“Emerald darling,” called her mother. “Em … lunch is ready.”
Emerald. Emerald. How she loved her name. It was both glamourous and absurd – like a film-star’s name or a comic book heroine. She hated it at first, especially when she started school – she hadn’t really thought about it before then – but although many of her classmates giggled and mocked her, she soon realised they were secretly jealous, wishing they too had a name like Emerald Lake and not Mary Johnson, Debbie Albright or Rose Beckingsworth . After a short while she didn’t mind being different – her background and her wealth (or rather her father’s wealth) could easily afford it.
She and her friend Tania skipped hand in hand across the perfectly manicured lawn, and up the marble steps into the perfectly manicured Georgian mansion – the family house on the banks of the River Thames near Pangbourne. It was the 24th November 2041, Emerald’s eleventh birthday, and that afternoon, in the spacious grounds of the estate, a lavish party was being thrown to celebrate it. Everyone would be there – her whole family, her family’s friends and her schoolfriends. She felt like Emerald Lake the film-star and loved every moment of the continuous attention she received.
During the following year her secure, loving and carefree world was turned upside down. Her mother died of a mysterious tropical disease after holidaying in Thailand and, just before her twelfth birthday, her father, Lord Lake, was killed when his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce exploded on the motorway as it sped towards London. Her twelfth birthday was a sad and confused time. She couldn’t understand why the mother she adored had been taken from her and why anyone would want to murder her father. It was on that day, sitting on the lawn, the lawn where only a year ago she had been so happy enjoying the best day of her life, that she made a decision. She turned to Tania.
“Tania,” she said. “Do you think Emerald Lake would be a good name for a detective or a spy?”
“It would be a perfect name.” said Tania.
“It’s decided then. Which one do you think? A detective or a spy?”
The two girls raced across the grass, up the steps and into the house. They slid across the polished wooden floors, bursting with excitement, into the drawing room. A fierce-looking older woman in a high-necked, black dress sat on the sofa reading a newspaper, her dyed blond hair as severe and frozen as the imperious expression on her face. A man, a few years younger, dressed formally in a dark suit, sat behind a desk pouring over a stack of papers and legal documents. Emerald ran up to him and flung her arms around his neck.
“Guess what?” she said. “Me and Tania are …
” “Tania and I …” interrupted her uncle harshly.
“Whatever,” she said, “ … ‘Tania and I’ … are going to be spies, Uncle Robert!”
NEXT: Chapter Five – ‘Threats’
Now we’ve briefly met Lincoln, Thaddeus and Emerald – we move forward to Mumbai where the assassination investigation of Sir Robert Maitland is under way. There are some shocking discoveries …