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The Assassins


Alan Bardos


© Alan Bardos 2016.

Alan Bardos has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

First published by Endeavour Press in 2016.

This edition published by Sharpe Books in 2021.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Historical Notes

Chapter 1

14th May, 1914. Johnny Swift carefully signed and dated the note and was rewarded with another stack of chips. He was starting to think that he should have tried a more sophisticated strategy. He steadied himself and redoubled his bet on nineteen.

The croupier smirked at him and sent the ball spinning. Johnny gripped the roulette table, struggling to suppress his anxiety as the ball circled the wheel. He straightened his shoulders, trying to distance himself from the other wretched people around him. He wasn't done yet.

The ball started flicking about the pockets and Johnny caught his breath as it landed on nineteen. Then Fortuna grinned and the ball flicked straight out again.

The croupier swept away Johnny's chips and he redoubled his bet on nineteen. Statistically, he knew that his number would come up eventually. Doubling his bet ensured he'd win back everything he'd lost tonight and make a return equal to his first bet. However, he was finding that he could easily run out of money before that happened.

He'd never liked the public school ethos of the taking part being more important than the winning. It seemed particularly absurd now.

The ball mesmerized him as it whirled around the wheel, this time landing on zero without any preamble. Johnny choked. Zero was his usual number of choice, but as nineteen was his age, he’d thought it would be lucky. He persevered, redoubling his bet.

There was only enough money left for one more turn of the wheel. He considered trying to swindle another note. He was so deep in the abyss now that a few more hundred couldn't possibly make a difference. It was all about staying in the game, but that became increasingly unlikely as the ball plopped down on eight.

He crossed his arms in frustration, hugging himself in an effort not to smash the bloody contraption. As he did so, Johnny felt a sheet of paper crumple in his jacket pocket. It was a simple piece of cheap rubbish and yet it was the instrument that had led to him making a whole series of rash decisions.

The first and most crucial of these decisions was made in Zurich. Johnny had been sent there by Sir George, his superior in the Diplomatic Service, to deliver official correspondence and deposit funds into his Swiss bank account. It was a regular trip, and he enjoyed the perk and was generally able to overlook the fact that he was being used as a glorified errand boy by a man he detested. The telegram summoning him back forthwith had shattered his revelry. He was normally allowed a week to complete 'his travels' and he'd made arrangements. An urgent recall was unheard of for someone of Johnny's limited responsibility. He could only assume that Sir George had found out about one of his indiscretions, most likely a gambling debt. Johnny was finding them impossible to manage.

There had been little choice but to double up and make a last stand. He'd had the necessary documentation for Sir George's account and had been able to make a sizeable withdrawal, once he'd perfected Sir George's signature - he'd seen it replicated by an expert a thousand times before. Johnny had planned to win enough to pay the money back and head off whatever trouble lay in wait on his return. That money had long since gone and he'd had to resort to further deception.

A woman next to Johnny brushed against his arm, obviously trying to attract his attention, which was par for the course as far as he was concerned. The idea that there was a woman impervious to his brash, physical charm, forged by the playing fields of England, was beyond his comprehension.

Johnny stood up to his full height of six foot. He was immensely proud of his build which combined the elegance and grace of a winger, with the strength of a front row prop. Almost out of instinct, rather than from any sense of desire for the woman, he tilted his head at an angle, showing off the fine line of his cheekbones. It was, he realised, his appeal to women that had got him into this mess.

He glanced across the casino and saw Lady Smyth, looking bored and annoyed, as she distanced herself from the rabble. Her sequined dress gave the impression of shooting stars bursting into showers of light, and Johnny thought that it bestowed a bearing and dignity on her which was way beyond her twenty one years. It would be bad enough for her to be in a place like this, he thought, but to be in a place like this and be losing must be intolerable.

La Fontaine d'Espoir was a down at heel, back alley gambling den, kept open by a nod and a wink. It was not the sort of establishment that Lady Smyth was used to, especially in comparison with the splendour and opulence she usually enjoyed in Vittel.

Johnny wondered if it was called The Fountain of Hope in reference to the town's famous spas

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