Authors: Bill Vidal
About the Book
Thomas Clayton is a City trader working the markets in London’s Square Mile and living the high life. But when he returns home to New York for his father’s funeral to discover he has been left nearly $50 million in a numbered Swiss bank account, he’s at a complete loss to explain how his Professor father could have come by such a sum. Whatever the explanation, the mysterious windfall has come at exactly the right time.
So he travels to Zurich, secures the funds, and tells his wife to make an offer on her dream country mansion. What Tom doesn’t know yet is that his father was being used as a ‘ghost’ to clean up dirty money by a New York laundry operation: really the money belongs to Carlos Morales, Medellin’s biggest cocaine baron.
Tom’s actions in Europe spark a murderous turf war in the Americas between the cartels of Medellin and Cali, involving a cast of bent lawyers, cops, undercover DEA – and transatlantic assassins who’ll stop at nothing or no-one to make Tom pay his debt …
About the Author
Bill Vidal was born in Argentina and educated in England. He lived and worked in the USA, South America, the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe before settling with his wife and twin children in Kent.
The Clayton Account
is his first novel.
‘FIVE HUNDRED AND
sixty-seven thousand, three hundred and eighty-four dollars and twenty-two cents.’
He read the figure out loud, staring at the piece of paper, his voice muffled by the confines of the loft. Outside, the noise of the breakers was indistinguishable from the drone of the wind, not an unduly strong wind, just the grey sound of winter on the Long Island shore.
His father was gone, and even at the age of forty, Tom Clayton felt the vacuum. He wished he might have seen more of him lately but put away the thought. It had all happened suddenly; one minute he was fit and looking forward to the contentment of retirement after a life of achievement, the next he was dead in his rooms at Columbia University, last Tuesday at seven in the evening.
Cerebral embolism, they had said.
It had been two in the morning when the Dean had called Tom in London with the sad news. Now, less than a week later, it was all over. Caroline and the children had returned home but he remained behind, willingly alone, ostensibly to ‘sort things out’ but truly for a few days with his thoughts.
The funeral, upstate, had been well attended: some relations, distant cousins from Boston, mother’s relatives from Ohio, lots of friends, students and faculty from Columbia, former colleagues from Cambridge, and some strangers: men in fancy limousines and Armani suits. Tom’s younger sister Teresa was there, the only close family left in America, over from Manhattan with her husband and children, tearful and depressed; she had been very close to their father. Tom acknowledged that her pain would be more enduring than his own.
Tessa had been to the house three times that week, twice having to fend off uninvited realtors, pushy go-getters whose condolences could not hide the gleam in their eyes: Southampton sea-front houses did not hit the market every day. And for the moment at least, Tom hoped, neither would this one. So he stayed there alone for the weekend. He walked along the beach in the early morning and tasted memories of a distant childhood. He threw pebbles into the ocean and lay on his back by the sand dunes just staring at the overcast sky. And prayed for a miracle.
Then he set about appraising the contents of the house, trying not to think of monetary values, concentrating on preserving the heirlooms. Many had belonged to his grandfather. His own father had added mostly paintings and books – books everywhere, many ancient and valuable manuscripts, philosophical treatises in ancient Greek and mementos of his annual tours around the globe, especially from the years since Tom’s mother had died.
So long as Tess did not object – and she was not short of money, neither in her own right nor as a consequence of marrying into Wall Street blue-blood – Tom had always been adamant that the house on the island should be kept, if for no other reason than to keep his very anglicized children in touch with America. Today, with both his parents
, he wanted the house even more. Since his marriage to Caroline, Tom felt increasingly rooted in England; the loss of the house on the island would be like losing a part of his national identity. And now he had to contemplate the possibility that it might be taken from him.
Tom turned his attention again to the piece of paper in front of him. It was not the figure itself that was significant, though $567,384.22 was not to be dismissed in anyone’s book, but the date:
June 30th, 1944
The month before his grandfather had died. Half a million dollars, half a century ago, had to be equivalent to five million dollars today – so much Tom’s financial mind could tell him without recourse to a calculator.
But it was the paper on which the sum was entered that interested him the most. It was a single page of a bank statement from United Credit Bank, Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich, Switzerland, clearly showing the account holder as Patrick S. Clayton, 650W 10th St, New York, NY, USA.
He had found it earlier, in the attic, in a trunk containing what looked like the contents of the old boy’s desk, including a diary for 1944 – last entry July 15th. Tom would read it later. Card holder, full of calling cards, some of the titles (if not the names) easily recognizable: the Mayor of New York City, a Vice President of Chase Bank, the President of Union Pacific and Mr Clark Gable of Hollywood, California. There were old chequebook stubs and theatre programmes, quotations for a central heating system and tickets to a Giants’ game. And a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, no rounds in the chamber, the barrel still shiny once Tom rubbed its surface gently with his sleeve. Incongruously, the man’s tail coat, his dressing gown and a pair of black-toed white shoes made up the bulk in the trunk and, sitting on top, a beautiful hand-crafted leather
blotter, the type with folding covers and gold-leaf blocking, an understated embossment on the bottom right-hand corner clearly legible as Tiffany & Co.
Tom set it to one side – he would take that back to England with him – and continued rummaging through the trunk. He decided to take the diary as well, and considered taking the gun, but then thought of British Customs and dismissed the idea. Still in the loft, he settled in an old rocking chair to read the entries in the diary. And that was when he had seen the little corner of the bank statement protruding from under the blotting-paper, and pulled it out.
Tom Clayton was no fool, especially when it came to money, the commodity he understood best. He was very aware that his grandfather had been wealthy, rich enough for his father to live well off his inheritance while devoting his energy to academic pursuits – ironically a devotion of such excellence that the support of a good publisher and a voracious lecture circuit would make him well off in his own right in the latter years of his life. But half a million dollars stashed away in Switzerland during the war had to be illegal, or at least dubious enough to keep pretty quiet. If that was the case, and if the money had been there when the old boy died, what had become of it?
Tom cast his eyes beyond the trunk, to the dusty painting leaning dejectedly against the attic wall. He remembered that it had once held pride of place in his parents’ home – and then vanished. Patrick Clayton was depicted in the formal style of old: three-quarter view, conservatively dressed, remote, expressionless. A tall, broad-shouldered man, with a Celtic square jaw and high cheekbones. But the artist had been unable to subdue the wild, auburn hair that proclaimed a spirited nature, and the deep brown eyes that concealed a thousand secrets.
Now, looking at the portrait for the first time with adult eyes, Tom realized that – allowing for sixty years’ change in style and fashions – he might have been looking at himself. Perhaps this was the miracle? Patrick Clayton reaching out across half a century to save his only grandson from his own folly. Though Tom’s shock and grief were genuine, he could not avoid pondering, however hard he tried to suppress it, whether his father’s will might save the day, but even then he recognized his wishful thinking. Tom needed five million dollars, right now, before the system inevitably exposed him or, worse still, before that wimp Langland cracked and spilt the beans to save his own skin.
Tom’s best hope – however far-fetched – lay in Switzerland. He would need to ask questions about rules and procedures and then, in the not too distant future, once he had decided on a course of action, he would most definitely pay a visit to the Gnomes in Zurich. Meanwhile, like any banker worth his salt, he would keep his discovery to himself.
That night he lit a large fire in the living room. He found an open bottle of Rémy Martin and sat in his father’s rocking chair, reading the diary, pondering. Just before the grandfather clock struck five and with sunrise still two hours away, he sipped the last of the cognac and fell asleep.
Tony Salazar loved cars. As he sat in his father’s waiting room, flicking through a copy of
, his gaze fixed on the car advertisement. A fashion enthusiast, he chose his clothes carefully. Always the top Italian labels that so suited his compact Latin frame. His jet-black hair was trimmed and slicked back professionally every morning. Image meant a lot to Tony. Ordinarily, Rolls Royces were not his type of car. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches – the mere mention of the names would make the adrenalin
. But this one in the advertisement was different: the new Bentley Continental Coupé had class and style. Two hundred and fifty grand, serious money by any standards, he admitted; the irony was that he could easily afford it. But Tony was well aware that, if seen driving around so ostentatiously, he would be thrown out of the family firm. His father would see to that in person.
‘One day,’ Tony mused. ‘One day.’
Meanwhile he would have to settle for his Stingray. Making money had become easy in recent years; spending it was something else. Though not yet thirty, he could remember a time when a man could take a fancy to an East Side apartment and pay for it with a briefcase full of notes. Now, having money was no longer good enough. Everyone wanted to know where it had come from. Since the government had gone commercial – the FBI, SEC, Treasury Department – and started offering rewards, you couldn’t trust anybody. Banks, lawyers, accountants, they’d rat on you faster than you could open your wallet.
Which was precisely why Salazar & Co was in business. Big business. And he, Antonio Salazar, third-generation private banker, was going to steer it into the twenty-first century. But for the moment his father ran the show: the tough old boy whose friends addressed him as the Banker, and those who dared called the Laundry Man, behind his back. The
had called him that once and it had cost them two-fifty out of court – the price of the Bentley, thought Tony with a smirk.
Hector Perez, the boss’s chauffeur-bodyguard, opened the door and beckoned Tony in. His squat, broad figure – short, thick arms swinging from wide shoulders – silently followed the young Salazar into the office and then, as usual, sat quietly in one corner. Like a man with no eyes or ears, but nevertheless always there, ready, if required,
cross the room in three big strides and tear the head off the shoulders of an imprudent visitor with his massive bare hands. Tony sat himself on one of the plush chairs across from his father and lit a cigarette. He pretended to admire the view over the East River and waited to be spoken to.