Sidney Sheldon's Reckless

By: Tilly Bagshawe

PART ONE





CHAPTER 1

ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY, SANDHURST, ENGLAND

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22, NINE P.M.

SIR!”

Officer Cadet Sebastian Williams burst into Major General Frank Dorrien’s office. Williams’s complexion was white, his hair disheveled, his uniform a disgrace. Frank Dorrien’s upper lip curled. If he closed his eyes he could practically hear the standards slipping, like turds off a wet rock.

“What is it?”

“It’s Prince Achileas, Sir.”

“Prince Achileas? Do you mean Officer Cadet Constantinos?”

Williams looked at the ground. “Yes, Sir.”

“Well? What about him?”

For one appalling moment, General Dorrien thought that Williams might be going to cry.

“He’s dead, Sir.”

The Major General flicked a piece of lint off his jacket. Tall and thin, with the wiry frame of a marathon runner and a face so chiseled and angular it looked like it had been carved from flint, Frank Dorrien’s expression gave nothing away.

“Dead?”

“Yes, Sir. I found him . . . hanging. Just now. It was awful, Sir!” Cadet Williams started to shake. Christ, he was an embarrassment.

“Show me.”

Frank Dorrien took his battered attaché case with him and followed the distressed cadet along a windowless corridor back towards the barracks. Half walking, half jogging, the boy’s limbs dangled like a puppet with its strings tangled. Frank Dorrien shook his head. Soldiers like Officer Cadet Sebastian Williams represented everything that was wrong with today’s army.

No discipline. No order. No fucking courage.

An entire generation of dolts.

Achileas Constantinos, Prince of Greece, had been just as bad. Spoiled, entitled. These boys seemed to think that joining the army was some sort of game.

“In there, Sir.” Williams gestured towards the men’s bathrooms. “He’s still . . . I didn’t know if I should cut him down.”

“Thank you, Williams.”

Frank Dorrien’s granite-hewn face showed no emotion. In his early fifties, gray haired and rigid backed, Frank was a born soldier. His body was the product of a lifetime of rigorous physical discipline. It was the perfect complement to his ordered, controlled mind.

“Dismissed.”

“Sir?” Cadet Williams hovered, confused. Did the Major General really want him to leave?

Not that he wanted to see Achileas again. The image of his friend’s corpse was already seared on his memory. The bloated face with its bulging eyes, swinging grotesquely from the rafters like an overstuffed Guy on bonfire night. Williams had been scared to death when he found him. He might be a soldier on paper, but the truth was he’d never seen a dead body before.

“Are you deaf?” Frank Dorrien snapped. “I said ‘dismissed.’ ”

“Sir. Yes, Sir.”

Frank Dorrien waited until Cadet Williams was gone. Then he opened the bathroom door.

The first thing he saw were the young Greek prince’s boots, swinging at eye level in front of an open stall. They were regulation, black and beautifully polished. A thing of beauty, to General Dorrien’s eyes.

Every Sandhurst cadet should have boots like that.

Dorrien’s eyes moved upwards. The trousers of the prince’s uniform had been soiled. That was a shame, although not a surprise. Unfortunately the bowels often gave way at the moment of death, a last indignity. Dorrien wrinkled his nose as the foul stench assaulted him.

His eyes moved up again and he found himself looking into the dead boy’s face.

Prince Achileas Constantinos looked back at him, his glassy, brown eyes fixed wide in death, as if eternally astonished that the world could be so cruel.

Stupid boy, Frank Dorrien thought.

Frank himself was quite familiar with cruelty. It didn’t astonish him in the least.

He sighed, not for the swinging corpse, but for the shit storm that was about to engulf all of them. A member of the Greek royal family, dead from suicide. At Sandhurst! Hung, no less, like a common thief. Like a coward. Like a nobody.

The Greeks wouldn’t like that. Nor would the British government.

Frank Dorrien turned on his heel, walked calmly back to his office and picked up the telephone.

“It’s me. I’m afraid we have a problem.”

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