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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

Blood Stones (5 page)

BOOK: Blood Stones

All the directors were there, sitting on each side of the narrow table. In front of each there was a note pad, pen and pencils, a small bottle of mineral water and a crystal glass, and the print-out minutes of the last meeting. In the middle of the table, where Julius would sit in a rather larger chair than the others, there was a small decanter of whisky and a jug of water. For the last few minutes the door had been opening; first to come in was Dick Kruger, and then James Hastings; they nodded to each other and were spared the trouble of talking because Ray Andrews arrived, followed by David Wasserman, and for a minute or two the conversation was general. It paused as Arthur appeared; he looked round him and went over to David Wasserman. He was always very courteous to people.

‘Very good of you to make the trip, David,' he said. ‘I hope Clara's not too tired.'

The old man shrugged and smiled. ‘You know Clara – business never tired her yet. I left her sleeping like a baby.'

‘Gentlemen,' Arthur said, ‘Julius will be here in a moment; I suggest we sit down.'

He went to the end of the table; he had mineral water in front of him like everyone else. He watched the rest of the Board taking their places. Senior men like Kruger and Wasserman were on his right and left, Ray Andrews sat next to the other director, Johnson who was European Sales Director and a mining engineer, then, nearer the end, sat Hastings. There were two empty places; they were waiting for the Chairman, Heyderman. When Julius came in everybody looked up. Then they stood up, casually, so as not to make it appear more than a wish to give the Chairman a personal welcome, but he walked past them without stopping and Reece was behind him, pulling out his chair. Reece sat down on Heyderman's left. If there had ever been any doubt how close Reece was to the Chairman, it was answered now.

‘Good morning, gentlemen.' Julius Heyderman looked round the room and nodded to them all. He seemed even browner and fitter than when they had last seen him, a handsome, blue-eyed giant, with the trim athletic figure of a young man. He always wore blue; it was almost a trademark. The sky-blue shirt and dark blue suit were part of the Heyderman image, part of the legend of the international sportsman, crack shot, champion water-skier, scratch golfer. The legend was quite true. Everything Julius did had to be done better than anyone else; he had always lived to the limit of his capacity, and he worked at the same pace as he played games. Everyone in the room seemed to shrink by comparison. James Hastings watched him intently; here was power personified. He was like a god, with health, magnetism and good looks seldom found in millionaires, and Julius couldn't have counted his millions. James felt an odd excitement rising in him; he felt as he supposed the corps commanders under Napoleon or Wellington must have done when they sat in on the final conference before the battle. Heyderman glanced down the table towards his brother-in-law Arthur, who looked slighter and greyer, by comparison.

‘We had better get down to the real business straight away,' he said. ‘That all right with you, Arthur? We can go into the routine stuff later.'

‘Of course,' Arthur said mildly.

‘Right. Now, gentlemen, I've come a long way in a hell of a hurry; some of you know me well enough to realize I wouldn't do this myself or ask it of you unless there was a very good reason. Some two weeks ago I received word that the new mine near Archangel is in full production. It's a bonanza!'

Ray Andrews glanced quickly at Arthur Harris. His instincts had been right. Five years later that one mistake had caught up with him.

‘This, gentlemen, is a big mine. I needn't remind you that it should have been ours.' Julius's blue eyes stared down at his brother-in-law.

‘I don't think that's relevant.' Arthur's voice was calm and cold. Inwardly he was shaking with anger. The great bastard – sitting there, rebuking him publicly. ‘We've never depended on the ownership of every mine. We control the outlet for the stones. We will in this case, if the Russians want to sell on the world markets.'

Julius ignored him. ‘This looks like a mine with a long life and there's no reason to suppose that their output will decrease. But that's not all.' He looked round at them, searching each face, and even David Wasserman began to feel uneasy. Heyderman cleared his throat. ‘I said the mine was a bonanza. It's much more. It's not just yielding top-quality gemstones, but fancies.'

They all looked up at that. ‘Fancies' – the trade name for the coveted coloured diamonds. Julius went on. ‘They're bringing up some of the biggest, cleanest brown stones, Canaries, and blues ever mined. But, more than that, they're bringing up these.'

As he spoke, he plunged his hand into his breast pocket and brought out a clenched fist. He opened it. A two-inch square of white paper lay in his palm. He unwrapped it slowly. The stone blazed on the white surface like a big drop of blood. The fire and colour danced in the light as he held it out in front of them all.

‘My God,' David muttered. ‘My God …' He could hardly speak. He reached out and Heyderman put the diamond into his hand. It trembled. ‘Never …' He was shaking his head. ‘Never in my life …'

‘Five carats,' Heyderman announced. ‘Flawless. There's never been a red diamond like it in the history of diamonds. And,' his voice rose, ‘this is not the biggest. This is a
! This is the appetizer for the biggest investor of gems in the world.'

Abdullah Bin Saladin, Chief Minister and blood brother of the King of Saudi Arabia. His collection of rare stones was unique, beyond price. He had tried and, through the error of a telephone bidder, failed to buy the only red diamond to come on the market in half a century. It had weighed under a carat. It had gone to a private collector in Japan.

‘There are greens, too,' Julius told them. ‘Big stones, marvellous colour and purity. But these …' He took the red diamond from David and held it between thumb and forefinger. ‘These are beyond calculation, beyond price.'

Kruger said, ‘But they can't sell them. Not without us. They're valueless if they can't market them …' He left the rest unsaid because he had seen the sick expression on Arthur's face.

‘Karakov can market them,' Julius Heyderman said. ‘And my information is that he's about to sign an agreement with Moscow which makes him their sole outlet onto the world markets. By-passing us and breaking the cartel that's held the industry together since my grandfather bought out Barnato. We have a monopoly on distribution, gentlemen, and that monopoly is vital if diamonds are to keep their value. The trade doesn't like us, but without us they wouldn't have survived. The bottom would have fallen out of the market for industrials and gems when the world went into recession in the Thirties. We
diamonds. If our grip on prices is broken by Karakov or any other bastard, we go down and the whole industry falls with us.'

There was a silence then.

Finally David Wasserman said, ‘He could try it and he'd enjoy the risk. He's an egomaniac.' He said it again, ‘He just could try it—'

‘And succeed,' Heyderman said harshly. ‘He is to the jewellery trade what we are to the rough trade. He cuts, sets and sells everything he buys. He's the only real heavyweight since Harry Winston, and Christ knows, he gave trouble enough … Reece, you have the figures for Karakov's turnover for the year?'

Reece got up, taking a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. ‘I have them here, Mr Julius.' He always addressed his employer in the terminology of a past generation, before the false chumminess of Christian names became common usage. He cleared his throat slightly. ‘The house in Paris and the secondary establishments in London, New York and Hong Kong sold nearly a billion dollars' worth of goods last year. The big Middle East clients, like Prince Abdullah now like to buy direct from Paris. I haven't got the exact figures but I expect to get them in the next few weeks, and I'll let you have them immediately.'

God knows, Hastings thought, how he managed to get copies of Karakov's company accounts.

Industrial espionage was widely practised in all the major industries throughout the world. Morally indefensible, but one of the hard facts of business life. That was Reece's sphere of operations. He produced the results, and nobody asked him how he got his information. Someone in Karakov's organization, in a senior position in the accounts department, had passed on those figures, and only Reece would ever know who it was.

‘We'll stop Karakov, of course,' Arthur Harris said. ‘The thing I propose is to fly to Paris this evening and see Ivan myself. Talk to him face to face. I'm sure I can make him see reason. He can't be unaware of the long-term consequences of this deal with Russia.'

‘He's Russian born,' Kruger remarked. ‘He'd like to be back in the fold now capitalism is the new creed. I think David's right; he's all ego.'

He was trying to warn Arthur Harris not to take on something that would fatally damage him if it failed. Harris understood the warning, but he had to do something to regain the initiative. So far Julius Heyderman had completely dominated the meeting. He said, ‘I think he'll talk to me. We've always had a friendly relationship.'

For a moment, Hastings saw Heyderman glance at his brother-in-law, and then, with a slight shrug, turn to Reece.

‘Have you got a copy of that confidential letter Karakov sent to Mirkovitch in July?'

Again the briefcase opened and the photocopy was in his hand; it was like watching a magician doing card tricks.

‘Read it,' Heyderman said flatly. ‘Just the relevant paragraphs.'

Reece slipped on his glasses; they gave him a sinister aspect, thick rimmed with wide black side pieces.

He scanned down the page. ‘It's here,' he said, not looking up at Arthur Harris. ‘“It's been such a pleasure to negotiate with you; my frustrations with D.E. over the years have been brought to breaking point by the devious and short-sighted attitude of Harris in London, whose word simply cannot be trusted. I look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with you, the Archangel Mining Corporation and the Russian government. I look forward to meeting President Yeltsin and to visiting the site …” etc.' Reece stopped and slid the paper back into his briefcase. He knew he was called a spy, a creeper who did the Chairman's dirty work. Too often Arthur Harris had vented his feelings about Heyderman on his underling Reece; this was Reece's moment. He looked down at his hands folded on top of the desk and allowed himself a slight smile.

There was absolute silence in the room. Ray Andrews lit a cigarette. It was so still the lighter rasped like a hacksaw. Arthur Harris's pale face had flushed. Kruger came to his defence. He glared at Reece aggressively. ‘Are you sure that's genuine?'

‘Absolutely,' Reece answered. ‘It has the same provenance as the other documents. It came out of Karakov's personal correspondence file. It was an informal letter, not a company memo. It wasn't intended for general viewing.' He said it very softly, as if he were apologizing.

Arthur Harris didn't look at him, or at his brother-in-law, who had just humiliated him in front of them all. Deliberately. He said, ‘In view of this, I should not try to negotiate. I'd like to say that his personal opinion does not concern me in the least. My only concern is what is best for our business.'

James Hastings had to admire him for that. He had shown quiet dignity in the face of a calculated and brutal insult, orchestrated by Heyderman. But it wasn't any good being dignified when you couldn't strike back.

Heyderman made a gesture, which didn't fool anybody, least of all his victim. ‘We should have taken a tougher line with him in the beginning,' he said. ‘Don't worry, we'll nail the old bastard. As I see it, we've got to plan this like a battle. Attack the problem on two fronts. First, someone's got to go to Moscow and get to the Minister of Mining Development. And, if necessary, to President Yeltsin. Someone with the know-how and the weight to undermine their confidence in Karakov, and persuade them that he doesn't have the resources to market their stones properly without us. Point out what a trade free-for-all would do to the market and to their hopes of substantial foreign currency.'

He looked at Ray Andrews.

‘You negotiated with them five years ago. You know the country and the set-up. You may be able to rectify that mistake when you lost us the mine. Will you take it on?'

Ray Andrews was not a coward; his moral principles had sometimes caused embarrassment. He had boobed, and he accepted the responsibility. Even though he knew it was a poisoned chalice.

‘I will,' he said firmly. ‘I'll fly out to Moscow and report back on the situation, if introductions can be arranged through our Embassy. I'll need all the diplomatic pressure I can get if I want an interview at the top.'

‘I'll put that in train,' Arthur Harris said quickly. ‘We have excellent relations with the Foreign Office; they'll be glad to help.'

‘Good,' to their surprise Julius Heyderman pushed back his chair. ‘We'll break for an early lunch. I've got an appointment. Reconvene at one forty-five. Then we can discuss how to deal with Karakov and who's going to do it.'

They lunched in the directors' dining-room. Arthur did not believe in the canteen culture, as he described it. He didn't lunch with his employees. He wouldn't have enjoyed it, nor, he maintained, would they. James hesitated. He didn't want to sit with them, to listen to enemies like Kruger and yesterday's men like Andrews and Wasserman, picking over the bones of the meeting. He wanted to go to his office, order a sandwich sent up from the canteen, and think things through. Arthur Harris didn't want to eat lunch anyway, but he knew he was among friends and he could speak his mind. But not with Hastings listening. He paused and said pleasantly, ‘Are you joining us, James, or are you busy?'

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