PROLOGUE - DOWN IN A HOLE
The black and chrome Bugatti Veyron flew around the corner and blasted around the hillside. The powerful engine roared as the car accelerated through a straight section of road and braked hard for the coming switch back corner. The trees blurred by and mountain air whistled through the car's open windows. Daniel Locke sat behind the wheel humming quietly as the car drifted around a long sweeping curve. The wind ruffled his short brown hair and threatened to tear the sunglasses from his face as he sped along his own private road. He drove the car like an artist, flinging it skilfully through the apex of each corner and accelerating through the straightaways. As he drove, the roadside to his right gave away to a gentle treed slope leading up to a majestic sight. At the top of the hill was a modern day castle.
The impressive stonework of the castle towered over the sprawling valley below. The flowing rooflines and tall stone towers were majestic but simple. Large stained glass windows fronted the main building and stone balconies dotted the walls here and there. The ancient looking castle was also a modern marvel of technology. It had sealed LED stained glass windows that were capable of changing colors at a whim and a thermal heating and cooling system that ran deep into the earth. The castle even had its own state of the art hydroelectric plant. Large tubular wave catchers lay submerged just off the coast. The wave catchers captured the crushing power of the pacific oceans surf as it battered the Californian coastline.
The Bugatti slid to a stop at the crest of the hill as the castle grounds came into sight again. The tall peaks and towers stood silhouetted in the fading light of the setting sun. He paused a moment to take in the beautiful scenery. Daniel breathed in deeply, smelling and tasting the bite of fresh salty ocean air.
This was all for his family. This was a way to bring them all closer. The last few years had been hard on his family. His wife, Jolie, was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago and his son Daniel junior was getting ready to tour Europe after his boarding school graduation ceremonies next week. Daniel was still trying to convince his son to spend his year off at home instead of abroad.
Daniel Locke looked back down the slope of the hill, to the road that snaked down into the valley. The road was calling him again. His pulse started to race and his breathing quickened in anticipation. He looked back to the castle with the ocean backing it, as the sun burned low over the horizon. With a quick turn of the steering wheel and a blip of the throttle, the Veyron's rear-end whipped around 180 degrees. He was just about to start the valley descent again when his cell phone rang. He touched the Bluetooth button to answer.
"Hello?" Daniel said.
"Daniel Thomas Locke you better not be turning that toy of yours around again for another run."
It was his wife, Jolie.
"No love I," he began to say.
"You have people waiting for you in the grand room. You can't ignore them again Daniel," she said, her tone smooth and strong.
"Yes love," he began again. His wife had a knack for interrupting.
"Oh, before I forget, Hank called up from the orchard. He said something about his tractor acting funny. He wanted you to stop by before it gets too dark."
"Thank you Jolie. I'll be right up," he looked down the hillside again, at the thick forest below and the orchard off in the distance. He felt a slight tugging sensation in his chest. Hank was a good friend and his closest neighbour, actually his only neighbour in the whole valley. If the old man had asked for help, it was probably for a good reason.
"Actually on second thought," he told Jolie. "Have a couple bottles of wine sent up to the geek squad in the grand room and let them know I'll be right up after I help Hank."
"Daniel..." she said, but her tone was soft and breathy.
He laughed at his wife and smiled wide.
"See ya soon love," he said and clicked off the phone.
The team of engineers and scientists he had working on the hydro plant could wait a little while longer. After all, old Hank needed his help.