Major John Graham glanced at the clock as his appointment entered his office. Punctuality truly was the politeness of princes, it seemed. He stood and watched the young man cross the short distance to his desk. Everything was correct, of course, his valet would be fired if it weren’t, but Graham noted the telltale signs that the correctness had not come easily this morning.
He accepted the salute and offered Lieutenant Victor a chair. His secretary brought in tea and Graham watched his new officer’s hands closely. They didn’t shake, he was pleased to see, but they were tight on the saucer, not really comfortable.
Over the next fifteen minutes or so, Graham assessed his new officer. He was intelligent, athletic, and quiet -- all good signs in an intelligence analyst or operative. On the other hand, there was a file on his desk that held every gossip column mentioning Prince William for the past two years and a separate report confirming or refuting every item. Unfortunately, confirmed was more often the case than refuted.
Their pleasant tea at an end, Graham showed Lieutenant Victor to his desk and asked one of the secretaries to answer any questions he might have regarding how the office was run. He went back to his office and perused the file again.
It was nearly a month before Lieutenant Victor requested a meeting with his commanding officer. Graham set the appointment for the end of the day and did his best to give little psychic nudges to get the others out the door. It wouldn’t do for anyone to overhear.
There was a knock at the appointed hour, and Graham let him in. He got straight to the point, “Sir, I have noticed that most of the intelligence coming across my desk is very low level. There’s little to analyze. Why am I not being trusted with more?”
Graham took a moment to think through his answer. He didn’t want to lose the young Prince, but he also knew there was no way to prevaricate. “Would you care for a glass of whisky, Lieutenant?”
“Not at present.”
“Fair enough,” Graham said. “You’re quite right. You aren’t being trusted with top intelligence. Most of the typing pool has a higher security clearance than we’ve been able to grant you.”
“You have yet to say why.”
The Prince froze. “We are merely good friends.”
“Don’t fob me off with the kind of answer you’d give a reporter, Lieutenant. I am your commanding officer, even if you are my prince. Kiki Preston is not only your lover, but she is providing you with cocaine. We know that for certain. It is suspected that she also provides you with opiates, but we’ve never been able to confirm it.”
“I am an unmarried man.”
“Yes, sir, you are. Were you discreet in your liaison with her and Jorge Ferrara,” he saw the prince pale at the second name, “there would be no problem. But the fact that you are in a ménage makes blackmail possible. The fact that you regularly take drugs makes you unreliable, and that’s not even mentioning that cocaine is outlawed. As long as you take drugs, you will be analyzing only the lowest level of intelligence. As long as your private life is indiscreet, this office cannot take the chance with you.”
Prince William stood and Graham matched him. “Thank you, sir, for your candor.” When he next spoke, it was more man-to-man, “I mean that Major Graham. I don’t think anyone other than my nanny has ever been completely frank with me.” He saluted. Graham returned it and watched as the younger man left his office.
The invitation to Windsor Castle for a military dinner arrived less than a week later. Graham had his secretary rearrange his afternoon appointments and called an old friend personally to change the evening they were to meet for supper. He also arranged with his superiors to take two extra days. He would ensconce himself at Oakwood for a long weekend. It also gave him a chance to ask his mentors in the occult , both physical and intangible, for guidance with Prince William.
It was not his first time at Windsor or at court, certainly, but the dinner itself proved to be more intimate than he was used to -- sixteen people in one of the smaller dining rooms. The Equerry to His Majesty was there as was the Lord High Admiral. Several officers of lower ranks, all somehow connected directly to government or the Royal family were in attendance. Graham had met several before and was familiar with the reputations of most of the rest. The only other member of the Royal family at the meal was Prince Albert who had served in the Navy, but was no longer, strictly speaking, in the military.
The conversation was wide ranging. Several passing remarks helped Graham understand the context of certain recent intelligence, too. He glanced at Prince William who nodded to him before going back to his conversation.
The family at Oakwood were happy to see him, and he them. After the supper and the long conversation afterward with Prince William, he needed sleep. He also needed advice.
“Alix, are your cards handy?”
“It’s not like you, Gray. You usually want to take the other road.”
He said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
She peered at him and then went to get ready for a winter walk in the gardens. The day was clear with snow covering the ground. They promenaded carefully over the cleared paths, arm in arm.
Finally, Alix said, “There’s obviously something on your mind.”
“Yes. I don’t want to tell you until after the reading.”
“Afraid you’ll influence my interpretation?”
“Just so. But I also know that I need to have the issue clear in my head.”
“Well then, we’ll take one more turn around the garden and go inside.”
Once they’d warmed up by the fireplace with tea and sandwiches, Alix brought out her deck wrapped in heavy silk. She handed it to Gray who closed his eyes before shuffling and cutting the deck.
Alix chose the stack and began to layout a simple five card spread. She then turned over the card in the center. “The general theme of your question. The star. It’s symbolic of a time of peace and recovery.” She glanced at Graham who was keeping a strict poker face. Alix turned the card to the left. “The lovers, reversed. Something is seriously out of balance in a relationship.” She puzzled over it before turning the card to the right. “Two of cups. It usually indicates a strong future friendship.”
Graham glanced up at her sharply, but said nothing.
Alix turned over the bottom card. “Strength, but with what I’ve seen so far, I would say it’s either ebbing or needs shoring up somehow.” After a tight nod from Graham, she turned the final card. “Ace of Pentacles, which is a good result. It’s a new beginning, vitality. This entire lay points to a serious problem that needs the help of someone who could become a friend to get to a better place.”
Graham said, “I see.”
“Do you want John? He might be able to offer you advice. Or I am always willing to listen.”
He smiled, a bit wanly, and said, “In this case, the cards have been clarion clear. I don’t need advice because I have a charge it seems.”
She glanced at the cards in front of her. “Yes, I would say that you do.”
The official military driver dropped Graham and a good friend of his, Doctor Hamish MacLennan, at the entrance to Frogmore house. Servants took their baggage to an upper floor where three suites of rooms had been set up: one for Prince William, one for Graham, and one for Doctor MacLennan.
They headed down to tea where William met them. Graham introduced Doctor MacLennan and the Prince and they all sat down.
Doctor MacLennan began. “I can’t undertake to treat you, your highness, without knowing exactly what you’ve been taking and how long you’ve been taking it.”
“Sir is fine, Doctor.” He pulled a twist of paper out of each pocket. “The one in my right hand is cocaine. I’ve mostly used it late in the evening to keep going through the night whether for dancing or… intimacies. In my left, is morphine. I had regular injections after an injury and then found…”
“Once you’ve started taking it, the body becomes accustomed to it and cannot be without it,” Doctor MacLennan said. “How long?”
“Two years for the morphine rarely more than once a day.”
“Well, that’s a blessing at any rate, sir. Still, two years.” He shook his head. “And the cocaine?”
“Off and on since entering the Navy. It helped me with late or long watches. That was infrequent. Over the past year or so, it’s been nearly nightly.”
Graham had been following the conversation and asked, “I’m in the dark. What does it mean?”
“It means, that the Prince will be irritable, ill, and could dehydrate quickly. I’m going to call my office for supplies.”
“They can’t be delivered here,” Prince William said. “It would be linked to the family.”
Graham said, “Have them deliver it to Oakwood, Hamish. I’ll have Denny pick up the supplies from there. No one will know.”
“Thank you,” Prince William said quietly.
They waited for the doctor to leave the room before Graham said, “How much more of this do you have, sir?”
“About three days worth of the morphine. Less of the cocaine.”
Doctor MacLennan returned. “We’ll have to check, lad. Er, sir. I will give you smaller doses of the morphine next week to wean you off. You’ll still have a reaction once you come off of it completely, and that’s when the danger will hit. If you can make it through two weeks, and Graham and I will do our damnedest, sir, to make certain you do, then you’ll be on your way to recovery.”
“And the cocaine?” William asked.
“That’s what we’ll do the first week. Next week, we’ll start the weaning procedure. Then you’ll need two weeks of close supervision. I take it that’s why Graham is here, sir?”
“And then you’ll need another two to four weeks of recovery, building your health back, like after an illness. Well, inebriety is an illness, in my opinion. Lots of fresh air and exercise during those weeks.”
“Graham, can you be spared that long?”
“I have made arrangements. You’ll never be alone, sir. Either Doctor MacLennan or myself will be here, but there will be days when it’s just one or the other of us. Unless, sir, there’s someone else you trust?”
“I considered David, but he has been known to partake himself -- of cocaine at least -- on occasion. If Bertie weren’t married, I’d ask him to join our little band, but I don’t want to take him away from his family.”
“Perhaps we could enlist the Duke of York as an ally, sir?” Graham asked. “He wouldn’t need to be here regularly, but as someone who could help should Doctor MacLennan and myself need to be away at the same time, he could be invaluable.”
“Let me think about it.” He took a sip of his tea and reached for another sandwich.
Doctor MacLennan said, “And the servants?”
“Skeleton staff. Everyone here is trusted. My valet and Dunham, the butler, both know why I’m here. No one will speak of this. It is why I didn’t want you to bring a nurse, though.”
“In that case, sir,” Doctor MacLennan said, “I will need to speak to the cook. Beginning tomorrow, you will not be allowed coffee, tea, or alcohol while you’re recovering. You’ll need a lot of nourishing broth and simple foods while you leave these vices behind. And, sir, I would like you to sleep with the windows wide open and get as much early morning sunlight as you can. These things will all help your recovery.”
Graham said, “And, sir, Doctor MacLennan and I will need to search your rooms for any evidence of these drugs.”
“I’ve spoken to the butler, Mister Dunham.”
“It seems there was a nurse, military, who has helped in the past with the Prince of Wales when he’s been taken ill.”
“I see.” He thought for a moment. “Ask Dunham if I may speak with him, please.”
The first week Doctor MacLennan had Graham take Prince William on long walks or rides. After the first day, he learned to have a sweater in his pack to help counteract the chills which the Prince seemed prone to -- and which MacLennan had assured him, along with the melancholy, was a symptom of his body withdrawing from the cocaine. At the end of that time, Sergeant Isaaks joined them. He listened to Doctor MacLennan and asked if he could sleep in Prince William’s dressing room.
Once he was ensconced, Doctor MacLennan administered the last dose of morphine, about half of what the prince had been taking the week before.
Graham heard the vomiting when he came back from his pre-breakfast walk.
MacLennan was already at the table and at, Graham’s enquiring glance, said, “This level of sickness could last up to 72 hours. Isaaks will begin an IV to keep him from dehydrating, and I’ve added a simple anti-emetic.”
“I take it we won’t be riding today.”
MacLennan chuckled. “Not a chance. I would like you to sit with him on the sunniest part of the terrace, if he’s up to it later. If not, whenever he is up to it, that will be your first order of duty with him.”
“And after that?”
“Slowly get him physically fit again. Listen to him. Very often people turn to these drugs to assuage mental pain.”
“His highness seems to be mentally strong.”
“It has little to do with strength, really. We all have our moments or occasions of vulnerability. If one gets started on opioids during one of these moments, it’s more likely to be a long term addiction.”
Graham nodded. “Is there anything else I can do? If not, I’ll head into town today to review the work. I can be back tomorrow.”
“Take two days, and when you come back, bring gramophone records. ‘Music hath charms’ and all that. He should be over the worst of it by then and be up for reading and music.”
Graham ended up staying another month with Prince William. He went to Oakwood for Imbolc, which helped his peace of mind, and visited the office at least one day a week, leaving his highness with Sergeant Isaaks for company.
Sergeant Isaaks proved to be invaluable. He began the Prince’s physical rehabilitation slowly and gave Graham excellent advice. When he wasn’t directly needed, he went off on his own and, at his own insistence, took his evening meal with the servants, which allowed Graham and William time to speak frankly and intimately -- man to man, neither commander to subordinate, nor royalty to subject.
The cook made it her goal to tempt William’s appetite, once he wasn’t drinking beef tea or veal consommé as his main sustenance. And once he was fit enough, they started drilling together as if they were back in training. Several times, the Duke of York joined them for tea or supper and cheered up his brother. Graham found himself admiring the man’s thoughtfulness and discretion.
By the end of it, Graham was feeling refreshed from the hard exercise, good sleep, and fresh air. William had come along magnificently. His color was good; there was none of the underlying strain which Graham had noticed at their first meeting. Lieutenant Victor was a man who’d come through it all and found himself, and Graham’s only major regret was that he couldn’t share the peace and caring he found at Oakwood with either his friend or his Prince.
Within two weeks of their return to the office, Major Graham was able to recommend Lieutenant Victor for a higher clearance. He was gratified at how well William handled the extra responsibility and pleased at how well he handled the analysis, too.
Graham’s lunch at the Officer’s Club had been cancelled and a car had been sent for him. He was shown upstairs to a private room at the Café Royale. The Prince of Wales greeted him, and they sat down for a private lunch.
Toward the end of it, his royal highness said, “William has told me what you’ve done for him. Mother and Father both have noticed how much healthier he looks. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve told them it was my idea. Bertie tried to say something, of course, but I explained it would be better if no one thought his problem had gone outside the family.”
Graham took a sip of his coffee and said, “I see, sir. And Prince William?”
The Prince of Wales smiled charmingly. “He hasn’t been around recently. I thought you might suggest the same to him.”
Graham thought all the implications through as he poured himself a second cup. “Of course, sir. I’ll make certain Lieutenant Victor and I discuss it at our weekly meeting tomorrow.”
“You’re a good man, Major Graham. I hope we see you again soon at Windsor.”
“You’re too kind, sir.”
William had taken a little convincing. “I can’t believe David is taking the credit when it was all your doing, Graham.”
“No, sir, it was your doing. MacLennan, Isaaks, and I may have played our parts, but they were minor compared to the strength of will you displayed.”
“But, hang it, you should get something from all of this.”
“I have, sir. Your friendship.”
William was speechless for a moment, but then extended his hand. “You have that Graham. Always.”