* * *
Skern went to Lucy Henryâ€™s house. His knock was answered by her maid, Anna.
â€œIâ€™m sorry sir, Miss Lucy is asleep,â€ she said. â€œCan I take a message?â€
â€œI think you might want to wake her for this,â€ Skern said. â€œShe wants to know.â€
â€œVery well. But she might be cross with you.â€
She led the man into the sitting room and lit one of the lamps there before disappearing upstairs once again. Lucy came down after some time. She wore a night dress buttoned up to her throat.
â€œOctavian, this is quite irregular,â€ she said.
She sat down on the corner of a chair.
â€œIâ€™m terribly sorry, my dear Lucy,â€ Skern said. â€œBut I felt this news could not wait. Unfortunately, Iâ€™ve come to know of the fate of your dear cousin.â€
â€œThe fate?â€ Lucy said. â€œWhatever do you mean?â€
â€œFirst, tell me, do you recognize this locket?â€
He handed her the locket heâ€™d found in London Bridge.
â€œI do not,â€ she said.
â€œTurn it over, if you would,â€ he said.
She did so.â€
â€œOh no!â€ she exclaimed. â€œWhat has happened?â€
â€œIâ€™m terribly sorry, Lucy,â€ he said. â€œThis is all that remains of your cousin.â€
â€œOh no. All that remains? Tell me all! Tell me all!â€
â€œI donâ€™t think thatâ€™s wise and also â€¦ you should probably not listen to the rumors coming from London Bridge.â€
â€œYou must tell me, Octavian! I will brace myself. Tell me.â€
â€œShe was found dead in the basement, in the hidden room of Johannes van der Wyck.â€
â€œThat cad! Tell me she didnâ€™t suffer, Octavian.â€
â€œIt seems as though it was a quick, painless death.â€
He hoped she wouldnâ€™t listen to the rumors.
â€œAt least it was a quick death,â€ Lucy said as she began to cry. â€œOh dear.â€
Skern tried to move to the woman to pull her close but she pushed him away.
â€œThank you,â€ she said. â€œThank you so much for telling me.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry I could not bring better news,â€ he said.
â€œI must mourn as I mourned for my own father six months ago.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry it could not be better news and I apologize again for disturbing you at this late hour.â€
â€œOf course, of course. No. Thank you so much.â€
â€œI promise I shall find out all that I can about this incident and report back to you. But please, I urge you, wait until you hear it from me.â€
â€œI will. Thank you. Thank you so much Octavian.â€
She gave him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek before she turned and went back up the stairs. Anna showed him to the door.
â€œOh, poor Miss Lucy,â€ Anna said. â€œPoor Miss Lucy. Thank you so much.â€
â€œTake care of her, Anna!â€ Skern said.
â€œThank you for your help.â€
The older woman kissed him on the cheek and saw him out.
He made his way to Deptford.
* * *
Hawksworth and Dr. Whitewood had left London Bridge heading south. Hawksworth led them to a tall, narrow building in Southwark and went to the second floor where he knocked upon one of the doors. The door was opened by Alfred Kent.
â€œWha?â€ the man muttered sleepily.
â€œKent!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œHawksworth â€¦ whatâ€™re you doinâ€™ here?â€
â€œKent, Iâ€™ve decided to come back to the acting business.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s â€¦ what time is it? Itâ€™s still dark out!â€
â€œItâ€™s half past four,â€ Dr. Whitewood said, consulting his large pocket watch.
â€œCâ€™mon!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œFour thirty in the â€¦ morning,â€ Kent said, stifling a yawn. â€œWell, thatâ€™s good. All right. Thank you. Come back tomorrow at eight.â€
â€œKent. Kent. Kent. Kent. Please. Listen to me. Listen.â€
â€œIâ€™ve got to be in the Globe. Iâ€™ve got to see it one last time. Please! Please just let me see it right now. Please.â€
â€œSee the Globe?â€
â€œYouâ€™ve got the keys. Youâ€™re the head actor. Please.â€
â€œWill you let me in?â€
â€œJust give me the keys. Iâ€™ll be there, waiting for you.â€
Kent stumbled back into the room and flung the keys at Hawksworth from the darkness.
â€œThank you, Kent!â€ Hawksworth said with a smile.
â€œYouâ€™re welcome,â€ Kent called sleepily.
He walked back to the door and then looked at his bed.
â€œHello friend,â€ he said to it as he closed the door.
They heard him fall back into the bed as they left.
â€œTo the Globe,â€ Hawksworth said to Dr. Whitewood.
They were able to get easily into the Globe with Kentâ€™s keys. It was very dark and Hawksworth was assailed with a mix of good and bad memories, which assaulted him like old, rude friends and enemies. There was where heâ€™d spoken a certain monologue, but there was where heâ€™d spoken a terrible scene in his own play. There was where the disappearing door of Stubb and Massingberd had been, behind the curtain upstage, and there was where the skeletal marionette had run away in the seats above. There was where heâ€™d performed his first death scene but there was where the marionettes had disappeared from their hooks. The bad seemed to overshadow the good, however.
He looked behind the curtain on the upstage niche and was relieved there was nothing strange there.
He found plenty of props and costumes for Hamlet and other plays being performed at the Globe that week. He led Dr. Whitewood around, looking at costumes and props and set pieces. They found swords and crowns, a skull, and other interesting props.
â€œAny playwright worth his salt is going to come here the day before the play,â€ Hawksworth told the other man. â€œI know it. Shakespeare will come here. Heâ€™s going to make sure everything is ready to go. Thatâ€™s when weâ€™ll talk to him. From what Iâ€™ve read in Croftâ€™s journal, he already knows some crazy stuff is happening. Weâ€™re going to stop it.â€
â€œSo, weâ€™re just going to wait around for several hours until people show up?â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œWhat? You tired? Youâ€™re in the greatest building ever made â€¦ and you want to leave?â€
â€œAre you going to put on a play for me?â€
â€œIâ€™ve given that up. If you have to go back to Abigail, sure. Find the others too. Let â€˜em know Iâ€™m here. Iâ€™ll wait here.â€
â€œWe were all supposed to meet at Deptford, so maybe theyâ€™re waiting there for us.â€
â€œWell, we told â€¦ we told â€¦ Godfrey we would come and find Shakespeare. Theyâ€™re coming. Theyâ€™re on their way. Theyâ€™re probably sleeping a little bit. Theyâ€™ll be here.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m at least going to get some breakfast.â€
After Dr. Whitewood left, Hawksworth tried on some of the costumes and fiddled with some of the props. He recited some of his lines from various plays that he was surprised he still remembered. He was filled with a mix of emotions because, though he had a few good years at the Globe, his play flopped and the terrors of The Pirates of Candle Cove took place there.
* * *
Godfrey searched Deptford for perhaps a half hour before, exhausted and sweaty, he found an open alehouse with a porch and got ale and food. He was pleasantly surprised, after being there an hour, to see both Skern and Selwyn walking down the street. He called them over and they conferred over another beer. Selwyn asked where the other two were but none of them were certain. They all settled in for breakfast.
They were just getting ready to leave to look for the others when Dr. Whitewood found them an hour or so after that, around 9 oâ€™clock in the morning.
â€œDid you find Shakespeare yet?â€ Skern asked him.
â€œNot yet,â€ Dr. Whitewood said. â€œHeâ€™s still waiting at the Globe for Shakespeare, who will definitely show up. We should probably head back over there. He seemed a bit nervous.â€
â€œAll right. Werenâ€™t we supposed to ask around here about â€¦ the death of Marlowe?â€
Dr. Whitewood looked at him for a long moment.
â€œUh, yeah,â€ he finally said. â€œDo you know some actors we could talk to about it?â€
â€œCatty,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œNo,â€ Skern said. â€œI guess now. I guess we do need Hawks â€¦ nest.â€
â€œHawksworth?â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œHawksworth!â€ Godfrey said.
â€œHawksworth,â€ Skern said.
â€œDo you remember what the tavern was?â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œWhere he was killed at? He was murdered at the â€¦ Widowâ€™s Bull Tavern.â€
â€œWell, we can check there and if it leads to nothing, we can go to the Globe.â€
They proceeded to look around Deptford for the alehouse.
* * *
People started showing up at the Globe just after sunrise. Hawksworth recognized only a few of them. Kent eventually arrived and Hawksworth handed him his keys.
â€œThat wasnâ€™t a dream?â€ Kent said to him.
â€œOf course it wasnâ€™t,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œOh my God, Hawksworth!â€
â€œYouâ€™re not in trouble. I didnâ€™t do anything.â€
â€œI was so hung over.â€
â€œI did hear the cloth tear in one of the dresses. Iâ€™m not as tiny as I used to be.â€
â€œYou tore one of the dresses!?!â€
â€œItâ€™s not tore bad. Itâ€™ll take a couple stitches. Itâ€™ll be all right.â€
â€œSo you want to return to the theater? Well, weâ€™ll walk next week. We got a full load today and tomorrow.â€
â€œWell, can I watch the rehearsal? Please?â€
â€œYeah, fine. I donâ€™t care.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s playing Hamlet?â€
â€œItâ€™s Richard Burbage. Heâ€™s quite good. Heâ€™s quite good, actually. Young prince of Denmark. Father murdered. He decides he wants revenge. Well, heâ€™s going to kill himself first and then he wants revenge.â€
â€œHeâ€™s got a love. She kills herself because she thinks heâ€™s gone â”€ oh! He tricks them. Makes them think heâ€™s gone mad, so they wonâ€™t suspect. Itâ€™s genius!â€
â€œAnd then she kills herself. He accidently kills her dad. Stabs him through a tapestry. Itâ€™s wonderful. Theyâ€™re going to love that scene. Then he decides heâ€™s going to kill everybody, so he poisons his sword. Now, meanwhile, the new king has always poisoned his sword. Thereâ€™s a duel. They both get stabbed, right? Donâ€™t tell anyone this. Iâ€™m telling you this in confidence. So, they both get stabbed and theyâ€™re going to die, everybody drinks the poisoned wine. So when the people come, everybody dies.â€
â€œThis might be good after all.â€
â€œIt might be his best ever. Quite good. Very tragic. Very tragic. Now donâ€™t spread the word about this to anyone.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s the leading lady?â€
â€œHim? Should be me. I should be up there.â€
â€œShould be. Too late now.â€
â€œHe plays Ophelia. You donâ€™t see Ophelia die. Itâ€™s offstage. But you hear about it. She drowns herself!â€
â€œWe start in half an hour for todayâ€™s. We rehearse in and then run it. After that weâ€™ll do a rehearsal for Hamlet tonight. Around five? After supper.â€
â€œShakespeare is going to be here?â€
â€œYeah. Heâ€™s directing it.â€
â€œSounds good. If you see Shakespeare, tell him I want to talk to him, please.â€
They began rehearsal shortly after that. The play was a farce called The Barberâ€™s Knob. It was filled with puns that were not very good and Hawksworth guessed it was either French or Italian. It was a terrible play though some of the actors were fairly good and some of the comic lines were actually funny. The slapstick was used frequently and one of the characters ran around with a large fish that he struck people in the head with. Hawksworth was a little confused as to why the man was even in the play and it was never explained.
The play was about two rich barbers who worked together and hatched some strange plan to switch wives as one didnâ€™t think their wives would even notice. It was far-fetched and bizarre.
Hawksworth helped out a bit and he saw a few familiar faces who greeted him.
â€œNow wait a moment,â€ one man said to him. â€œThis is just a stupid play. Thereâ€™s nothing bad about the queen in here.â€
â€œItâ€™s fine,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œIâ€™m not censoring today.â€
A few people seemed nervous around him while others seemed quite friendly. He knew a lot of the actors in The Pirates of Candle Cove quit not long after the show finished.
* * *
The others soon found the rooming-house of the Widow Eleanor Bull, though the widow herself had died in 1596. They were unable to learn anything new about the death of Marlowe. People knew Marlowe had died there but there was nothing else they could learn.
They headed for the Globe.
People milled outside of the building and it was a like a fair day. Food and drink were being sold to the multitude of people waiting for the show. A white flag flew over the theater, indicating a comedy was to be shown that day. They learned the name of the play was The Barberâ€™s Knob. They decided to get the best seats and each of them paid three pence to climb to the third story. Skern immediately put his feet up on the railing, leaned his chair back, and went to sleep.
The others watched the show. It was a three-act nightmare of bad comedy, stupid puns, and strange, sometimes unexplained, situations. Just at the beginning of the second act, they saw a familiar face on the side of the stage.
â€œOh look!â€ Godfrey said. â€œThereâ€™s Hawksworth!â€
â€œThere he is!â€ Selwyn called.
â€œHawksworth!â€ Godfrey stood up and waved.
* * *
â€œOh,â€ Hawksworth said to himself when he saw the others. â€œThey finally made it.â€
He gestured for them to come to the stage.
* * *
Dr. Whitewood woke Skern up.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ the man said.
â€œHe wants us to come down there, apparently,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œOkay,â€ Skern said, having no idea what he was talking about. â€œIs the play over?â€
â€œNot yet,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œCan â€¦ can you wake me up when the playâ€™s over?â€
Skern leaned his chair back and went back to sleep. Dr. Whitewood and Godfrey made their way down to the ground floor and backstage where they found Hawksworth.
â€œQuite a horrid play, am I right?â€ he said to them.
â€œI donâ€™t like slapstick, myself,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œShakespeare is coming here after this play for the rehearsal of Hamlet today. Thatâ€™s when weâ€™re going to talk to him. Did you find anything in â€¦ did you go to Deptford?â€
â€œYes,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œI told you!â€ Dr. Whitewood said. â€œI told you!â€
â€œWe checked a few things,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œNever mind,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWhatâ€™d you find? Anything good?â€
â€œNo,â€ Godfrey said. â€œNothing.â€
â€œDead ends,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œCame up empty,â€ Godfrey said.,
â€œThatâ€™s fine,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI really â€¦ I really think we just need to talk to Shakespeare. Heâ€™s â€¦ heâ€™s not going to cancel the play. Iâ€™ve already thought about this. I donâ€™t know what to say to him. Heâ€™s not going to cancel the play. But he does know â€¦ I think he knows what happened to Croft. Word mustâ€™ve gotten to him by now.â€
â€œHe wonâ€™t miss the premiere either,â€ Dr. Whitewood said. â€œHow are we going to protect him?â€
â€œWeâ€™ll just have to â€¦ see what he says. Where are the others? I called all of you down â€¦ didnâ€™t I?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re up there. They didnâ€™t want to come.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Skern is sleeping.â€
Hawksworth looked out at the audience again and could see Skernâ€™s feet on the railing. Selwyn was watching the play and looked bored but noticed him and waved again. Hawksworth asked the other two if there was any information on a Joseph or a Dutchie but they said there wasnâ€™t.
â€œWeâ€™ve hit a dead end here,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œIf we canâ€™t convince William Shakespeare, weâ€™re going to have to â€¦ weâ€™re going to have to ruin the play. Itâ€™ll be up to us.â€
â€œHow would we ruin it?â€ Dr. Whitewood asked.
â€œChange it. Change as much of it as we can, if we have to. We cannot let that play go through as is.â€
The Barberâ€™s Knob finally ended. A few people liked it but most didnâ€™t seem to think much of it.
They all got together after the show.
â€œSo, you and Lucy?â€ Hawksworth asked Skern. â€œTogether? Success?â€
â€œWell â€¦â€ Skern said.
â€œI wasnâ€™t able to bring her the news that Iâ€™d hoped.â€
â€œBecause you werenâ€™t there to help us!â€ Selwyn said. â€œIf you had come, we would have saved her in time.â€
â€œWhat are you on about?â€ Dr. Whitewood said. â€œSaved who?â€
â€œThe woman we were searching for,â€ Skern said. â€œThat secret staircase. We found her.â€
â€œYou found her!â€ Hawksworth said. â€œGreat!â€
â€œDead and mutilated,â€ Skern said.
â€œWhat?â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œYou whut?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œYour name was carved into her chest,â€ Selwyn quipped.
â€œCome now, Reginald!â€ Skern said. â€œDonâ€™tâ”€â€
â€œâ€˜Vincent Hawksworthâ€™ was carved into her chest?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œDonâ€™t carry on so,â€ Skern said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, I had you confused with someone else by that name,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œHeâ€™s merely jesting,â€ Skern said.
â€œNow thatâ€™s better comedy than that play!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œThatâ€™s not very funny,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œWe found the same symbol as in John Croftâ€™s house up on the wall,â€ Skern said.
â€œWait, what?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œRemember, it had like a little thing a little thing a little thing?â€ Skern said.
â€œBut it was made of wondrous topaz!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œYes yes,â€ Skern said.
â€œAnd other such stones!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œThe â€¦ the girl was found unclothed and â€¦ how would you describe the way that she was found with the slashing?â€ Skern said.
â€œAwful!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œAnd you think van der Wyck did it?â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œHonesty, to me, it looked a bit like some sort of sacrificial nonsense,â€ Skern said.
â€œSo, you reported to the constable?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œNo no,â€ Skern said. â€œ Of course not. We just left the door open.â€
â€œYou left the door open?â€
â€œA watchman was coming by soâ”€â€
â€œSomeone had to air out that room,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œI wanted Lucy to hear it from me,â€ Skern said. â€œBefore she heard it from a rumor.â€
â€œYou do realize that she now associates you with the death of her friend,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œI suspected that too, but â€¦â€ Selwyn said.
â€œA gentleman must do what he said he would do and â€¦ I said that I would find â€¦ her cousin and â€¦â€ Skern said.
â€œDid you give her the gold thing? That should have made her at least a little happier.â€
â€œI gave her her cousinâ€™s locket and I told her I would not rest until I found answers about what happened.â€
â€œWomen love gold things.â€
â€œDo you think van der Wyck did it?â€ Dr. Whitewood asked.
â€œIn that note, he seemed to be a part of some â€¦ devious plot,â€ Skern said.
â€œMy only concern is what is her connection to John Croft?â€ Hawksworth said. â€œBoth killed. Both sigil.â€
â€œWell, as I said before, it looked to me almost sacrificial,â€ Skern said.
â€œShe might have been a random target,â€ Selwyn pointed out.
â€œShe was staying with van der Wyck so perhaps she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,â€ Skern said.
â€œWith the wrong Dutch,â€ Hawksworth muttered.
â€œOh, was he Dutch?â€ Godfrey said.
â€œJesus, man!â€ Selwyn said.
Hawksworth decided he would wait at the theater while the rest went to get something to eat.
â€œBring me somethingâ€ he said to them.
â€œI was already planning on it,â€ Dr. Whitewood assured him.
The other four went to eat and soon returned, Dr. Whitewood bringing jellied eels for Hawksworth. Shakespeare arrived a short time later, as did Richard Burbage. When they tried to talk to him, he told them he was very busy.
â€œBut, if you wish to stop by my house tonight after rehearsal, you may,â€ he said. â€œI am lodging with the Mountjoys in on the corner of Silver and Monkswell Streets just within the northwest corner of the city wall. If you want to come by at around nine oâ€™clock, we should be finished by then and I should be home.â€
Then he was off to work on the play.
â€œI feel like we shouldnâ€™t let him walk home alone,â€ Dr. Whitewood said. â€œBecause thereâ€™s a possibleâ”€â€
â€œWho?â€ Hawksworth asked. â€œShakespeare?â€
â€œYeah, because thereâ€™s a possible murderer after him,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
They discussed it briefly and they all ended up staying for the rehearsal once Hawksworth talked to Kent. Kent admonished him not to tell anyone what they saw there and to keep quiet. It turned out Hamlet was very tragic and filled with death. It was very well-written and well-produced and simply an excellent play overall.
â€œMakes up for that God spit earlier play,â€ Selwyn muttered.
They walked with Shakespeare when he headed home.
They knew Shakespeare had moved from Bishopsgate and they were unsure why he moved to where he was living at that point. The Montjoys or Montjoies were a French couple and the husband and son-in-law had reputations as debauches. Rumor also had it that was a source of amusement in some circles, who suggested that along with the playwrightâ€™s prolonged absences from his wife in Stratford, the move was significant of some indiscretion or other.
As they entered the fringes of the area, they immediately noticed there was something amiss. The streets were quiet, even for that time of day, and those who were out were sullen and went about their business quickly. Several of the taverns and shops in the area had closed down and Hawksworth and Dr. Whitewood noticed an increasing number of plague house signs on a variety of doors:
Adieu, farewell earthâ€™s bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are lifeâ€™s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly:
I am sick, I must die.
Lord have mercy on us.
The area had already been overrun by the plague and it inspired fear and trepidation in them. Dr. Whitewood covered his mouth and nose with a perfumed handkerchief. Hawksworth stopped Shakespeare.
â€œThere seems to be â€¦ a lot more signs on the doors around here, Shakespeare,â€ he said. â€œYou sure this is a good place for you to be staying?â€
â€œOh yes yes yes,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œItâ€™ll be fine. Itâ€™ll be fine. Iâ€™ve survived outbreaks before and I fully expect to survive this one. The only inconvenience is the constant cry from the Privy Council for the theaters to be closed down during outbreaks of the disease. It makes life extremely difficult for me.â€
â€œOne can imagine so,â€ Selwyn said.
They reached the house on Silver and Monkswell Streets. It had twin gables and a pentice shop front. Shakespeare invited them in through the front door and made them all comfortable in a small, simple sitting room, where he offered them wine. He sat down on a stool and asked what they needed to talk to him about.
â€œI â€¦ really donâ€™t know where to start,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWell, start at the beginning,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œThatâ€™s where I start all my plays. Itâ€™s the logical place, Hawksworth.â€
â€œI â€¦ I believe this should do the trick,â€ Hawksworth said, handing the man the note theyâ€™d found in van der Wyckâ€™s shop.
All of them but Hawksworth saw the manâ€™s face go pale just he started reading the note. He obviously hadnâ€™t read very far before he became uncomfortable, but continued reading.
â€œHm,â€ he finally said. â€œHm.â€
He looked at Hawksworth.
â€œYes?â€ he said.
â€œSo, you see my concern and why weâ€™ve come to talk to you before the play,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œThere have been those who have threatened my death before, Hawksworth,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œYou know that there are a number of people who do not like playwrights or actors.â€
â€œThreats are one thing, yes, but â€¦ considering John Croft has been â€˜taken care ofâ€™ as the letter saysâ”€â€
â€œI only knew Croft as a regular at the Mermaid. Thatâ€™s all I know of him.â€
â€œI donâ€™t â€¦ believe that. You worked with Croft. We already know.â€
â€œWhat what what? What would I have worked with him on?â€
â€œThe King in Yellowe.â€
â€œAll right. Very well.â€
He picked up his wine and took a large swallow. Then he told them about his association with Croft, repeating closely what they had already learned from Croftâ€™s diary.
â€œAfter Croft re-enacted a spell to contact someone called Hastur, I refused to have anything more to do with the project,â€ he went on. â€œI have, after all, read Scotâ€™s Discoverie of Witchcraft and I know about these things. After that terrible experience, I was plagued with â€¦ dreadful nightmares in which a horrible rag-clothed giant bore down on me, lashing out with whips and barbed lashes, scourging my body terribly. I found myself unable to sleep and during the say was often convinced that the presence of this foul creature was with me. I even thought I saw the creature on two occasions. Now, I put that down to lack of sleep and the pressures of working on the staging of Hamlet.
â€œAt any rate, after I foreswore all involvement, I did not see John for a while. He did not come in the Mermaid so much and I, myself, was busy with my new play, which,â€ he laughed, â€œhas not been going overly well!
â€œAs I said, John was not much seen in the Mermaid until last week. I was supping and arguing with Ben Jonson, which I confess is not an uncommon occurrence! I saw John enter and raised my cup to him, bidding him to join us, although all I really sought was a voice to approve my argument and confound that pompous fool Jonson.
â€œIt was only when John drew near that I saw what a dreadful state he was in. His eyes had sunk back in his head; his hands were shaking like an old manâ€™s, though he was only eight and thirty years old. His face was covered in the strangest marks also, like the pox but not as bad and somewhat healed. But he was smiling for all his troubles, although â€˜twas a strange, mirthless smile.
â€œHe stood by our table for a moment and greeted us, ordering ale while he seated himself.
â€œI sketched out the main points of the argument Jonson and I were engaged in and asked his opinion, whereupon he laughed and said the strangest thing. â€˜Your petty discourses are beneath me,â€™ said he, â€˜for in mine ears your nonsense whines, like the squeals of ignorant swine.â€™ He cackled at his own poor jest like a madman. I asked him what he meant. Draining his drink, he laughed again, saying â€˜Poor Will the fool, his courage fled, when offered all, he chose instead.â€™ He then grabbed me roughly by the hand.
â€œâ€˜It was within your very grasp, Will â”€ inspiration, greatness, immortality! There is a proverb, Greek I believe, which says â€œbetween Scylla and Charybdis.â€ The choice between two evils. Chose not and perish, choose one or tâ€™other and perish, choose both and be shown all. I aim to stand by its waters and choose both, Will, and my name will sing in the firmament until the trumpets blast on Judgment Day itself!â€™ I asked him what was wrong and he sat silent for a moment rubbing at his eyes. Then he said, â€˜All and nothing, my friend. I have been looking for somebody, a friend of Christopherâ€™s I believe. His name is mentioned by Christopher in his writings, have you seen him?â€™ At this his voice became desperate and pleading. â€˜He is called Joseph Barker, have you seen him!â€™ he demanded. Poor Johnâ€™s voice was becoming loud and several heads turned at his exclamation. One man even left the inn because of the disturbance John was causing, giving us a look of profound annoyance as he left.
â€œNow I knew that this Joseph Barker was merely a character in Marloweâ€™s King in Yellowe, actually called in the play Harker, and I thought John was going mad. I tried to explain to him that Barker was not real but he became by turns abusive and sorrowful, eventually storming out to search for this â€˜Barker.â€™ I never saw him again.â€
â€œThat is a troublesome tale,â€ Hawksworth said after a few moments thought.
â€œIt is,â€ Shakespeare agreed.
â€œAll the more reason, I think, that you should fear for your life.â€
â€œWasnâ€™t there a Harker in that journal?â€ Selwyn said. â€œA way to summon him?â€
â€œHastur?â€ Skern said.
â€œThat was the one we summoned that night,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œThat was so disturbing.â€
â€œOh!â€ Selwyn said. â€œYou summoned him?â€
â€œIt â€¦ something must have been slipped into my drink,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œIt was â€¦ quite disturbing. Yes.â€
â€œWe do believe, though, by this letter, this Joseph you speak of is real,â€ Hawksworth said.
Skern found himself lost in thought. The name Joseph Barker was familiar to him but he couldnâ€™t quite remember why.
â€œI swear I know that name: Joseph Barker,â€ he said.
Shakespeare sighed in frustration.
â€œThereâ€™s no Joseph Barker,â€ he said. â€œThe name is Harker. And itâ€™s a character in Marloweâ€™s King in Yellowe. Terribly disturbing play.â€
â€œYou said that Croft came in that night with something on his face,â€ Skern said. â€œLike a pox.â€
â€œYes, it looked like a pox. It was â€¦ injuries. Small marks all over his face. Very strange.â€
â€œInteresting. Does that not describe the state of Marijne?â€
â€œI believe Marijne had those on her as well,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œYes, tell William what you saw down there,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œA woman on some sort of whipping post,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œYes, I heard rumors that theyâ€™d found a murdered girl,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œThe whole place was underneath one of the shops.â€
â€œThe story you were telling about your vision was actually what happened to her.â€
â€œOf being whipped and such. Yes. Of course, dreams can be terrible things.â€
â€œIt sounds an awful lot like what actually happened,â€ Skern said.
â€œPeople are whipped every day,â€ Shakespeare countered. â€œThe British Navy uses as many whips as they possibly can.â€
â€œThe same small injuries upon the face as well?â€
â€œWell, I did not dream of these things.â€
â€œHawksworth, if you are so concerned, I will â€¦ tomorrow night at the opening of Hamlet, I will not show myself. Iâ€™m not in the show. I will stay backstage out of sight. Fair enough?â€
â€œWith reasonable guard around you?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWell, thereâ€™ll be plenty of actors around me. And I know all the actors, as I knew you.â€
â€œIf you are have such a dire concernâ”€â€
â€œCan I offer my sword?â€ Skern said, drawing his rapier.
â€œOh goodness,â€ Shakespeare said.
â€œPut that away!â€ Godfrey said.
â€œAnd my shield!â€ Selwyn cried, getting caught up in the moment.
â€œVery, very gallant of you, sir,â€ Shakespeare said. â€œI donâ€™t think I will need it. If you wish to come to the play in an attempt to guard me â€¦ come and see the show in its entirety. Stand in the pit. I will not be more than a dozen feet away at any time, backstage. Would that satisfy you? I promise I will not show myself on the stage.â€
â€œThere is one more thing I would like to speak to you about,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThe summer of 1600. The Pirates of Candle Cove.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t see that show,â€ Shakespeare said.
â€œDid you hear about it?â€
â€œI heard some confused talk from some of the people in the show and there were some rumors about that it was quite a strange play. Some people were quite impressed with some of the effects, especially those marionettes that seemed to run about the stage by themselves. Quite ingenious, I thought. Some people were disturbed by it. I understand one man fainted. Maybe two. I was not in town at the time. I was not able to see the show.â€
â€œAnd you also know that it has not been run since.â€
â€œNo. I heard it was a terrible show. Other than the effects, the writing was poor. Stubb apparently stole the last scene. Stubb? Really? Stubb? I always thought him an adequate actor but more of a spear carrier than anything else.â€
â€œYou were in that show too.â€
â€œYes, the last one that I was in.â€
â€œAnd for good reason.â€
â€œWell, you were busy writing. I remember. Iâ€™m sorry how that turned out.â€
â€œThat may seem why I did what I did, but you have to understand. Sometimes, these plays are not what they seem. Sometimes strange things occur in the Globe. And Iâ€™m not talking just the limelight of the show, the audience bellowing at you. No no no no. Sometimes these plays become real. Strange things happen. And I want you to be prepared for that in case it does.â€
â€œVery well. I will. I can assure you, nothing strange has ever happened at any of the rehearsals for Hamlet.â€
â€œThatâ€™s good. Thatâ€™s good. Hopefully that is a good sign.â€
â€œYou should get some sleep.â€
â€œI will. I definitely will.â€
â€œLock your doors tonight and we shall, I guess, see you tomorrow.â€
â€œTomorrow at the theater, yes. I shall be arriving around noon, for the show shall be at two.â€
They all finished their drinks and made some small talk before leaving the playwright. Selwyn said he was going to study The King in Yellowe and Hawksworth accompanied him.
* * *
Peter Godfrey returned home with Marloweâ€™s diary, which he had taken the day before. He spent two hours reading it before bed and was terribly disturbed by what heâ€™d read. He noticed one thing - the spell entitled Crystal Call required the caster to be in possession of a specially fashioned crystal which acted as a spell catalyst. It didnâ€™t have to be a specific jewel but the interrelationship of the facets and angles in the jewel created the spell. The spell cost a manâ€™s life essence and, once complete, the crystal had a residue of magical energy that would never dissipate. Blood needed to be dripped upon it to perform a rite to summon something from beyond. He was quite disturbed to think the crystal heâ€™d looked into in van der Wyckâ€™s shop was a similar gem.
He did not sleep well that night.
* * *
Dr. Whitewood returned home to Abigail and slept the sleep of the just.
* * *
Skern left a note for Fletcher that he would not be in the shop the next day. Then he headed for Selwynâ€™s locksmith shop. He found Selwyn and Hawksworth there, studying the two plays. Hawksworth read the bits and pieces of The King in Yellowe while Selwyn read Doctor Faustus. Selwyn very much enjoyed the play, which was well-written and amazingly done.
The fragments of The King in Yellowe proved only to be the introduction of characters and the setting in two short scenes of the first act. The play was set in the decadent alien city of Yhtill, located in the Hyades, with Aldebaran prominent in the night skies. The main characters were an unnamed Queen and her four sons and two daughters, who spent most of the scenes worrying about the succession to the throne. That conflict arose due to ancient legends that at some point in time, Yhtill would name a new king who would herald the coming of the Last King or a King in Yellow, and the destruction of the city and its entire people. There was some discontent in the city and rumors of the coming of the King in Yellow who would change everything. A Joseph Harker was among the characters introduced, as Shakespeare had said.
Marloweâ€™s writing style was very strong and it didnâ€™t appear that Shakespeare or Croft made numerous changes or additions before Shakespeare abandoned the project and Croft died.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t look finished,â€ Hawksworth told them. â€œJust a king in yellow coming to change everything for a discontented city. Thatâ€™s all there is. But Joseph Harker is in this and we know a Joseph Barker.â€
â€œAnd then William said Harker was Barker,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œHe said Barker wasnâ€™t real but Harker was the character in the play,â€ Skern said. â€œBut that Croft was talking about a Barker, but that was Harker.â€
â€œWe need to figure out who this Joseph Barker is,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œI think Iâ€™m going to go to bed,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWe might have a busy day tomorrow.â€
â€œVery,â€ Selwyn said.
Hawksworth and Skern left the place.
Skern wandered by Lucy Henryâ€™s house just to make sure everything was all right there. The house was dark. He went to a tavern for a little while and then went home after that.
* * *
Hawksworth had terrible dreams that night about the yellow sign, the King in Yellow, Carcosa, and Lake Hali once again. He awoke in a cold sweat but remembered it was all just a dream. However, it reminded him of David Moore for some reason, the lyricist he was told about by Bartram Derington, the innkeeper of the Mermaid, who Barker had said was at St. Maryâ€™s.
* * *
On Saturday, January 8th, 1603, it continued very cold. Skern went by Lucy Henryâ€™s house that morning and met with the woman. Reginald Selwyn had wandered to London Bridge to find the door and window of van der Wyckâ€™s shop boarded up. Rumors were rampant in the city about a murderous Dutchman who killed young women.
The five men met to break their fast at the Mermaid.
â€œSomething that we didnâ€™t investigate,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWhen John Croft came in here and he went all crazy, and he scared some of the other people, the first person to leave was David Moore, a lyricist, who worked with Croft and Marlowe. Heâ€™s now at St. Maryâ€™s of Bethlehem, you know, for the crazies. Not so good in the head?â€
â€œAh,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œRight,â€ Skern said. â€œRight.â€
â€œIâ€™m more concerned with William Shakespeare and, since he does have a connection with Croft and what Croft was saying upset him enough that he left that one night, perhaps speaking with him might shed some light on something weâ€™ve missed?â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
â€œSounds like a good idea to me,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œThere was also mention in Marloweâ€™s journal about David Moore knowing this Joseph fellow,â€ Skern said.
â€œThat would make sense as to whyâ”€â€ Selwyn said.
â€œThat seems important,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œShould we split up?â€ Skern suggested.
â€œIâ€™m more concerned with Shakespeare at the moment,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œBut I do think finding out what this Moore knows about it would be good.â€
â€œIâ€™d like to go see Moore,â€ Skern said. â€œI promised Lucy Iâ€™d get to the bottom of this.â€
â€œI think we have some time,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œWin her over,â€ Skern said, more to himself than the others.
â€œI will go talk to this David fellow,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œWell, if everyoneâ€™s going, I guess Iâ€™ll tag along,â€ Hawksworth said.
St. Maryâ€™s lunatic asylum was located about halfway up Bishopsgate Street on the left hand side of the road as they headed for the gate itself. It was an imposing stone building, once a priory, but for the last two hundred years the cityâ€™s madhouse, a repository for social outcasts, a virtual oubliette in which the undesirable were left to rot. There was no treatment in the hospital to speak of. Inmates were merely left in cells and wards, either roaming free or restrained if dangerous. Even if inmates were not mad when committed, the horror of the place was enough to drive the sanest over the edge.
Getting into the asylum was easy. No appointment was necessary and they were easily able to see the asylumâ€™s caretaker. With Dr. Whitewoodâ€™s reputation, they were admitted into the area where David Moore was kept.
They were taken through a maze of corridors, many containing inmates. Once inside the main body of the asylum, they were afflicted by the profound discomfort associated with places such as that. Continual screams echoed through the halls of the asylum, shaking even the hardiest of their sanity and putting all of them on edge and in fear. The wards of the asylum were left to the inmates. No cleaning was performed and all the inhabitants were universally filthy and the stink of excrement and urine was heavy in the air, along with the smell of decay and the almost palpable insanity.
Beds were merely pallets surrounded by filth and detritus. Rats were not uncommon in the ward areas. It seemed the perfect breeding ground for the plague. Dr. Whitewood took out his scented handkerchief.
As they proceeded, both Selwyn and Godfrey realized they could go no further. Godfrey laughed and pointed at the terrible things around him.
â€œFare thee well,â€ he simply said.
The two men left, the combination of noise and squalor in the place and the threat of disease forcing them out of the building.
The other three men were brought to see David Moore, who rested in the corner of one of the long noisy wards. He was dressed in rags that once were fashionable and well-tailored clothing. His face bore a hideous scar on the left-hand side, his mouth drawn into an awful smile, his cheek a scarlet knot of ugly scars, the cheekbone chiseled away by some horrible force and his left eye reduced to a gaping socket. His face and hands were dirty and he had no shoes or stockings; his bare feet were filthy and bloodied. Sores were evident on his face and hands and his hair had fallen out in thick clumps. He was wreathed in the rank smell of his own unsanitary ways and scratched fitfully at the fleas and mites that infested his person.
He hummed a bewildering variety of airs and songs.
â€œIâ€™ve listened to him on occasion,â€ the warden told them with a smile. â€œEven though Moore is insane, I reckon him to be quite a marvel. Iâ€™ve listened to many of his tunes and no two of them are alike and none of the airs he sings are familiar to me.
â€œI once listened to the madman compose a 20-minute song cycle as it came to him, singing first the main theme and then the countermelodies designed for other instruments. It was quite marvelous, a rare treat in which Moore started with a theme, expanded and modified that simple tune through many cycles, and eventually ended with a reprise of the original theme.â€
â€œJolly good,â€ Skern said.
â€œWhut?â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œRight, Iâ€™ll be right over there,â€ the warden said.
They tried to talk to Moore but he merely sat in the corner, humming gently to himself.
â€œJoseph Barker sent us,â€ Hawksworth said.
The man stopped humming for a moment, but then merely continued.
â€œWe were sent here by the Yellow King!â€ Skern said.
That stopped the man only for a moment too, but then he went on with his melodies. They got mostly garbled nonsense interspersed with pieces of worthwhile information. Dr. Whitewood made the man more comfortable and managed to lull him into a some semblance of lucidity. However it still took them an hour and a half to get anything that made sense from the man. They were able to piece together a story from his wild ramblings between songs.
They learned that while playing in an ensemble court in the early 1590â€™s, Moore met Dr. John Dee. He engaged Dee in conversation and Dee became interested in Mooreâ€™s claims that much of his inspiration came to him in dreams. Dee told Moore of his Enochian language and contact with angels and Moore pressed Dee to let him sit in on a contact session, reasoning that angelic inspiration while awake would be more productive than his Morphean muse.
Moore quickly tired of the sessions Dee invited him to. Having met two men, Joseph - a student of Deeâ€™s, and Edward - the good doctorâ€™s companion, at Deeâ€™s sessions, he pursued his crystal gazing more vigorously in their company.
Edward, who thought it farcical, left, and Moore joined a company composed of Joseph, a Dutchman named Johanne, a writer, Christopher, and others, using larger and more powerful crystals for closer and closer contact until the group was first visited by an entity known as the King in Yellow. Then, at a new location somewhere in London - he didnâ€™t know where, as all participants were blindfolded before being brought - they summoned an unspeakable monstrosity which slid from a thick, sludgy, silvery ooze to take its victims.
The results left him with unimaginable inspiration which he could hardly contain. He couldnâ€™t sleep for the volume of ideas that sprang into his mind. Christopher was eventually killed but Moore could not stay away until last year when he finally slipped over the edge. At a meeting with Joseph in the Mermaid Inne, he begged to be left alone. Joseph refused and practically carried him out of the tavern. Before Joseph could do anything else, Moore tried to kill his patron, shooting him in the chest before putting another pistol in his own mouth and pulling the trigger. He was arrested and ended up in St. Maryâ€™s. He had been there ever since.
They knew Dr. John Dee was a mathematician, classicist, occultist, crystal gazer, inventor, speculator, spy, astrologer and Queenâ€™s confidant. He had amassed one of the most famed libraries in the land. At its height, it contained over 4,000 volumes. He was an innovator and a scholar whose quest for knowledge refused to stop at the mundane, taking him into the arcane. He was referred to as â€œDr. Dee the great conjurorâ€ by his enemy John Foxe. A little older than Elizabeth, Dr. Dee set the date for her coronation by casting her fortune via astrology. He pressed for the foundation of an Office of Public Records and, when turned down by Queen Mary, before Elizabeth, founded his own. In 1583, he left London for a tour of the continent in the company of Irishman Edward Kelley of dubious character. They used crystals to talk to angels. Dee had since returned to England.
The three men left the terrible place.