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The King of Shreds and Patches Session One Part 3 - William Shakespeare

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* * *

 

Skern went to Lucy Henry’s house. His knock was answered by her maid, Anna.

 

“I’m sorry sir, Miss Lucy is asleep,†she said. “Can I take a message?â€

 

“I think you might want to wake her for this,†Skern said. “She wants to know.â€

 

“Very 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.

 

“Octavian, this is quite irregular,†she said.

 

She sat down on the corner of a chair.

 

“I’m terribly sorry, my dear Lucy,†Skern said. “But I felt this news could not wait. Unfortunately, I’ve come to know of the fate of your dear cousin.â€

 

“The fate?†Lucy said. “Whatever do you mean?â€

 

“First, tell me, do you recognize this locket?â€

 

He handed her the locket he’d found in London Bridge.

 

“I do not,†she said.

 

“Turn it over, if you would,†he said.

 

She did so.â€

 

“Oh no!†she exclaimed. “What has happened?â€

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Lucy,†he said. “This is all that remains of your cousin.â€

 

“Oh no. All that remains? Tell me all! Tell me all!â€

 

“I don’t think that’s wise and also … you should probably not listen to the rumors coming from London Bridge.â€

 

“You must tell me, Octavian! I will brace myself. Tell me.â€

 

“She was found dead in the basement, in the hidden room of Johannes van der Wyck.â€

 

“That cad! Tell me she didn’t suffer, Octavian.â€

 

“It seems as though it was a quick, painless death.â€

 

He hoped she wouldn’t listen to the rumors.

 

“At least it was a quick death,†Lucy said as she began to cry. “Oh dear.â€

 

Skern tried to move to the woman to pull her close but she pushed him away.

 

“Thank you,†she said. “Thank you so much for telling me.â€

 

“I’m sorry I could not bring better news,†he said.

 

“I must mourn as I mourned for my own father six months ago.â€

 

“I’m sorry it could not be better news and I apologize again for disturbing you at this late hour.â€

 

“Of course, of course. No. Thank you so much.â€

 

“I 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€

 

“I 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.

 

“Oh, poor Miss Lucy,†Anna said. “Poor Miss Lucy. Thank you so much.â€

 

“Take care of her, Anna!†Skern said.

 

“Thank 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.

 

“Wha?†the man muttered sleepily.

 

“Kent!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Hawksworth … what’re you doin’ here?â€

 

“Kent, I’ve decided to come back to the acting business.â€

 

“Well, it’s … what time is it? It’s still dark out!â€

 

“It’s half past four,†Dr. Whitewood said, consulting his large pocket watch.

 

“C’mon!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Four thirty in the … morning,†Kent said, stifling a yawn. “Well, that’s good. All right. Thank you. Come back tomorrow at eight.â€

 

“Kent. Kent. Kent. Kent. Please. Listen to me. Listen.â€

 

“What?â€

 

“I’ve got to be in the Globe. I’ve got to see it one last time. Please! Please just let me see it right now. Please.â€

 

“See the Globe?â€

 

“You’ve got the keys. You’re the head actor. Please.â€

 

“Do …â€

 

“Will you let me in?â€

 

“Right now?â€

 

“Just give me the keys. I’ll be there, waiting for you.â€

 

Kent stumbled back into the room and flung the keys at Hawksworth from the darkness.

 

“Thank you, Kent!†Hawksworth said with a smile.

 

“You’re welcome,†Kent called sleepily.

 

He walked back to the door and then looked at his bed.

 

“Hello friend,†he said to it as he closed the door.

 

They heard him fall back into the bed as they left.

 

“To the Globe,†Hawksworth said to Dr. Whitewood.

 

They were able to get easily into the Globe with Kent’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 he’d spoken a certain monologue, but there was where he’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 he’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.

 

“Any playwright worth his salt is going to come here the day before the play,†Hawksworth told the other man. “I know it. Shakespeare will come here. He’s going to make sure everything is ready to go. That’s when we’ll talk to him. From what I’ve read in Croft’s journal, he already knows some crazy stuff is happening. We’re going to stop it.â€

 

“So, we’re just going to wait around for several hours until people show up?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“What? You tired? You’re in the greatest building ever made … and you want to leave?â€

 

“Are you going to put on a play for me?â€

 

“I’ve given that up. If you have to go back to Abigail, sure. Find the others too. Let ‘em know I’m here. I’ll wait here.â€

 

“We were all supposed to meet at Deptford, so maybe they’re waiting there for us.â€

 

“Well, we told … we told … Godfrey we would come and find Shakespeare. They’re coming. They’re on their way. They’re probably sleeping a little bit. They’ll be here.â€

 

“Well, I’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 o’clock in the morning.

 

“Did you find Shakespeare yet?†Skern asked him.

 

“Not yet,†Dr. Whitewood said. “He’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€

 

“All right. Weren’t we supposed to ask around here about … the death of Marlowe?â€

 

Dr. Whitewood looked at him for a long moment.

 

“Uh, yeah,†he finally said. “Do you know some actors we could talk to about it?â€

 

“Snippy.â€

 

“Catty,†Godfrey said.

 

“No,†Skern said. “I guess now. I guess we do need Hawks … nest.â€

 

“Hawksworth?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Hawksworth!†Godfrey said.

 

“Hawksworth,†Skern said.

 

“Do you remember what the tavern was?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Where he was killed at? He was murdered at the … Widow’s Bull Tavern.â€

 

“Well, 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.

 

“That wasn’t a dream?†Kent said to him.

 

“Of course it wasn’t,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Oh my God, Hawksworth!â€

 

“You’re not in trouble. I didn’t do anything.â€

 

“I was so hung over.â€

 

“I did hear the cloth tear in one of the dresses. I’m not as tiny as I used to be.â€

 

“You tore one of the dresses!?!â€

 

“It’s not tore bad. It’ll take a couple stitches. It’ll be all right.â€

 

“So you want to return to the theater? Well, we’ll walk next week. We got a full load today and tomorrow.â€

 

“Well, can I watch the rehearsal? Please?â€

 

“Yeah, fine. I don’t care.â€

 

“Who’s playing Hamlet?â€

 

“It’s Richard Burbage. He’s quite good. He’s quite good, actually. Young prince of Denmark. Father murdered. He decides he wants revenge. Well, he’s going to kill himself first and then he wants revenge.â€

 

“Of course.â€

 

“He’s got a love. She kills herself because she thinks he’s gone ─ oh! He tricks them. Makes them think he’s gone mad, so they won’t suspect. It’s genius!â€

 

“Classic.â€

 

“And then she kills herself. He accidently kills her dad. Stabs him through a tapestry. It’s wonderful. They’re going to love that scene. Then he decides he’s going to kill everybody, so he poisons his sword. Now, meanwhile, the new king has always poisoned his sword. There’s a duel. They both get stabbed, right? Don’t tell anyone this. I’m telling you this in confidence. So, they both get stabbed and they’re going to die, everybody drinks the poisoned wine. So when the people come, everybody dies.â€

 

“This might be good after all.â€

 

“It might be his best ever. Quite good. Very tragic. Very tragic. Now don’t spread the word about this to anyone.â€

 

“Who’s the leading lady?â€

 

“Lionel Makepiece.â€

 

“Him? Should be me. I should be up there.â€

 

“Should be. Too late now.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

“He plays Ophelia. You don’t see Ophelia die. It’s offstage. But you hear about it. She drowns herself!â€

 

“When’s rehearsal?â€

 

“We start in half an hour for today’s. We rehearse in and then run it. After that we’ll do a rehearsal for Hamlet tonight. Around five? After supper.â€

 

“Shakespeare is going to be here?â€

 

“Yeah. He’s directing it.â€

 

“Sounds good. If you see Shakespeare, tell him I want to talk to him, please.â€

 

“I will.â€

 

They began rehearsal shortly after that. The play was a farce called The Barber’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 didn’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.

 

“Now wait a moment,†one man said to him. “This is just a stupid play. There’s nothing bad about the queen in here.â€

 

“It’s fine,†Hawksworth said. “I’m not censoring today.â€

 

“All right.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 Barber’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.

 

“Oh look!†Godfrey said. “There’s Hawksworth!â€

 

“There he is!†Selwyn called.

 

“Hawksworth!†Godfrey stood up and waved.

 

* * *

 

“Oh,†Hawksworth said to himself when he saw the others. “They finally made it.â€

 

He gestured for them to come to the stage.

 

* * *

 

Dr. Whitewood woke Skern up.

 

“What’s going on?†the man said.

 

“He wants us to come down there, apparently,†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Okay,†Skern said, having no idea what he was talking about. “Is the play over?â€

 

“Not yet,†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Can … can you wake me up when the play’s over?â€

 

“Sure.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.

 

“Quite a horrid play, am I right?†he said to them.

 

Godfrey agreed.

 

“I don’t like slapstick, myself,†Hawksworth said. “Shakespeare is coming here after this play for the rehearsal of Hamlet today. That’s when we’re going to talk to him. Did you find anything in … did you go to Deptford?â€

 

“Yes,†Godfrey said.

 

“I told you!†Dr. Whitewood said. “I told you!â€

 

“We checked a few things,†Godfrey said.

 

“Never mind,†Hawksworth said. “What’d you find? Anything good?â€

 

“No,†Godfrey said. “Nothing.â€

 

“Dead ends,†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Came up empty,†Godfrey said.,

 

“That’s fine,†Hawksworth said. “I really … I really think we just need to talk to Shakespeare. He’s … he’s not going to cancel the play. I’ve already thought about this. I don’t know what to say to him. He’s not going to cancel the play. But he does know … I think he knows what happened to Croft. Word must’ve gotten to him by now.â€

 

“He won’t miss the premiere either,†Dr. Whitewood said. “How are we going to protect him?â€

 

“We’ll just have to … see what he says. Where are the others? I called all of you down … didn’t I?â€

 

“They’re up there. They didn’t want to come.â€

 

“Why not?â€

 

“I don’t know. Skern is sleeping.â€

 

Hawksworth looked out at the audience again and could see Skern’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 wasn’t.

 

“We’ve hit a dead end here,†Hawksworth said. “If we can’t convince William Shakespeare, we’re going to have to … we’re going to have to ruin the play. It’ll be up to us.â€

 

“How would we ruin it?†Dr. Whitewood asked.

 

“Change it. Change as much of it as we can, if we have to. We cannot let that play go through as is.â€

 

The Barber’s Knob finally ended. A few people liked it but most didn’t seem to think much of it.

 

They all got together after the show.

 

“So, you and Lucy?†Hawksworth asked Skern. “Together? Success?â€

 

“Well …†Skern said.

 

“What? No?â€

 

“I wasn’t able to bring her the news that I’d hoped.â€

 

“Because you weren’t there to help us!†Selwyn said. “If you had come, we would have saved her in time.â€

 

“What are you on about?†Dr. Whitewood said. “Saved who?â€

 

“The woman we were searching for,†Skern said. “That secret staircase. We found her.â€

 

“You found her!†Hawksworth said. “Great!â€

 

“Dead and mutilated,†Skern said.

 

“What?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“You whut?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Your name was carved into her chest,†Selwyn quipped.

 

“Come now, Reginald!†Skern said. “Don’t─â€

 

“‘Vincent Hawksworth’ was carved into her chest?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Don’t carry on so,†Skern said.

 

“I’m sorry, I had you confused with someone else by that name,†Selwyn said.

 

“He’s merely jesting,†Skern said.

 

“Now that’s better comedy than that play!†Hawksworth said.

 

“That’s not very funny,†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“We found the same symbol as in John Croft’s house up on the wall,†Skern said.

 

“Wait, what?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Remember, it had like a little thing a little thing a little thing?†Skern said.

 

“But it was made of wondrous topaz!†Selwyn said.

 

“Yes yes,†Skern said.

 

“And other such stones!†Selwyn said.

 

“The … the girl was found unclothed and … how would you describe the way that she was found with the slashing?†Skern said.

 

“Awful!†Selwyn said.

 

“And you think van der Wyck did it?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Honesty, to me, it looked a bit like some sort of sacrificial nonsense,†Skern said.

 

“So, you reported to the constable?†Hawksworth said.

 

“No no,†Skern said. “ Of course not. We just left the door open.â€

 

“You left the door open?â€

 

“A watchman was coming by so─â€

 

“Someone had to air out that room,†Selwyn said.

 

“I wanted Lucy to hear it from me,†Skern said. “Before she heard it from a rumor.â€

 

“You do realize that she now associates you with the death of her friend,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I suspected that too, but …†Selwyn said.

 

“A gentleman must do what he said he would do and … I said that I would find … her cousin and …†Skern said.

 

“Did you give her the gold thing? That should have made her at least a little happier.â€

 

“I gave her her cousin’s locket and I told her I would not rest until I found answers about what happened.â€

 

“Women love gold things.â€

 

“Do you think van der Wyck did it?†Dr. Whitewood asked.

 

“In that note, he seemed to be a part of some … devious plot,†Skern said.

 

“My only concern is what is her connection to John Croft?†Hawksworth said. “Both killed. Both sigil.â€

 

“Well, as I said before, it looked to me almost sacrificial,†Skern said.

 

“She might have been a random target,†Selwyn pointed out.

 

“She was staying with van der Wyck so perhaps she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,†Skern said.

 

“With the wrong Dutch,†Hawksworth muttered.

 

“Oh, was he Dutch?†Godfrey said.

 

“Jesus, man!†Selwyn said.

 

Hawksworth decided he would wait at the theater while the rest went to get something to eat.

 

“Bring me something†he said to them.

 

“I was already planning on it,†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.

 

“But, if you wish to stop by my house tonight after rehearsal, you may,†he said. “I 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 o’clock, we should be finished by then and I should be home.â€

 

Then he was off to work on the play.

 

“I feel like we shouldn’t let him walk home alone,†Dr. Whitewood said. “Because there’s a possible─â€

 

“Who?†Hawksworth asked. “Shakespeare?â€

 

“Yeah, because there’s a possible murderer after him,†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.

 

“Makes up for that God spit earlier play,†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 playwright’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 earth’s bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life’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.

 

“There seems to be … a lot more signs on the doors around here, Shakespeare,†he said. “You sure this is a good place for you to be staying?â€

 

“Oh yes yes yes,†Shakespeare said. “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. I’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€

 

“One can imagine so,†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.

 

“I … really don’t know where to start,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Well, start at the beginning,†Shakespeare said. “That’s where I start all my plays. It’s the logical place, Hawksworth.â€

 

“I … I believe this should do the trick,†Hawksworth said, handing the man the note they’d found in van der Wyck’s shop.

 

All of them but Hawksworth saw the man’s face go pale just he started reading the note. He obviously hadn’t read very far before he became uncomfortable, but continued reading.

 

“Hm,†he finally said. “Hm.â€

 

He looked at Hawksworth.

 

“Yes?†he said.

 

“So, you see my concern and why we’ve come to talk to you before the play,†Hawksworth said.

 

“There have been those who have threatened my death before, Hawksworth,†Shakespeare said. “You know that there are a number of people who do not like playwrights or actors.â€

 

“Threats are one thing, yes, but … considering John Croft has been ‘taken care of’ as the letter says─â€

 

“I only knew Croft as a regular at the Mermaid. That’s all I know of him.â€

 

“I don’t … believe that. You worked with Croft. We already know.â€

 

“What what what? What would I have worked with him on?â€

 

“The King in Yellowe.â€

 

“All 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 Croft’s diary.

 

“After Croft re-enacted a spell to contact someone called Hastur, I refused to have anything more to do with the project,†he went on. “I have, after all, read Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft and I know about these things. After that terrible experience, I was plagued with … 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.

 

“At 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,†he laughed, “has not been going overly well!

 

“As 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.

 

“It 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 man’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 ‘twas a strange, mirthless smile.

 

“He stood by our table for a moment and greeted us, ordering ale while he seated himself.

 

“I 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. ‘Your petty discourses are beneath me,’ said he, ‘for in mine ears your nonsense whines, like the squeals of ignorant swine.’ He cackled at his own poor jest like a madman. I asked him what he meant. Draining his drink, he laughed again, saying ‘Poor Will the fool, his courage fled, when offered all, he chose instead.’ He then grabbed me roughly by the hand.

 

“‘It was within your very grasp, Will ─ inspiration, greatness, immortality! There is a proverb, Greek I believe, which says “between Scylla and Charybdis.†The choice between two evils. Chose not and perish, choose one or t’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!’ I asked him what was wrong and he sat silent for a moment rubbing at his eyes. Then he said, ‘All and nothing, my friend. I have been looking for somebody, a friend of Christopher’s I believe. His name is mentioned by Christopher in his writings, have you seen him?’ At this his voice became desperate and pleading. ‘He is called Joseph Barker, have you seen him!’ he demanded. Poor John’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.

 

“Now I knew that this Joseph Barker was merely a character in Marlowe’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 ‘Barker.’ I never saw him again.â€

 

“That is a troublesome tale,†Hawksworth said after a few moments thought.

 

“It is,†Shakespeare agreed.

 

“All the more reason, I think, that you should fear for your life.â€

 

“Wasn’t there a Harker in that journal?†Selwyn said. “A way to summon him?â€

 

“Hastur?†Skern said.

 

“That was the one we summoned that night,†Shakespeare said. “That was so disturbing.â€

 

“Oh!†Selwyn said. “You summoned him?â€

 

“It … something must have been slipped into my drink,†Shakespeare said. “It was … quite disturbing. Yes.â€

 

“We do believe, though, by this letter, this Joseph you speak of is real,†Hawksworth said.

 

Skern found himself lost in thought. The name Joseph Barker was familiar to him but he couldn’t quite remember why.

 

“I swear I know that name: Joseph Barker,†he said.

 

Shakespeare sighed in frustration.

 

“There’s no Joseph Barker,†he said. “The name is Harker. And it’s a character in Marlowe’s King in Yellowe. Terribly disturbing play.â€

 

“You said that Croft came in that night with something on his face,†Skern said. “Like a pox.â€

 

“Yes, it looked like a pox. It was … injuries. Small marks all over his face. Very strange.â€

 

“Interesting. Does that not describe the state of Marijne?â€

 

“I believe Marijne had those on her as well,†Selwyn said.

 

“Yes, tell William what you saw down there,†Hawksworth said.

 

“A woman on some sort of whipping post,†Selwyn said.

 

“Yes, I heard rumors that they’d found a murdered girl,†Shakespeare said. “The whole place was underneath one of the shops.â€

 

“The story you were telling about your vision was actually what happened to her.â€

 

“My vision?â€

 

“Your dreams.â€

 

“Of being whipped and such. Yes. Of course, dreams can be terrible things.â€

 

“It sounds an awful lot like what actually happened,†Skern said.

 

“People are whipped every day,†Shakespeare countered. “The British Navy uses as many whips as they possibly can.â€

 

“The same small injuries upon the face as well?â€

 

“Well, I did not dream of these things.â€

 

“That’s true.â€

 

“Hawksworth, if you are so concerned, I will … tomorrow night at the opening of Hamlet, I will not show myself. I’m not in the show. I will stay backstage out of sight. Fair enough?â€

 

“With reasonable guard around you?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Well, there’ll be plenty of actors around me. And I know all the actors, as I knew you.â€

 

“Let me─â€

 

“If you are have such a dire concern─â€

 

“Can I offer my sword?†Skern said, drawing his rapier.

 

“Oh goodness,†Shakespeare said.

 

“Put that away!†Godfrey said.

 

“And my shield!†Selwyn cried, getting caught up in the moment.

 

“Very, very gallant of you, sir,†Shakespeare said. “I don’t think I will need it. If you wish to come to the play in an attempt to guard me … 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€

 

“There is one more thing I would like to speak to you about,†Hawksworth said. “The summer of 1600. The Pirates of Candle Cove.â€

 

“I didn’t see that show,†Shakespeare said.

 

“Did you hear about it?â€

 

“I 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€

 

“And you also know that it has not been run since.â€

 

“No. 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€

 

“Regardless─â€

 

“You were in that show too.â€

 

“Yes, the last one that I was in.â€

 

“Oh.â€

 

“And for good reason.â€

 

“Well, you were busy writing. I remember. I’m sorry how that turned out.â€

 

“That 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 I’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€

 

“Very well. I will. I can assure you, nothing strange has ever happened at any of the rehearsals for Hamlet.â€

 

“That’s good. That’s good. Hopefully that is a good sign.â€

 

“Hopefully, yes.â€

 

“You should get some sleep.â€

 

“I will. I definitely will.â€

 

“Lock your doors tonight and we shall, I guess, see you tomorrow.â€

 

“Tomorrow at the theater, yes. I shall be arriving around noon, for the show shall be at two.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

“Thank you.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 Marlowe’s diary, which he had taken the day before. He spent two hours reading it before bed and was terribly disturbed by what he’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 didn’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 man’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 he’d looked into in van der Wyck’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 Selwyn’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.

 

Marlowe’s writing style was very strong and it didn’t appear that Shakespeare or Croft made numerous changes or additions before Shakespeare abandoned the project and Croft died.

 

“It doesn’t look finished,†Hawksworth told them. “Just a king in yellow coming to change everything for a discontented city. That’s all there is. But Joseph Harker is in this and we know a Joseph Barker.â€

 

“And then William said Harker was Barker,†Selwyn said.

 

“He said Barker wasn’t real but Harker was the character in the play,†Skern said. “But that Croft was talking about a Barker, but that was Harker.â€

 

“We need to figure out who this Joseph Barker is,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I think I’m going to go to bed,†Hawksworth said. “We might have a busy day tomorrow.â€

 

“Very,†Selwyn said.

 

Hawksworth and Skern left the place.

 

Skern wandered by Lucy Henry’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. Mary’s.

 

* * *

 

On Saturday, January 8th, 1603, it continued very cold. Skern went by Lucy Henry’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 Wyck’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.

 

“Something that we didn’t investigate,†Hawksworth said. “When 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. He’s now at St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, you know, for the crazies. Not so good in the head?â€

 

“Ah,†Selwyn said.

 

“Right,†Skern said. “Right.â€

 

“I’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 we’ve missed?†Hawksworth said. “I don’t know.â€

 

“Sounds like a good idea to me,†Selwyn said.

 

“There was also mention in Marlowe’s journal about David Moore knowing this Joseph fellow,†Skern said.

 

“That would make sense as to why─†Selwyn said.

 

“That seems important,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Should we split up?†Skern suggested.

 

“I’m more concerned with Shakespeare at the moment,†Hawksworth said. “But I do think finding out what this Moore knows about it would be good.â€

 

“I’d like to go see Moore,†Skern said. “I promised Lucy I’d get to the bottom of this.â€

 

“I think we have some time,†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Win her over,†Skern said, more to himself than the others.

 

“I will go talk to this David fellow,†Selwyn said.

 

“Well, if everyone’s going, I guess I’ll tag along,†Hawksworth said.

 

St. Mary’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 city’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 asylum’s caretaker. With Dr. Whitewood’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.

 

“Fare thee well,†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.

 

“I’ve listened to him on occasion,†the warden told them with a smile. “Even though Moore is insane, I reckon him to be quite a marvel. I’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.

 

“I 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€

 

“Jolly good,†Skern said.

 

“Whut?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Right, I’ll be right over there,†the warden said.

 

They tried to talk to Moore but he merely sat in the corner, humming gently to himself.

 

“Joseph Barker sent us,†Hawksworth said.

 

The man stopped humming for a moment, but then merely continued.

 

“We were sent here by the Yellow King!†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 1590’s, Moore met Dr. John Dee. He engaged Dee in conversation and Dee became interested in Moore’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 Dee’s, and Edward - the good doctor’s companion, at Dee’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 didn’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 couldn’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. Mary’s. He had been there ever since.

 

They knew Dr. John Dee was a mathematician, classicist, occultist, crystal gazer, inventor, speculator, spy, astrologer and Queen’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 “Dr. Dee the great conjuror†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.


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