Believe not in anything simply because you have heard it,
Believe not in anything simply because it was spoken and rumoured by many,
Believe not in anything simply because it was found written in your religious texts,
Believe not in anything merely on the authority of teachers and elders,
Believe not in traditions because they have been handed down for generations,
But after observation and analysis, if anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, accept it and live up to it.
Great Spirit, whose voice is on the wind, hear me. Let me grow in strength and knowledge.
Make me ever behold the red and purple sunset. May my hands respect the things you have given me.
Teach me the secrets hidden under every leaf and stone, as you have taught people for ages past.
Let me use my strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Let me always come before you with clean hands and an open heart, that as my Earthly span fades like the sunset, my Spirit shall return to you without shame.
(Based on a traditional Sioux prayer)
1 LA VILLA BLANCA, MARBELLA, 1995
Teresa was lying on her back on the bed breathing deeply with a wide grin on her face next to her boss, John, who, at sixty-five had taken far too much punishment in life to be able to take an active rôle in making passionate love himself. He liked her to swear as she pleasured them both, but it did not come naturally to her, so she usually forgot to in the heat of the moment. Teresa was forty-two and proud to have John as her lover. In fact, she had loved him for years despite the large age gap. She had first been attracted to the distinguished Englishman when he had used to come to buy things from her in Fuengirola market, and had fallen in love with him since almost the first day he had taken her on as his cook and housekeeper. Little did she know at the time that his frequent visits to the market had been excuses to see her.
“That was great, Teri, girl... Oh, yes... You’re enough to make a grown man cry”.
Teresa rolled over towards her lover onto his waiting right arm. She put her right arm across his chest as they kissed.
“You are the best”, he said to her.
“It is easy for me to make you happy, Johnny, because I love you. You are my hero and my saviour”, she replied, as she frequently did.
An explosion sounded as a muffled crump from outside. The phone rang as John was reaching out for it. It was the person he had been about to call just as he knew that it would be.
“What was that, Tony?” he asked without a trace of anxiety in his voice.
“I’m not sure yet, boss, but we haven’t been hit…” He was interrupted by a second explosion similar to the first and then a third of a different kind. “It’s coming from down the road some way off. I think it’s the O’Leary’s place judging by the plumes of smoke. I’m going outside now to get a better look”. Tony was a big man, the shape of a door with a bald head on it. He was John’s chief of security and had been with him for ten years.
John could hear him running over the phone, not breathing heavily at all, and then stop. “I’m about two hundred yards from their front gate now. It looks like the house has been hit, and the front gate… and there are bits of motorcycle everywhere… Two men are down… on fire… Oh! I think they have just been offed with a single baseball bat strike to the back of their necks. Looks like a drive-by with RPG’s to me. I’m coming back in. I don’t want to be nabbed as a witness to this”.
“No, of course not. Come back and play dumb, but see what you can find out on the QT. Appraise me later”. He rang off.
Five minutes later, John had fallen asleep, as he frequently did, and Teresa quietly got up, dressed and went back to work - it was time to arrange her employer’s dinner.
During the meal, Tony gave John his verbal report of the bombing.
“This is not official, boss, but I got it from one of O’Leary’s lads, so I reckon that it’s as near the truth as we are ever going to get. It was a drive-by and they did use rocket-propelled grenades. Apparently, they fired the first one as they passed by. It went through the railings of the gate and hit the house. The gatekeeper, who was probably counting his lucky stars that he wasn’t blown up got a few shots off.
“The riders then came back past the gate and fired again, but the tail-fire from the RPG must have ignited fuel leaking from a bullet hole in the petrol tank and it blew up. The second grenade did strike the gate, as the first one was probably meant to, and blew it in. When the bike exploded and the riders came back to Earth on fire. O’Leary’s men broke their necks with baseball bats so there would be no loose ends”.
“Who was responsible, do they reckon, Tony?”
“He said they don’t know, but when I suggested that it was a rival Irish gang from back home, he didn’t say that it wasn’t”.
“Anyone else besides the riders hurt, was there?”
“The gatekeeper is in a bad way. He’s got shrapnel wounds and those big wrought iron gates gave him quite a whack when they blew in, but he’ll probably live. A cleaner got some splinters of glass in her arris, but she’s all right. The O’Leary’s were around the back near the pool, so they are all OK too.
“Did the police get there? I heard some sirens, I think, but I was asleep by then and could have been dreaming”.
“No, they got there all right… and the fire brigade and the ambulance, after it was all over. The O’Leary’s had even put the gatekeeper and the cleaner in the Range Rover and taken them both to hospital by then. The ambulance took away the riders’ bodies; the fire brigade sprayed the smoking wreckage then checked the house for structural damage and the police cordoned off the area. There’s still a load of them out there now trying to look concerned and busy.
“They asked me if I’d seen anything and I said only the smoke. They don’t really give a monkey’s as long as there are no Spanish involved”.
“No, you’re right. Well, thanks for that, Tony. Well done, as always. Do you think that we’re in any danger?”
“No, boss, it was just the Micks, er, sorry, boss, the Irish, having a turf war. Nothing to do with us. I’ve brought a couple of extra hands in though, just to be sure”.
“Good. Have you eaten yet?” he asked motioning to a chair.
“No, but there’ll be something waiting for me in the office when I get back. Thanks”.
“If you’re sure, Tony. You’re always welcome, you know that. OK, up to you, don’t let me keep you from your grub. I’ll see you later on my rounds”. John liked to walk around the gardens near the house twice before going to bed as part of his exercise regimen.
John Baltimore had first moved to Marbella twenty years before when he was forty-five, but it was only on a part-time basis, although his periods of stay gradually lengthened. He hadn’t fled there as many had before him, but he had made and inherited enough money to make him think that it was probably a good idea to get out of the UK before people, meaning the police, the Inland Revenue and the press started asking questions. If enough stones were overturned, something would eventually lead to him, so he had emigrated, although both he and his father before him had had property in Andalucía for decades.
The press had dubbed the coast of the province of Malaga, the Costa del Crime, but there was more truth to that than most people, meaning the general British public, knew. It was quite an apt description as far as concerned a sizeable British minority in the area. Many of the British Mafia had moved to the Costa del Sol with the intention of giving up their old life of crime, but became bored and went back to it. Some simply ran their old operations in Britain remotely, and others tried to muscle in on the local community, which the Spanish and others resisted. It often led to violence; sometimes the Brits won, and sometimes they didn’t.
John had given up everything in Britain, but had a string of profitable businesses in Spain, which he was gradually losing interest in, although, being a workaholic and not having an heir or even a wife any longer, he had to just keep going. He had been married three times and had had many affairs. Some of his lovers had claimed to be bearing his child, but he had never accepted responsibility, because he had expected to have a legitimate heir one day. However, that day had never come and, at his age, he had given up hope that it ever would long ago.
He had plans to make Teresa comfortable for life, as he had his ‘real’ wives, and he was toying with the idea of leaving the rest to a charity for women who had fallen on hard times. He and his father had had a hand in putting many women in that predicament, so it only seemed fair.
John’s father, after whom he had been named, although his father had originally been called Sean, had been sent by his mother to London from Dublin to prevent him from becoming involved in an uprising proposed by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, rumours about which had started to spread amongst people in the know from late 1914. They planned to take advantage of Britain’s heavy involvement in the First World War, and Germany had offered them weapons if they could organise some sort of a revolt. She had become frightened for his safety after a friend told her that John was becoming serious about joining ‘The Cause’ – to reunite Ireland and rid it of Westminster’s influence.
He had been a petty criminal in London’s East End in the first year of the First World War, but had lived in a room in a house where female Belgian refugees had been billeted. There were hundreds of thousands of Belgian refugees in the UK, most of whom were women and children. He had noticed that many of them had to go on the game to support themselves, so he had shrewdly borrowed enough money from a loan shark to rent a house, which he had used as a brothel. He had ten young Belgian women and girls living and working there around the clock within a week, and had a dozen such ‘businesses’ within a year. Within five years, he had owned the houses outright.
The first thing that he had done when he started to make money was call his younger brothers over to help him run his new, increasingly complicated affairs.
He was a millionaire before he was thirty, which he was particularly proud of, since he had arrived in London in 1914 with less than a pound to his name.
John junior was the product of one of the many liaisons with one of the working girls, but not one with the man he had called father, his adoptive father, because his own parents had been killed by his own family in two separate gun fights. John senior had adopted John junior, because he was ashamed of what his brother had done, and of how his offspring had wreaked their revenge. It was also rumoured that a low sperm count ran in the family and John junior had always thought that he followed in the tradition of his male antecedents.
Two months later, after another session of lovemaking, but before John drifted off to sleep, Teresa whispered in her boss’s ear:
“Johnny, my darling hero, you are going to become a father...”
“Eh? What are you talking about, Teri? I can’t have children... I’ve never had any and I’m certainly too old now! Anyway, you told me that you had passed through the menopause, so you can’t have any either”.
“That is what I thought, so this baby is a gift from God for us, Johnny...”
“A bloody miracle, if it’s true. Have you been to see a doctor yet?”
“No, not yet, but a woman knows these things; she doesn’t need a doctor to tell her”.
“Maybe not, but a man does, so you go and find out for sure tomorrow, my girl”.
“But what if it is true, Johnny, what will you say then?”
“It simply can’t be true. I cannot, and you cannot have a baby!”
“But, what if it is true?”
“Rubbish, it can’t be. You’ve got wind... or you’re putting on weight. That’s what it is, you’ve put on weight”.
“No, Johnny, our baby is only the size of a peanut! I am not bigger because of that. In fact, I am the same weight as always: fifty-two kilos, but I am with child. Impossible as it may seem, I am pregnant. I remember the feeling from before, but I will check with the doctor tomorrow”.
“Good! You do that and you will see that I am right”.
Seconds later, he was asleep and Teresa was going about the business of ensuring her beloved’s comfort.
When John heard the news that he was to be the father of a child before the year was out, he didn’t know how to react. It all seemed to be happening so fast, but he was secretly overjoyed, although the hard man in him won over, so he insisted on a DNA test. When the amniocentesis test at ten weeks proved him to be a parent, he offered to marry Teresa, but was disappointed when she seemed reluctant.
“I thought you would have liked to marry me, Teri”, he said.
“I would have,” she admitted dolefully “but not just because I’m carrying your baby. I would have liked you to ask me to marry you because you love me”.
“But I do love you, Teri, you know that. I’m just not very good at saying things like that, but I thought you knew it”.
“A woman likes to hear it as well, Johnny...”
“I suppose a man does as well, my dear, I will admit to you that I do, ‘though if you ever tell anyone I said it, I’ll deny it”.
“You silly macho men”, she mocked him gently as she lay in the crook of his arm. “You want to hear it, but you don’t want to give the same pleasure to the people you love. That is selfish, is it not?”
He didn’t answer for several minutes, but Teresa was willing to wait.
“Yes, I suppose it is”, he finally admitted. “I am so sorry that I have not told you before that I love you. I have never said it to anyone in my whole life, except perhaps to my mother. I don’t remember. Have I ever told you about her?
“Her name was Fleur and she came from Belgium, but we won’t talk about her any more for now. Will you, please, marry me, Teri? It will make me the happiest man in the world, and I know that that sounds corny, but I am a man of action, not words... I think you know that already too”.
“It does not sound corny, Johnny, they are beautiful words…” Her eyes filled with tears. “I will marry you, Johnny. I have always loved you, but I want you to promise me that you will look after our child. I don’t care about myself, but our baby must be taken care of, or it would be better if I left now”.
“My dearest Teresa, if you will only marry me, our baby, boy or girl, will inherit everything that I own”.
“In that case, Johnny, I accept. I will marry you”.
John wanted the marriage ceremony to take place within a week, but Teresa insisted on planning and doing everything properly, except that she did not ask John to convert to Catholicism and she didn’t ask that the baby be brought up a Catholic either.
At fourteen weeks, after the huge wedding, Teresa told John that they were expecting a girl. She was worried that John might be disappointed, but she couldn’t detect any sign of it.
John, for his part, thought that he should have been disappointed, but was surprised to find that he wasn’t.
“What name should we give her?” asked Teresa one morning in bed.
“Could we call her Daisy?” he asked.
“Of course”, she mused. “Daisy... Margarita in Spanish... a pearl... a hidden gem. It is the perfect name for our daughter, our gift from God, who should never have been”.
2 DAISY’S EARLY LIFE
Teresa’s pregnancy, her third, though the others had terminated prematurely, was straight forward, although she was naturally anxious because of her past. John was aware of this and provided a private nurse for her and a second car, so that the gardener could take her to hospital, if he or Tony were not at home. However, all went well, and Daisy was born at home on December 14th, a sunny afternoon, with the assistance of a midwife who was provided by the family’s insurance company. It was a trouble-free birth and John gleamed with pride at the sight of his beautiful wife holding their beautiful baby.
John had never been one for photographs, but within a week he had hundreds of them. He showed them to his friends and acquaintances, and when they said that she had his nose or eyes, he was as proud as punch, although he couldn’t see it himself. To him, she was the spitting image of his darling Teresa, and he would not have wanted it any other way. He never took her outside the gates, but he liked to stroll around the garden with her in her pram, describing the flowers and the birds to her, when he was certain that nobody could hear him. He had melted Teresa’s heart one morning when she was popping in to see Daisy and saw John singing ‘Ba, Ba, Black Sheep’ to her. He had flushed red with embarrassment when he saw her listening, and she had never seen him do it again.
The garden walks had stopped taking place shortly afterwards, and that had an effect on Teresa as well, because John was not used to socialising without a partner and so wanted his wife to accompany him, which meant that they needed a nanny. Although, it was not what Teresa wanted, she felt that she had to comply, because John had been so kind to her.
The periods of time that baby Daisy was left with her nanny, Lisa, grew longer and more frequent, until the baby showed more affection towards Lisa than her mother. It broke Teresa’s heart, but there was nothing she could do about it. Around about this time, Tony, noticed that little Daisy was often alone in her playpen in the garden, so he began to stop by to amuse her. He didn’t have a problem with anyone seeing him or thinking him a fool and liked children, always having regretted not having any of his own. Daisy took to him too and they became firm friends.
John was absent from home ever more often, although his office was there, but not knowing any different, it didn’t bother him. It was how he had been brought up.
As a toddler, she proved to be a quick on the uptake, learning Spanish and English at roughly the same speed. Teresa used this opportunity to improve her own command of English, which until then had been reasonably average for the area and her background. It was to stand her in good stead in later years and improved her relationship with her daughter.
Despite that, however, Daisy grew up more or less alone, or, more accurately, with the servants. She lived in the same villa as her parents, but John was used to being single and was too long in the tooth to change. He liked to go out for drinks and meals in the evening and he expected his wife to accompany him as his friends’ wives accompanied them, despite the fact that this usually resulted in the women sitting at one end of the table and the men at the other after the meal was over.
By the time they got home, more often than not, little Daisy had already been tucked up in bed by her nanny and gone to sleep while being read a story. To be fair, Daisy’s nanny could not have loved her more if she were her own, and Daisy’s mother did her best to make up for her regular absences because she never stopped feeling guilty about them, but she was now confident that Daisy’s future was secure and that was what she cared about more than anything.
Daisy would never have to do what she had had to do to secure a future for herself and her children when she had them one day.
Daisy followed the path of many children of wealthy parents. In her early years, it ranged from being spoiled by guilty parents to being neglected by them again the same day; then, when she reached five years of age, she was put in pre-school, where teachers attempted to replace the children’s parents and nannies. Everyone was well-meaning, but it only resulted in more confusion, isolation and loneliness for the children concerned, including Daisy.
She was growing up a little cold-hearted; a loner who didn’t look for friendship or company. That didn’t stop other children trying to befriend her, but none of them got close to her. She had no idea what a best friend was.
School was just more of the same, although Daisy did seem to excel at it. If the truth were known, it was because she was trying to get her father’s approbation. She was more certain of her mother’s, who did spend some amount of time with her when she didn’t have to fulfil her ‘duties’ to John’s social life.
It was at this stage in her life, in junior school, that she first started to hear about her father’s exploits and reputation as a ‘hard man’. Some even went so far as to describe him as ‘merciless’ or a ‘cold-blooded killer’. However, these descriptions of her father did not make her question his character, they only served to enhance his hero status in her young mind. After all, didn’t her mother consider, and frequently call, him ‘her hero’?
She never spoke of her feelings on the frequent occasions when people spoke badly of her father, but neither did she respond when people spoke of him in awe, although inwardly, she was glowing with pride for the person she was learning more about from others than she was firsthand from him.
She was taught in English and Spanish at the same school and was completely fluent in both. She mixed just as easily with the rich and poor Spanish kids as she did with rich Brits. She never met any poor British people, so, until she went to boarding school in Britain at sixteen to do her ‘A’ Levels, she had no idea that they existed. In that respect, she was like a lot of Spanish children.
Her parents took her to London to start boarding school, but when they left her there, her mother in tears, she found that it was the man she called Uncle Tony, the head of security for her father that she missed the most. The nannies had come and gone, just as her teachers at school, but Tony had always been there, which was more than she could say for her parents. He had taught her to ride a bicycle with support wheels, and it was he who took them off and caught her when she toppled over. He had also taught her to swim, climb trees, kick and throw a ball and even the rudiments of boxing and karate. She had fond memories of watching rugby with him on the television and enjoyed seeing him get excited when England scored points or played especially well.
Several times, she almost shed a tear for those happy days, which she knew were probably gone forever.
It was in boarding school and university, where she studied Business and Economics at the LSE, that she developed the thick skin of a rhino and the cunning of a fox. She had always had the uncanny ability to remember every word that anyone had ever said about her, her family, and especially her father. She was also in the habit of writing it all down in diaries, and had been doing so for a decade, but it was only a way of committing it to memory. She had discovered in her childhood, that once she had written something down longhand, she never forgot it.
For something to do outside of school, and then university, she took lessons in mixed martial arts. She was adept at full contact Kyokushinkai Karate and had studied Aikido and boxing by the time she had left school.
John and Teresa felt like the proudest parents on the planet when they went to London to watch their daughter receive her first-class honours degree. They celebrated at the Ritz directly afterwards with friends and then at friends’ of Daisy’s in the evening. It was a perfect day, and perhaps the only one for ten or fifteen years when Daisy had felt of worth to both her parents at the same time.
John and Teresa offered her a round-the-world, first-class flight ticket as a reward for her achievement, and had a brand new Porche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet in the garage in Spain as a surprise, but to their amazement, Daisy declined the ticket.
“I’d rather just fly back to Malaga with you, if it’s all the same”, she said. “I want to contribute something to the family business. There will be plenty of time for flying around the world later. I want to work in the family firm with you, Dad”.
Dad, at eighty-six, wasn’t sure what to make of that, but felt a warm glow in his heart. He put his arm around his daughter and squeezed her. It was a rare moment of togetherness for both of them.
As an alternative to the round-the-world flight, Daisy’s parents treated her to a £5,000 shopping spree in the heart of London. John made his normal excuse of a bad back for not accompanying his wife and daughter, but they knew that he didn’t like shopping anyway and went alone. They had a whale of a time and paraded their new outfits in front of him on their return. He feigned interest, but again, they both knew him too well to expect any enthusiasm about fashion from him.
Worried about the British press, John decided that it would be safer for him to head back to Spain the following day and his small family were all too pleased to go with him. He had been away so long that Britain, and not even London, felt like home any longer. Teresa liked London, but only for the shopping and Daisy was keen to begin her new life. She felt older, more responsible, and more able to get to know her parents on a higher level than was possible when she had been a child.
“Don’t you have a boyfriend or someone special that you would like to say ‘Goodbye’ to?” asked her mother.
“No”, she replied rather shyly, but she wasn’t being coy because she did have a boyfriend, it was just that she was acutely aware that people expected a beautiful young woman like her to have one, but she did not. Teresa didn’t believe her, but let it drop. The fact was there had been scores of boys and men after her in the five years that she had been away, but she had not been able to get emotionally close to any of them.
She had tried in the first year, really tried, but she did not enjoy kissing, especially French style, and she didn’t like being groped or being expected to please boys. She had made love three times with two different partners, but she hadn’t enjoyed the experiences. After that she had given up, and used the excuse of a fictitious fiancé in Spain to keep her pride. She hadn’t even had girlfriends who were close enough to have noticed that they had never met her fiancé, whom she called Dick, because it made her laugh.
She had come to the conclusion that she was asexual, but knew deep down that that was not true either. She did fancy boys, not girls, but she didn’t like them, or at least none of the ones she had met so far and she had to admit that that was quite a few in university.
However, in order to throw her mother off the scent, she went out on her own for a few hours that night, but it was only to see a film and have a burger.
The three of them, especially Daisy, were happy to fly back home to Spain the following afternoon.
3 THE APPRENTICESHIP
On the Sunday afternoon after their return, Daisy said to her father after lunch, “Dad, I am ready to help you in any way you want to use me. I want to be your right-hand man, girl, or, er, woman, whichever you care to think of me as. I think that our affairs are best kept within the family, so, if you like, I will take over Tony’s job as your deputy from tomorrow”.
She had expected, or at least hoped for another hug from her hero for that declaration of loyalty, but she was disappointed again, not that she had let such things show on her pretty face for many years.
“Tony has been with me for thirty-odd years… You can’t just step into his shoes like that, my dear… and anyway, what on Earth would your mother say? Tony has a dangerous job. I can’t put you in his position…”
She was heartbroken, but only she knew it.
“I just want to help, Dad. I want to play my part in the organisation you have set up and that has paid for our lifestyles… mine and Mum’s”.
“That is very sweet of you, Daisy, but I don’t see how you can… I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Give me a couple of days to think about it and I will get back to you with a position in our family business. Is that OK?”
“I promise, chicken, by the end of the week”.
She loved it when he called her ‘chicken’, and kissed him on the cheek.
“You run along now and let me think about it”, he said
John was proud of his daughter and the way that she hero-worshipped him, but he was worried that the hero-worshipping would not stand up to much scrutiny, if he allowed Daisy to know too much about his business interests. So, he tried to keep her at arm’s length by giving her a job, which only had connections with the legal face of his financial affairs.
“Daisy, I have found the perfect job for you”, he said to her one day. “We are going to convert your study into a proper, prestigious office and you can keep tabs on the finances. You will be the firm’s bookkeeper... or accountant, when you are completely up to speed with the financial laws in this country. I know that you’ve studied all that with regard to the UK, but Spain is slightly different, so you are going to have to get your head around that now”. He was hoping that by piling this extra load onto her, she would not have the time to study his affairs.
“You want me to be a clerk? After spending all that time studying - sixteen years or more - I will become an apprentice bookkeeper?”
It was clear that he had offended and disappointed her, and that sidelining her was not going to be as easy as he had hoped. It was a problem that he had not foreseen.
“You have to start somewhere, chicken, and that cannot be at the top. Everyone has to earn his or her place in an organisation by starting near the bottom... And you won’t be right at the bottom. Every firm needs good accountants, or the government and some employees will skin you alive.
“Your job will be to stop our firm from leaking money”. He was thinking on his feet now, which he was good at. “You will have to analyse each aspect of our business and match it to its financial results. Then you will be able to suggest improvements to how we do things. You know, I am getting old, and I can no longer have my fingers on the pulses of all our operations like I used to.
“That is why I need you. A trusted, intelligent and well educated member of the family... a younger person who has stamina and a zest for getting the job done properly. There is no-one else who fits that bill, is there?”
She stared into his eyes to judge whether he was scamming her, but had to agree that there was no-one else to fulfil that function. “I know you’re flannelling me, Dad, but it’s hard to argue with you, so I’ll do what you want me to, but I am determined to have a real job, not some silly excuse that you’ve made up for me. I am serious about wanting to make a real contribution to our business. I want to put something back. Do we understand one another?”
“Yes, darling, but you must understand this too: it will take a little time to bed you into this new rôle. It is not so much a new job, I used to check up on all my businesses as a matter of course every day or week as the circumstances dictated, but I have let it slide, so I want you to pick up from where I left off. However, it is a new rôle for you and it will take some time to teach it to you.
“Do you understand that?”
“Yes, Dad, when do I start? I can’t wait to be working with you”.