LONDON, June 1857
House of Parliament
The man who had entered the ante room just as Grayson Woodridge III had discovered the flask was Sir Milton Barrington; the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain and Grayson’s master. An impressive figure in the black robes and white collars of his office, he commanded attention whenever he walked into a room and none more so than now. In fact it could be said that he had the complete attention of his deputy at that precise moment but he chose to pause and savour this moment before addressing the man seated on the floor in front of him.
Once again he had upheld the responsibilities of his office but not the role that most people knew him for. The robes he had just discarded were but a part he played, concealing him in plain sight. The Lord Chancellor may have been at the top of his profession but he was only one of many servants in the Order of his Mistress’ church. The High Priestess would be pleased, he knew, that the whereabouts of the vial had been secured and the secret maintained. It was unfortunate that Stockett had found out about the Elixir from Pugin, who had clearly been careless in his later years and shared the knowledge with his favourite pupil. But now that both Pugin and Stockett were dead the secret was safely back within the ranks of the brethren. There was just one more loose end to tie up.
‘May I be the first to congratulate you, Mr Woodridge, on your amazing discovery?’ He said, removing his robe and long woven wig and placing them on the wooden table before pulling up a chair and sitting down just in front of Grayson. ‘It really is rather remarkable how you manage to persuade people to divulge their secrets.’ He removed his glasses as he spoke and holding them in one hand, polished them gently with a white handkerchief.
At the look of surprise on Grayson’s face he continued. ‘What, you thought I’d just let you find what I’ve been looking for and keep it for yourself? Come, come my man, surely after all this time you know me better than that?’ He raised his eyebrows and watched as Grayson’s shoulders simultaneously dropped.
‘I had you followed from the moment you left the asylum,’ Sir Barrington said. ‘I must admit I was surprised when you came into this room, and it is ironic is it not that our little treasure was sitting under our very noses all the time, but what better place for Pugin to hide something so precious, so monumental, than the very seat of power and democracy in the civilised world?’
‘I was about to bring it to you myself, Sir.’ Grayson said, realising that his ambitious were shattered and attempting to save his career working alongside one of the most powerful men in the country.
‘Of course you were, Grayson, of course you were. But I’m sure it must have crossed your mind for a moment that this would be quite the money spinner for you, yes? Perhaps you were planning to pay off those huge debts of yours…’ he let the rest of the sentence hang in mid-air letting his full knowledge of his deputy’s financial position become clear.
‘Sir, no, I would never…’ Grayson stammered.
Unseen by Grayson a door hidden in the panelled wall behind him had opened and a man dressed in black had slipped into the room with them. As the Lord Chancellor spoke he crept sideways until he was just a foot away from Grayson.
‘Quite so. You would never and you will never. And my poor dear man, neither will anyone else.’
The man in black’s arm was a blur as the scythe in his hand arced through the air swiftly, severing Grayson Woodridge III’s head from his body which remained in it’s sitting position for one long moment before sliding sideways to the floor.
The Lord Chancellor nodded once at the assassin before stepping over his ex-deputy’s prone and bleeding body and, after checking that the vial was still in place, he pushed the panel back into the wall just as Grayson had found it. Then he addressed his fellow believer who was wrapping the body in a sheet.
‘And you’re absolutely sure that he spoke to no-one before he came here, to this room.’ He asked him.
‘Quite sure, Sir,’ the man replied.
With a satisfied smile Sir Barrington reflected that except for the two men in that room the secret of the Elixir would remain just that.