tried to forget. A vivid image appeared from within a black mist and his thoughts went into automatic: he had been driving the family Mazda, he, his wife and son were going to Butterfly World. Something, some instinct had warned him and he had glanced to his right, a Range Rover with mud-spattered bull-bars was bulleting out of a T-intersection and closing at suicidal speed. He twisted the wheel to the left and hit the brakes but there was never a chance of avoiding the heavy vehicle.
The summer of 2007 had been a succession of scorching days and torrential storms that had left the roads like a skidpan. The Mazda slid forty yards with all four wheels locked, the rear end drifting gently towards the center of the road. As if all had been carefully choreographed, the Range Rover turned to its left and struck the lighter car squarely across the driver-side doors and pushed it bodily off the road.
The initial impact slammed the car to the left; inertia smashed the occupants to the right. Joshua, Philip’s son, fast asleep at seven o’clock in the morning in the back seat, died as his head crashed through and shattered the rear side window; he came to rest half in and half out of the car. Philip was trapped behind the air bag that exploded from the center of the steering wheel. Tracey crashed into him, knocking his head against the door pillar and as the car came to a jolting halt, her body lurched forward, cracking her skull against the dashboard.
The Range Rover’s mass pushed the Mazda across the grass where it teetered on the edge of a drainage dike. The Rover pulled back, yanking the bull bars out of the broken bodywork with a teeth-aching screech; it turned and careered off, striking the car one last careful blow as it went. The Mazda slid down the bank and sank into the scummy water.
Minutes passed. Silence reigned, apart from the ticking of hot metal cooling and the fizz of sparks firing from the engine electronics. Fuel caught fire and was sucked into the interior on the surface of the invading water. The flames licked casually at the trim and seat covers, smoke filled the small space. Philip—scarcely conscious—could smell the sickening stench as Tracey’s clothes and hair began to burn, blistering the skin on her face and neck but for reasons unknown to him, she was unable to move.
Slowly and inexorably the water level rose and just as slowly, it snuffed out the fire as it drowned the woman.
When the ambulance and the police arrived, Philip Madden was still conscious enough to tell the police officer about the dark blue Range Rover and its registration number. He described it down to the crack in the windscreen and the scratch across the passenger door; the driver in army fatigues and the woolen hat that matched the bodywork.
The scene faded slowly.
“Sorry, you caught me by surprise there,” he muttered into his phone.
He shook himself out of his memories, shivering and clearing his throat, and continued talking in little more than a whisper. “What you said is stupid, my son died in a car accident over four years ago.”
“Yes,” said the voice on the phone. “Along with your wife. I saw the report on the news. I was in a hospital with my mother; she saw your photo and pointed you out. She got hold of my hand and said ‘That’s your father, Carl.’ You can imagine the shock that I felt; I’d always been told my father was dead. You had been dead to me anyway, for twenty-odd years, ever since I was born.”
Again, Philip paused, trying to compare this man’s plight with his own. He still found himself waking in the night, convinced that Tracey lay beside him while Joshua snuffled quietly to himself in the next room.
“Your mother is mistaken, Carl. Tell you what, let me have her phone number and I’ll speak to her, show her that she’s wrong.”
This time it was Carl who paused. “I wish you could speak to her but… unless you’re a medium… that would be difficult. Actually, it’s taken me most of the time since that accident to get your phone number.”
“Hmm.” Philip scratched his head and discovered he was sweating. He tried a different tack. “Suppose we meet then. Somewhere neutral perhaps? We can discuss whatever claim you have but I warn you, I’m not a wealthy person; there’s no way to wring blood out of a stone.”
“Hey! Mr. Madden. I’m not after your money, I’m a barrister, I’m well off—reasonably well off anyway. All I want, all I’ve ever wanted, is my Dad. Okay?”
“Well, I’m sorry I misunderstood. It’s a nice thought but you’re going to be disappointed, I’m afraid; I’m not an adventurous type, no romantic liaisons.”
“Would you call a one-night stand a romantic liaison? One night when you were partying, maybe you were celebrating or something. She knew your name was Philip and you’d disappeared from her life for more than twenty years.”
Again, Philip Madden paused, thinking back. “When was this supposed to have happened?”
“Ah, a sensible question at last. It happened in July, Nineteen seventy nine…”
“Seventy nine? That’s thirty yea… ah, I see. Go on; where?”
“Sunnysides Golf and Caravan Club? Ring any bells? At Fleetwood?”
Philip took a deep breath.
“My mother was there with her parents, on holiday. She told me you saw each other at a dance and couldn’t take your eyes off each other. Maybe it was a birthday? I don’t know. She joined your group until the club closed and after that…” Carl stopped and when he spoke again, he was hesitant, embarrassed perhaps. “Guess you were intimate with each other. She was eighteen and a virgin.”
“What was her name?” Philip asked in a near whisper.
“Margaret Fletcher. You probably won’t remember.”
Philip didn’t respond though his mind conjured up an image of loveliness he had thought forgotten.
“Still there?” Carl asked after several seconds.
Philip cleared his throat. “Yes.”
“Got a computer?”
Philip nodded and then spoke. “Yes.”
“Give me your email address, I’ll send you her picture.”
Philip gave him his address. The sound of a keyboard could be heard over the phone. “Right, just a minute. I was about two when this picture was taken, it may jog your memory.”
“Not sure it needs jogging now. But send me your address or phone number, I’ll get back to you.”
“I was hoping we could arrange a meeting now. After all, it’s the weekend tomorrow; maybe we can share a pub lunch.”
Philip felt a little breathless at the speed of things. “I suppose so. Where are you?”
“I live in Milton Keynes; I commute to the City most days. Right, I’ve put my address on the email, there, it’s gone.”
Philip had moved to Royston, in Hertfordshire, after his retirement… maybe fifty miles from Milton Keynes. Halfway would be around…?”
“You’re nearer Cambridge, right? We could meet at Bedford—no, it’s not a good road from there is it? How about Baldock?”
Baldock was nearer Royston than Milton Keynes, for which he was grateful, and he was familiar with the place. “Fine. Um, yes, there’s the Old White Hart on Station Road. You’ll need to be early on a Saturday.”
“Old White Hart? Okay, I’ll find it. Midday? My car…” Carl described his car and rang off.
Philip agreed and put the phone down just as the computer tinkled, signaling the arrival of email.
He made a cup of coffee and went back to his desk, clicked the email button on the laptop to bring up the item, and opened the first attachment. He sat back and gazed at the picture—a young and beautiful woman who seemed to be looking straight into his eyes, a woman who peeled away the years like turning back through the pages of a book.
Philip had been there with three others from the University. Mark had suggested the clubhouse; “Always plenty of girls there,” he’d told the others, “looking for a bit of you-know and the clubhouse has a good dance floor, usually a good band too.” Rudi had grinned, any suggestion involving girls was a good one as far as he was concerned, and Chris went along with almost anything.
The recommendation was more than enough, a twenty-mile drive which was nothing when Mark had a car…
They had gone straight to the bar and as Philip turned to look around the room over the top of his pint, he met the woman’s eyes. She wore a black dress—her little black number, it had a slim hip-hugging skirt which appeared to effectively rule out anything wilder than a last waltz. The same enigmatic smile that looked out of his computer screen now had looked at him then; his heart felt the same now as it did then. He had to meet with Carl in the hope that his call had been an honest one; perhaps there was still a chance of the happiness he’d felt so long ago.
He opened the second attachment and looked at the man who said he was Philip’s son.
* * *
The deputy director of MI5 looked up from his desk. “Yes John?”
“Philip Madden, sir; he’s been contacted.”
“Good God, Madden? After all this time?” He pushed a strand of graying hair off his forehead. “How long has it been?”
John shrugged. “Best part of five years I think. You ordered the level one surveillance on him sir, maybe you can remember better than me.”
“Hmm,” the other nodded. “Downgraded to level three after two years. Who was calling? Was it Il Principe, the Prince?”
“Difficult to say, sir. The caller claimed he was Madden’s son. Called himself Carl Fletcher, a barrister.”
“Well that’s easily checked. Get on it; photos, history back to his school days.”
“Right, sir. Couple of days?”
“Twenty-four hours, John and if there’s even a hint of the Prince, I want to know about it immediately. He’s been below our radar for far too long.”