Chapter 2

Once servants’ quarters, the fifth floor of Berkeley House was now the heart of Daniel Logan’s empire. Offices to the north, penthouse apartment to the south, it was Bauhaus clean, cocktail high-tech, the art modern, furniture linear and brutal. This was in stark contrast to the lower floors where a meticulous restoration had transformed the Georgian mansion into an exclusive members club that catered to London’s corporate elite.

Logan adjusted his tie and shot his cuffs, studying himself in the full-length mirror. He flicked an invisible speck of dust from his lapel and patted his thinning light blond hair, swept back, slick, with detached approval. The cultivated look of manicured success hung well on him.

With a practiced turn of the wrist, he checked his Patek Philippe, examined himself once more in the mirror, then left the bedroom.

With time to spare, he made an espresso and indulged in a moment of solitude on the veranda, taking in the clear skies across Mayfair’s rooftops, Green Park, Buckingham Palace. Below, Berkeley Square was still waking, a discordant orchestra warming up, each instrument intent on its own tune—the electric whine of the milk float, the throaty tock tock of a taxi, hydraulic groans of a refuse lorry—every city its own urban symphony.

Logan turned his gaze inward to the Jackson Pollock displayed on a distant wall, pride of place. He thumbed his smartphone and the wall transformed, opaque to transparent, offering a clear view through to his office. He pressed another button. Through the next wall, he could see Adam Lazarenko seated at the conference table, preparing his morning briefing.

A third button slid the wall open. Logan stepped through and the wall slid silently back into place behind him. On this side, the Pollock was replaced by a Rauschenberg. He willed himself to appreciate their beauty—the two paintings, the nanotech smart glass technology, courtesy of one of his Cambridge University start-ups—but it all fell flat, anodyne, abstract.

He had been like this for months. With a sigh, he sat down, put his feet up on his desk and watched Adam Lazarenko through the one-way wall. People were starting to notice, none more so than Lazarenko. Natasha too. Cold was one thing, vacuum another—weakness. He needed to shake this, whatever it was.

At precisely 7:30 a.m., he entered the main room of his office. Like his apartment, it was a vast open space, minimalist yet expensive. To the left were two lounge areas separated by a wide expanse of bleached ash floor. Lazarenko was seated to the right at the long, mahogany conference table polished to a mirror shine. He glanced up, nodded acknowledgement and led with their headline project.

“T-Mobile’s a done deal. They signed last night. You were right. It is Orange. Deutsche likes the idea of merging with another national carrier. A marriage of equals. Vodafone upped the ante, but ...”

“When’s the announcement? Today?” asked Logan.

“Yes.” Lazarenko thumbed the remote.

On the center screen, the clock ticked off the seconds. It gave an odd sense of vertigo when the camera zoomed down on a private corner in the Africa Room. Three sharply cut Germans, Hugo Boss, short, clipped hair, Italian shoes, enjoying cognac and cigars. Lazarenko thumbed the volume, filling the room with their familiar voices.

Logan listened, leaving the translated transcript untouched on the table. A few minutes in, he stifled a yawn, caught the puzzled look on Lazarenko’s face, and responded with a menacing glare. Lazarenko’s lanky frame tensed with fear, twitching, eyes darting nervously here there everywhere. Anywhere but Logan’s.

No, I thought not. sighed Logan. Signaling ‘Pause,’ he dialed on the Polycom.

“Dump Rio Tinto just before closing bell.”

“Yes, Mr. ...,” the reply was cut short as Logan hung up.

With an impatient wave, he signaled ‘Play’.

The vignette rolled on, seconds counting to minutes. Lazarenko was right—the project had played out, time to exit. Easy money—six months, £3-4 million, low risk. Too easy—predictable, no challenge, no satisfaction, boring.

Logan forced a smile as he leaned back, trying in vain to squeeze even a hint of sweetness from his victory. But he felt nothing, only cold, clinical appreciation, like when he looked at the Pollock.

With a heavy sigh, he activated his holographic keyboard. Tap, tap, tapping a muffled tattoo on the polished mahogany tabletop, his fingers fired electronic tracers into the ether, setting in motion a complex chain of events, executing the end game. Around the world, across the telecoms ecosystem, from gold mines to ringtones, rumors were milled, memos leaked, legislators lobbied (one blackmailed), stocks traded long and short—dozens of financial transactions, none large enough to draw attention, all seemingly unrelated. Collectively, they would add several figures to Logan’s already substantial net worth.

He hit ENTER, his last instruction a post-dated Sell order for Nokia. Their beleaguered share price would bask momentarily in the reflected sunshine of T-Mobile’s announcement, aided by rumors of an exclusive deal for their next generation smartphone, a fabricated report leaked to a respected industry blog, the source seemingly unimpeachable.

“What’s next?” he asked, yawning, not attempting to mask his boredom.

 

Once upon a time, Logan had been motivated by money, the early millions marking distance from a lifetime—generations—of poverty. With five million in the bank, he came to London, bought Berkeley House, and the zeroes started flooding in.

The club was a goldmine, its discreet ambience shrouded in an invisible web of light, binary pulses down gossamer strands of fiber optic, sensors sifting the air, trapping shards of information, insights, secrets. From the panopticon of his office, Logan saw all, heard all, and recorded all in high-def digital format.

He had spent years cultivating his public profile, polishing the veneer of respectability, easing his way into the Establishment. His portfolio reflected his social aspirations—a boutique investment bank, a small law firm, a property development concern, an impressive collection of Cambridge start-ups, a clutch of pet charities, Berkeley House. He had all the trappings, too ... private helicopter to a Georgian pile in Shropshire, chateau and vineyard in the Dordogne, chauffeured Bentley, Savile Row suits, an enviable wine cellar.

The real scale of his fortune lay in the murky depths of offshore accounts and shell companies, its mass growing silently, steadily, fed by the many, many secrets of Berkeley House. He was never greedy. No need. A little here, a little there. Berkeley House offered an endless supply of fresh opportunities and he had a wide repertoire of strategies for exploiting them, all now well-worn, the wins virtually guaranteed. His projects no longer offered any real sense of victory, just money, money, more money. His game was rigged, and he had grown bored with it.

He had tried ‘doing Good,’ a bit of pro bono for the soul. But that fell flat, too, leaving him with nothing but scorn and disdain for the hapless and helpless. In frustration, he had lashed out the last time, destroying the very man whose business he had just rescued, losing £3 million in the process. The money did not matter. The ennui he could not escape.

 

Lazarenko continued with the briefing, working his way screen by screen across the video wall—a bank merger, a large outsourcing company closing in on a £100m NHS contract, financial irregularities at a FTSE 100 company, and so on. All told, Logan had a dozen or so projects active at any one time, each worth £2-5 million, mostly tax-free.

Of the current lot, only XTracta, the FTSE 100 with the cooked books, gratified. And that was only fleeting, a minor act of revenge on a man he had once crossed swords with. A leak, a scandal, disgrace. But it was an assassination, not a duel, and there was no challenge in that.

Lazarenko’s voice droned through the agenda, Logan absently scanning the daily log, sifting for new threads, patterns, intrigues—God forbid something challenging. The thrill was gone.

“What’s this?” Logan pointed at the page.

Reading upside down then thumbing his own screen, Lazarenko replied, “Richard Ashton and Gary Tate.”

“I can read,” said Logan. “What I want to know is why they were here so long. Ashton arrives at 5:00 pm, Tate at 5:45. They don’t leave until midnight. Not their usual pattern.” Logan knew every member of his private club intimately—their names, faces, professions, habits, birthdays, predilections, weaknesses.

Lazarenko was caught off guard but recovered quickly, bringing up the main camera hidden in the ornate rosette directly above the nook where the two men were sitting. It was not on his shortlist of new prospects. He hoped he had not missed the blindingly obvious.

Referencing the arrivals log, he cued the video with practiced ease to the moment when two subjects were settling into over-stuffed leather sofas and ordering drinks.

“Who’s the guest?” Logan’s tone was abrupt.

Lazarenko referred to the arrivals log, “Mark Haddad.”

“I’ve heard that name before,” said Logan, his voice softening to a whisper as he leaned forward, elbows resting on the polished table, sensing intrigue. He waved a hand impatiently, more volume!

They listened to minutes of banal conversation, the idle banter of old friends catching up. Logan watched the screen intently, transfixed, senses tingling.

“... You want to quit your job” ... “Yes” ... “About time ... “You don’t know the half of it.” ... “What’d they do this time?” ... “Shafted Duncan. Stole his idea. Screwed his company ... PaySense ... Max Greenberg’s an asshole ...”

Lazarenko felt Logan’s smile before he saw it. He had no idea why, but the conversation clearly interested him.

“Open a new file.” Logan’s instruction was spoken so quietly Lazarenko almost missed it. “Have the brief on my desk by noon.”

Lazarenko nodded and made to continue with the agenda, but Logan waved it off. “Leave it. Focus on this. PaySense and this fellow, Haddad. I want to know everything about them. And I want a full transcript.”

“But …”

“Yes, of course,” interrupted Logan. The transcript would take time. “Have that on my desk by tomorrow morning. The background report today, by noon.” Meeting over.

 

Alone, Logan reset the video to the beginning. Reading the timestamp, he called up different cameras, tracking Rick Ashton and Mark Haddad back to the moment they arrived at Berkeley House. He found the frame he was looking for, a full profile of Haddad. He dragged the image to the side and expanded it to fill a 2x2 grid of screens, the face staring back at him larger than life.

Over the years, he had learned to trust his instincts, nurtured an uncanny ability to get inside the minds of his opponents. That was always his starting point, not the game itself—he played people not games. This time, he had no idea what the game would be, only that there was one to be had.

Haddad seemed affable enough, though beneath the easy smile, Logan sensed a sharp intelligence. Conjecture, to be sure, an assumption based purely on a few minutes of video footage, a frozen frame. But he sensed something deeper, more complex, at play in the mind of the man he was studying.

He stared at the frozen image, minutes ticking by, the silence interrupted only by an occasional whispered comment to the empty room. They were about the same height, 6’ 2”, but the resemblance ended there. Northern European vs. Mediterranean. Where Logan’s hair was blonde, thin, receding, Haddad’s was enviably thick, black, long, just shy of a ponytail. His clothes hung well on his muscular frame, off the rack but well chosen. The style was not to Logan’s taste—he did not even own a pair of jeans. But Haddad took care, something else they had in common.

Glancing at his watch, Logan called his secretary on the Polycom.

“Yes, Daniel,” replied Natasha Kurkova, her words dripping with suggestion.

“Hold my calls. I don’t want to be disturbed until my 12 o’clock with Adam.”

“Of course.”

Logan hung up, ignoring the disappointed pout on the other end of the line. He strolled into the kitchen and prepared another espresso, all the while focusing on Haddad. Back at the table, he settled in, remote in hand, cued the video tape to Mon 07 Sept 16:52, and spoke to the room, “Max Greenberg, my old friend.