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Authors: Julian Page

Blood Money

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Blood Money
One man risks everything to stop a Megalomaniac City Banker and his Psychopathic Bodyguard.

Julian Page

Copyright © 2014 Julian Page

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

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Background

In Greek mythology, the God Uranus was ruler of the universe.

Kronos was the youngest and most ambitious of the Titans(the twelve children of Uranus).

He was envious of his father's power and proved to be the only one brave enough to castrate and then kill him, thus becoming ruler of the universe himself.

Fearing that he in turn would one day be overthrown by one of his own offspring; Kronos retained power for as long as he could by devouring each of the children he fathered.

Eventually Kronos's sixth child, Zeus, survived his father's murderous nature by trickery.

As punishment, the wicked Kronos was imprisoned for eternity.

Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

1
Monday 25th April

Two smartly suited men step aboard a black, VIP-configured Eurocopter, its five rotor blades already spinning in readiness for take-off. The whitewashed walls of the heliport building have just begun to glow warm orange from the strengthening light of the early morning Mediterranean sun.

Eddie Slater is just over 6ft tall; he has broad, muscular shoulders and a washboard stomach that you could bounce bricks off. The tailored clothing he is wearing struggles to hide the shape of his lean muscular frame and though he left the British Army some eight years ago he still keeps up an obsessive physical training regime. His granite-like jaw, broken nose and ice-cold stare give him the menacing appearance of a thug who could hand out a beating in a cage-fight. And yet he's a quiet man, indeed on the outside he often appears to have little intellect or emotion. But on the inside he's a man whose head is constantly alive with dark thoughts.

Eddie is an unnerving individual, a man in a perpetual struggle to stay in control of the malevolent, violent urges that boil deep within his mind.

He's accompanying a short, darkly tanned businessman with a waistline fat from gourmet dining and an excessive appreciation of vintage wines. In total contrast, Alexis Vasilakos does his very best to abstain from any form of physical exercise and on the rare occasions he expends any muscular effort his extremely hairy and corpulent body sweats profusely. And while Eddie's mind is cruel and cold, his boss's head is filled with deviousness and deviancy. Whereas Eddie never talks about himself, his boss is willing to tell anyone and everyone (whether they wish to hear it or not) about himself in the most flattering of terms imaginable. Vasilakos is a man of staggering conceit, unshakeably assured of his superiority over anyone else who exists on the surface of the planet.

With both men inside the chopper, the door is slid forward and slammed shut and moments later the helicopter pilot indicates with a cursory thumbs-up that he's ready for to take-off. The power from the two turboshaft engines builds, driving the rotors to spin inexorably faster. Now he increases the collective pitch until the Eurocopter breaks contact with the concrete helipad. Rising slowly at first until all the surrounding buildings are cleared the craft begins to move quickly and gracefully. Banking left, they leave behind the exclusive district of Fontvieille on the southern tip of Monaco with its iconic Louis II Football Stadium, its harbour crammed with luxury yachts and its tightly packed high-rise residences.

The Cote d`Azur (the ‘Blue Coast') below them has a shoreline defined by craggy cliffs hewn by wind and wave from the red volcanic rock. The clear water is deep blue apart from weed-free patches of sand on the sea floor which cause the sunlight to reflect upward as iridescent turquoise. The bone-dry land is covered in low coastal shrub, acacia and occasional clusters of umbrella pines. Eddie surveys the vista quietly whilst his employer studies a collection of financial reports, indifferent to the beautiful coastline rushing past below them.

They're on their usual Monday morning commute from Monaco to the City of London and Eddie's role is to provide his Greek boss with all the security measures necessary for his boss's particular style of money-making activities.

Its lucky Eddie Slater isn't interested in having a social life because being Alexis's bodyguard is a full time occupation.

As well as providing ‘close protection services', he's required to be skilled in covert surveillance, intimidation and much, much more. And despite being in the relatively secure environment of the Eurocopter, Eddie's sharp eyes remain constantly vigilant for anything that might yet threaten his employer.

His boss of the last six years is the ultra rich Athens-born Alexis Vasilakos, the Fund Manager and founder of Kronos Capital Management. His current net-worth of some $225 million makes him one of the 1,000 richest people in Europe and after yet another inexplicable record-breaking year of profit he continues to dumbfound all of his hedge fund rivals.

Monaco has long been a location of choice for the rich and famous. Wealthy foreigners make up the vast majority of the Monégasque population for whom the absence of income tax is its main attraction. And it's this very persuasive reason why thirty thousand very rich people now over-populate this tiny country of just 0.75 square miles.

Because of strict residency rules, Alexis is forced to stay in Monaco for four nights a week, but don't worry…it's no hardship when you appreciate the ‘upsides', like the national drink being champagne, like the ‘wonderful' weather and like the fact that bad restaurants are simply unheard of. And although living here saves him vast amounts of money on tax it does necessitate commuting over to London every Monday morning only to return again every Thursday afternoon.

As you might already realise, Monaco's definitely not a place for general members of the public, primarily for the reason that it's the most expensive place to buy property in the world. And you‘d be surprised at how small the apartments actually are, 3 rooms, perhaps 4 rooms if you're lucky (yes, that's rooms not bedrooms). There's simply not enough space for more than a few larger residences. And should you aspire to anything more than the norm the prices become truly colossal. However, value for money is of little consequence for the people who live here, and that includes Alexis, because the outrageous living costs are massively offset by the magnitude of one's tax avoidance.

And it can't be stressed enough how strongly Alexis feels about avoiding taxation. He sees it as his inalienable right that none of his ‘compensation package' (which exceeds £50m per annum by the way), is wrested away from him by the state. The mere thought of government officials frittering away a single penny of his ill-gained wealth to prop-up a bloated and inefficient public sector makes him feel physically sick.

Compared to England, his home country of Greece is poor, but its people (not perhaps by his own spectacular standards) are rich. The black-market economy thrives in Greece as does its insidious corruption. Individuals expect to be paid ‘cash-in-hand' and company balance sheets declare only a fraction of their true sales turnover. At every level from politicians to police and from tradesmen to tax inspectors, nearly everyone who can do so will solicit bribes under the guise of ‘administration fees' or for ‘fast-tracking of services'. Tax evasion has grown to become a national obsession and inevitably this has helped bring the Greek Nation to the brink of insolvency.

Having a bodyguard started as something of a status symbol for Alexis Vasilakos, -just another way for him to flatter his already over-inflated ego. But as he began making (and occasionally losing) fortunes for a range of increasingly disreputable people, a bodyguard started to become something of a necessity. He rationalised that if he was going to swim with the sharks he'd better do so whilst being protected by a steel cage. In fact, some of his current investors are proving to be just as ruthless and devoid of moral scruple as he is.

His first bodyguard had proven to be an unprofessional muscle bound Neanderthal. Blunt force, clumsiness and indiscretion have no place around Alexis. Eddie wasn't perfect but he had demonstrated time and again that he could be trusted. Despite being a control freak in all other aspects of his life Alexis has long since learnt that matters of security need to be delegated to a specialist, someone who can keep his own exposure to risk within manageable levels.

For much of the time his shaven headed bodyguard is a model of professionalism and though he's a heavy smoker Eddie Slater rarely drinks alcohol nor does he ‘do' drugs. That's not to say he doesn't suffer from an extremely destructive addiction. Slater himself knows it's not normal to yearn so intensely for opportunities to unleash violence and cruelty. He knows it's not normal to be wholly disinterested in companionship or love. And it's worrying for him that the more people he kills the more he wants to kill.

In less than seven minutes the luxury helicopter finds itself touching-down at Cote D'Azur Airport in Nice. Having made all of the necessary arrangements the night before for the outward flight, the ground-crew of Alexis's Cessna Citation already have it fully prepared for take-off. A private jet is an essential tool for a multi-millionaire businessman. Many years have passed since Alexis last had to experience the inconvenience and frequent delays that plague commercial flights. Even executive lounges and first class service are insufficient compensation for the shear amount of time it takes an airline to get you to your chosen destination. The Citation X makes the commute to and from The City as painless as possible and at the same time it serves as yet another status symbol to be bragged about.

Within minutes Alexis and Eddie have made the transition from the Eurocopter to the Citation and the pilot and co-pilot are given the necessary take-off clearances from French air traffic control.

The two suited passengers strap themselves into their densely pillowed reclining seats and allow the delightfully pretty, long-legged female flight attendant to take their breakfast orders. Once in the air, they climb rapidly to a cruising altitude of 36,000ft, and speed northwards across France at over 600 miles an hour.

The flight takes less than one and a half hours; so whilst breakfast is being prepared Eddie silently closes his eyes. Sinking into his comfortable white-leather recliner he endeavours to relax his mind, freeing it from its anxious state of alertness. His thoughts drift and he begins to reflect on his employer. For much of the time Alexis appears to be just another well heeled workaholic city banker, a rich financier full of his own self-importance and ambivalent to the daily struggles of the general populace.

But Eddie sees more of Alexis than do his other employees, so no one knows him better than himself. He sees him when his guarded public-face is lowered. He sees him when the full range of his private emotions are unveiled ranging from callous cruelty to deception, debauchery and devilry. The extremes of his capricious mood-swings reveal behaviours more appropriate to a power crazed crime-boss than a self-obsessed hedge fund manager who's become more than just a little bit detached from reality.

What is legal and what is not has largely become an irrelevancy for Alexis, a man so driven by voracious lust for profit that he not only bends the rules, he breaks them completely in order to seize each and every competitive advantage that he possibly can. It's his boss's very willingness to embrace illegal activities that makes this such a dream job for Eddie. Somehow, either by chance or by fate, he's found a very special employer, someone who is willing to pay him handsomely to act out his full range of psychopathic fantasises.

In the whisper-quiet couture styled cabin Alexis briefly sets down his financial reports and he too closes his eyes. His mind drifts onto his favourite subject (after money)…himself. Now forty six years old, born the younger of two sons into a privileged family he is now very close to fulfilling his desire of exceeding his father's enormous personal fortune. The old man had made his money as a Greek shipping magnate and thanks to a highly privileged (and spoilt) upbringing, Alexis naturally believes wealth and status to be his birthright.

His mountainous homeland whilst poor in natural resources has an extended coastline with hundreds of islands. And it's this feature that has long since made shipping the most important industry for the Greek nation. The ancient sea lanes around the Mediterranean and Black Sea had been used as a trading crossroads for the very earliest European civilisations, and then as the centuries passed, the Greek shipping fleets expanded to reach out across each and every one of the world's oceans.

The Vasilakos ‘family home' is in Piraeus, a port city now enveloped within Greater Athens itself. Its the central hub for most of the nations shipping trade and the majority of Greece's ship-owners base their commercial operations there. His proper name is Alexandros. However, like many Greeks whose names are long and difficult for outsiders to pronounce he chooses to use a diminutive version. Tradition dictated that his elder brother Andreas was the one destined to take over the business from his father, even though he clearly lacked the business brains for it. And it was during some particularly petulant teenage years that Alexis decided to turn his back on his father's shipping interests. After all, what was the point in working for the family business if he himself would never get to control it? He resolved to strike out on his own and make such a success of himself that one day he would outshine everything his father had ever achieved, and then some.

Growing up in Athens, he'd attended a very well regarded English-speaking school, and then at 18 he did his period of conscription in the Greek military, which still to this day is mandatory for rich and poor alike. Supposedly it is there to help young Greek men ‘fly the nest', to learn teamwork and responsibility. But for Alexis, the army taught him how to exploit others and showed him how money could be used to avoid both duty and danger. Being rich, he'd been able to spend most of his time sitting in an office whilst engaging in the institutionalised bullying that pervades military life.

Once his short period of conscription was over, he took a generous allowance from his father and joined the London School of Economics to read Banking and Finance. His parents had of course wanted him to attend either Oxford or Cambridge and they condemned his unorthodox choice as rebellious and foolish. But Alexis had never been a fool. In fact, he'd a very clear ‘endgame' in mind. He was aiming high, intent on making his fortune within the Square Mile. Now, more than twenty five years on, he's succeeded in proving all his doubters and critics wrong. In some respects, he'd had his fair slice of luck. On occasions he'd been the right man in the right place at the right time.

During the eighties everything in the City of London had been changing. It was the ‘Thatcher Era' and greed was proclaimed to be good. Free-market economics were encouraged, public ownership waned and share ownership boomed. The old school tie network was swept aside during the wide ranging changes that occurred in 1986 known as ‘Big Bang' and graduates from the LSE became highly sought after by modernising City banks.

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