* * *
â€œNow, Iâ€™ve got a lot to say, but I want to hear what you all have found first,â€ Hawksworth said when Skern put down the diary. â€œSkern, Iâ€™ve noticed you havenâ€™t looked up from the book in quite some time. Have you found something?â€
â€œI got lost in it really, but there are some interesting bits about Marlowe,â€ Skern said.
â€œWell, why donâ€™t you tell us the most interesting bit?â€
â€œApparently, the day before Christopher Marloweâ€™s death in Deptford, a mysterious J. wanted him to go with him to Deptford the following day and he didnâ€™t want to but said he couldnâ€™t refuse, that he was threatened.â€
â€œJoseph. Thatâ€™s who the J. is.â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard that name from a couple of people, now. Joseph. Thatâ€™s who it is.â€
â€œThereâ€™s also mention of a David Moore.â€
â€œAbout a week prior to that. Who also seemed to be in contact with this Joseph. Also, Marlowe seemed quite out of his wits and admittedly insane. Didnâ€™t want to leave his house. Made mention to a previous night where he was out of control.â€
â€œWhat night was that?â€
â€œIt didnâ€™t say. It just said â€˜I have not left the house since that nightâ€™ after talking about his sanity deserting him.â€
â€œThat must have been the night Bartram was telling me he was in here causing a ruckus,â€ Hawksworth said, confusing Marlowe for Croft. â€œSaid he went crazy, scared a bunch of people, and then he ran out. He hadnâ€™t seen him since. I bet thatâ€™s the night.â€
â€œHe did say. It was three nights before.â€
â€œThatâ€™s all right Skern. It seems that Croft went a bit insane. He stayed in his house. But that doesnâ€™t explain this!â€
He held up the pieces of the torn letter.
â€œHim writing me this letter,â€ Hawksworth went on. â€œHe sounds sane here. He sounds fine. Itâ€™s not a cry for help. Itâ€™s not â€¦ thereâ€™s nothing in here about him going crazy. Deptford though? Thatâ€™s where he was going?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Skern said. â€œThis Marlowe and J. fellow went to Deptford. Seems this J. fellow told him to meet him in Deptford. Said he would try to reason with him when he got there.â€
â€œReason about what?â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t say. It says â€˜Iâ€™truth I think I would chose Marshalsea over the fear. â€˜Tis one prison or another.â€™ Apparently this J. fellow wanted him to keep writing something about some king and â€¦â€
â€œThat must be The Yellowe King,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œâ€˜He says the king demands it,â€™â€ Skern read from the diary, looking at one of the pages heâ€™d dog-eared. â€œâ€˜I refused,â€™ he says. â€˜I told him I would have no more to do with it.â€™ And he countered with blackmail.â€
He handed over the book, the two entries of interest marked.
â€œWhat was it you said, yellow king?â€ Hawksworth said to Selwyn.
â€œYeah!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œWhat yellow king?â€
â€œItâ€™s the name of the play! And then to summon the king apparently they summon the king and he tells stories and they write it down as the play.â€
â€œThey also made mention in his notes about what looks like spells,â€ Skern said of Marloweâ€™s diary. â€œContacting a king. Also contacting some fellow by the name of Hastur â€¦ whatever that means.â€
â€œWhat was â€¦ what was that you said about summoning a king?â€ Hawksworth said, quite pale.
â€œYeah, the spell â€¦â€ Selwyn said.
â€œCrystal Call,â€ Skern said.
â€œâ€¦ to summon the king and he tells you, apparently, stories, and thatâ€™s what they based the play on,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œOh God,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œOh God. Not this again. Oh God.â€
â€œThat sounds like witchcraft,â€ Dr. Whitewood said calmly, sipping his beer.
â€œDo you know something about this, Hawksworth?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œIf they had gotten farther in the play, it sounds like good money, but they die too early to profit off of it,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œThe year 1600,â€ Hawksworth suddenly said. â€œWhere were you? Where were you all?â€
â€œSixteen what?â€ Skern said.
â€œ1600. Where were you?â€
â€œI was still with my Lucy then.â€
â€œThe Pirates of Candle Cove. You ever hear of it?â€
â€œThe play?â€ Selwyn said.
â€œYes, the play,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œIn the Globe in the year 1600. Did you hear of it?â€
Selwynâ€™s eyes went wide as he remembered going to see the play about pirates that seemed very strange. He remembered that during the play he thought he was really on a pirate ship. It was quite exciting.
â€œYour eyes went wide!â€ Hawksworth said to him. â€œYou was there, wasnâ€™t you?â€
â€œIt was a strange play,â€ Selwyn admitted.
â€œYou notice we never did it again, huh?â€
â€œBut it seemed exciting.â€
â€œOh. Oh. You werenâ€™t on the stage. All right? The play came to life! I know what youâ€™re thinking. Youâ€™re thinking Iâ€™m crazy, just like John Croft. Iâ€™m not going to hang myself. Iâ€™m not crazy. That play came to life. I was on a real pirate ship.â€
Dr. Whitewood leaned over to feel the manâ€™s forehead but he was not feverish.
â€œWas it fun?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œWas if fun!?!â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWe was summoning something! Just like what heâ€™s talking about there, summoning the king! We was summoning something and something bad was going to happen, but we stopped the play, we changed the play. We didnâ€™t do what the script said.â€
â€œSo, if you had done the play, it would have summoned a â€¦ boat? In the globe?â€
â€œIf we had done the play, we wouldnâ€™t be here right now. I can promise you that. Promise you. I think these plays, the ones that be written from some king talking or something, itâ€™s the same stuff. And I swore, I swore an oath to myself I would not let a play like that come through again. So we got to stop it. I donâ€™t know how. And I need your help. But I promise you - this play is bad news.â€
â€œThis play seems like everyone involved is dead,â€ Skern said. â€œIs there really a fear of it coming?â€
â€œIt donâ€™t seem like itâ€™s going to start but thereâ€™s Joseph, Marlowe, Moore,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThatâ€™s plenty of people that could still see this play go through.â€
â€œAre you saying we kill â€˜em?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œGod, no!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œGodâ€™s wounds, man!â€ Godfrey said.
A few men looked towards them. One shady-looking man looked interested.
â€œFigure of speech,â€ Selwyn said.
The man nodded and waved him off.
â€œAre you in contact with any of these fellows?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œEveryoneâ€™s heard of Marlowe and Shakespeare, of course,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI donâ€™t know Moore and I certainly donâ€™t know this Joseph.â€
â€œDo we have a last name for this Joseph?â€
â€œI do not. But we do have Deptford. Thatâ€™s a place we could go. It would not be hard to find this Moore fellow. He donâ€™t come here no more, but we can find him. And Marlowe and Shakespeare, well, someone sees them, theyâ€™ll tell you.â€
â€œOh yeah, sorry.â€
â€œDo you suggest we summon him?â€
Dr. Whitewood reached over and felt Hawksworthâ€™s forehead again.
â€œWhen your summoning beings, who knows whatâ€™s alive and whatâ€™s not?â€ Hawksworth said.
It had been a trying day.
They discussed going to Deptford and Skern suggested they get a nightâ€™s rest and continue to Deptford in the morning, giving them the entire day to search. He looked at his picture of Lucy Henry to rest his mind. Hawksworth suggested they do so, asking if they could shut down their shops and businesses. All of the men thought they could. They decided to meet at the Mermaid on the morrowâ€™s morning.
Hawksworth took Croftâ€™s journal while Godfrey took Marloweâ€™s diary with a curious look in his eye. Selwyn picked up the loose papers of both plays. They parted, going their separate ways.
* * *
â€œThere you are, Skern,â€ Robert Fletcher said when the man returned to the print shop. â€œA young lady came looking for you.â€
â€œWas it Lucy?â€ Skern asked.
â€œNo no no no no,â€ Fletcher said. â€œBut she left a message for you.â€
He handed over the envelope to Skern, who tore it open. The letter within read:
I leave this note in hope that you may be able to help me. My dear cousin by marriage,
from Amsterdam, Marijne Barents, was due to meet me at my home two weeks ago yet
she has not arrived. I have sent word to her father in Holland yet he says that she boarded
a boat for London on the appointed day. He sent her to first stay with an old friend, Johannes
van der Wyck, a jeweler with premises on London Bridge. I have visited this shoppe and
there is no reply to my knocking. Indeed, it appears as if the shop has been closed for some
time. Please, I know this may seem a strange request but I have nowhere else to turn, please
help me find my cousin.
Skern ran all the way from the shop in central London to Lucyâ€™s house near Aldgate. On the way, he found a child selling a sad little bouquet of wilted flowers and so purchased them from the girl. He flung coins at the waif, not even bothering to barter about the bouquet, and continued running.
â€œOh thank you!â€ the little girl called after him. â€œMy family can eat now! A Godsend upon our family!â€
He finally arrived at Lucy Henryâ€™s house which stood near the former residence of the former ambassador to France, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton. It was some ways northwest of the Tower of London.
Lucy was in her mid-twenties, as yet unmarried, and was still in mourning since her fatherâ€™s death a little over six months before. An only child, she lived on in the house with a housekeeper, Anna, in residence. She was not engaged, though she had many suitors. She was quick-witted and not given to hysterics. Skern had courted her about a year before and she had ended the relationship amicably. However, he still had very strong feelings for her.
She greeted him warmly and thanked him for whatever assistance he could give her, showing him into a sitting room. She thanked him for the flowers and called for Anna to put them in water. The older lady took them away.
She readily related the story of her relationship to Marijne Barents. She told Skern her fatherâ€™s sister had married a Dutch merchant living in London some 25 years before and then returned to Amsterdam with him when Marijne was eight years old.
â€œI received word six weeks ago that Marijne was to make the journey to London to see me and father, not knowing father had passed away,â€ Lucy said. â€œI have not seen my cousin since she left England and I eagerly anticipated her impending visit. I journeyed to London Bridge to Johannes van der Wyck, his shop, thatâ€™s where Marijne was supposed to meet me. But I could not gain entrance and the shop has been shut up. Iâ€™ve no idea whatâ€™s happened to my cousin and Iâ€™m now seriously worried about her.
â€œCould you please see if you could find her?â€
â€œIâ€™ll do my best,â€ Skern said.
â€œThank you, thank you so much, Octavian.â€
â€œAnything for you, Lucy.â€
She took his hands in hers.
â€œAnything you could find out,â€ she said. â€œI would be so appreciative. Thank you, thank you so much.â€
â€œAbsolutely,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ll head there straightaway.â€
They said their good-byes and he got a polite kiss on the cheek before he left.
He walked towards London Bridge but then, thinking better of it, turned towards the shop of Reginald Selwyn.
* * *
Selwyn returned to his locksmith shop and tucked the manuscripts into a small, hidden cabinet. He hoped to sell them at some point in the near future. He had just secured the paperwork in the workroom when the bell on his front door tinkled. He went out and found Skern there.
â€œReginald,â€ Skern said nervously. â€œMy old friend. Long time, no see.â€
He laughed unconvincingly. Selwyn laughed unconvincingly himself.
â€œI was wondering if I might gain your assistance,â€ Skern went on. â€œIâ€™d make it worth your while.â€
â€œOh!â€ Selwyn said. â€œWhat are we doing, Octavian?â€
â€œWell, see, I â€¦ I need to gain entrance to a shop thatâ€™s since been closed â€¦ and I was wondering if I might get your special skill set to help me â€¦ discreetly gain entrance.â€
â€œThat sounds shady, Octavian. But, yes, I could be of assistance. Shopkeepers that close their doors this early are criminals themselves.â€
â€œYou misunderstand. Itâ€™s closed for business.â€
â€œOh, then thereâ€™s no issue.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know how else to gain entrance. Itâ€™s a matter of urgency.â€
â€œThat makes sense as well!â€
â€œYes. All right. Itâ€™s over on London Bridge. Shall we head that way?â€
They went to find the others.
* * *
Dr. Whitewood returned home to his plump and affectionate wife, who guessed heâ€™d been to the tavern and brought him a small beer. His son was eight years old and played with several wooden toys in the sitting room by the fire.
â€œItâ€™s lamb for dinner tonight dear!â€ Whitewoodâ€™s wife Abigail said to him.
She grabbed his cheek and gave it a pinch.
â€œI know you love it!â€ she said.
She kissed his cheek and went off to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner with the servants.
Selwyn and Skern arrived just before dinnertime and he opted to go with them. They then found Godfrey at his house and Skern pleaded for the manâ€™s help, citing it a matter of true love.
â€œWhat are we doing?â€ Godfrey asked.
â€œIâ€™m looking for a miss Marijne Barents who was last thought to be seen or visited the jewelry story of Johannes van der Wyck on London Bridge,â€ Skern said. â€œShe has not been seen since and we are quite worried.â€
â€œHm,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œItâ€™s a matter of true love, man!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œOh â€¦ well,â€ Godfrey said with a chuckle.
â€œIâ€™ll owe you a deep, personal favor,â€ Skern said.
â€œWell, in that case,â€ Godfrey said, getting up from his comfortable chair.
Then they were off to find Hawksworth in his townhouse.
â€œHawksworth!â€ Skern called before the door was answered.
Hawksworth seemed surprised to see them all.
â€œI said we meet at the Mermaid tomorrow!â€ he said.
â€œI realize this but I thought, since Iâ€™m going to help you with your little adventure â€¦â€ Skern said.
â€œâ€¦ your grand adventure, you might be able to assist me in a small matter of my own.â€
â€œTo help me win back the woman of my dreams! Godâ€™s blood!â€
â€œMy dear Lucy!â€
Skern pulled out the small portrait he kept in a locket and brandished it in Hawksworthâ€™s face.
â€œOh,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œDonâ€™t â€¦ well â€¦ hear me out. Youâ€™ve seen a play or two, I suppose, yes?â€
â€œYes, Lucy was quite fond of them,â€ Skern said.
â€œHave you ever noticed that the hero trying to win the womanâ€™s love usually does it alone? To prove to her that he loves her?â€
â€œAnd how realistic are plays where boats are summoned onto the stage?â€
â€œThat was real!â€
â€œI confess, I am not man enough to win the battle myself.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t think it would be queer if five of us do something for your lady?â€
â€œWell, she doesnâ€™t have to know this. I fully intend to take all the credit!â€
â€œSelwyn, is that you back there? Youâ€™ve been pulled into this?â€
â€œWeâ€™ve got the whole day.â€
â€œOi,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œI donâ€™t want anyone to miss out!â€ Skern said.
â€œHow did you miss the banker?â€ Selwyn said.
Godfrey stood there, swabbing the sweat from his brow in the frigid cold.
â€œPlus you seem to know so many people,â€ Skern continued trying to convince Hawksworth. â€œIâ€™m just wondering if you might be able to recognize â€¦â€
â€œLet me see her picture one more time, please,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œLet me see her.â€
â€œSheâ€™s not gone missing. Why do you want to look at her again?â€
â€œI want to make sure sheâ€™s worth it.â€
Skern showed the man and he saw she was fetching.
â€œHow long will it take?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œNot written about love in your plays?â€ Skern said. â€œI â€¦ I donâ€™t know. Time? What is time â€¦ on the matters of love?â€
â€œAll right, letâ€™s go,â€ Hawksworth said.
They found van der Wyckâ€™s jewelry and glassware shop. It occupied a fine site on London Bridge, above one of the 19 stone piers upon which the bridge rested. The small shop window had a display of several well-crafted items including an exquisite silver necklace inlaid with small gems, a gold cross on a chain with rubies, and a variety of beautiful glass goblets, possibly imported from Venice or Antwerp or perhaps from one of the new glasshouses established in Londonâ€™s Crutched Friars district.
The door to the shop was, however, locked. They knocked but there was no answer.
â€œAnd you say this place is closed down,â€ Selwyn said. â€œWhy is this all in the window?â€
They peered into the window and saw the front room of the shop ran the length of the building. There was a fireplace filled with nothing but old ashes and a counter cutting the room in two. The display cabinet, where the items were stored, was behind the counter. A single closed door probably led to a workroom in the back of the building.
They didnâ€™t think there was a back door to the building as it probably looked out over the Thames. They might have been able to climb the pier the shop stood upon and gain access to the back. The shops on the bridge were built directly into each other two, with no space in between. it did have a second floor, however, and they could see dark windows above. There were far too many people on the crowded London Bridge for them to try to break in through the front of the shop. They would most certainly be seen and possibly arrested. Selwyn, familiar with burglary, realized if they wanted to break into the store, doing so in the wee morning hours would be best.
â€œGodfrey, Whitewood, Hawksworth, would you three mind checking the shops nearby and seeing if anyone knows anything about the closing and when last they were seen?â€ Skern asked.
â€œI would very much like to know,â€ Selwyn said. â€œCan you ask about Marijne Barents as well as a Johannes van der Wyck?â€
â€œI suppose,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œMe and Selwyn, here, will try to â€¦ figure out what we can here,â€ Selwyn said.
The three men visited several nearby shops and questioned the merchants on the bridge. They were told the Dutchman was last seen about four days ago, emerging from the shop with a large box under his arm. He carefully locked the shop and had not returned since.
â€œDoes anyone call him Dutchie?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œHe is a Dutchman,â€ one of the merchants told him. â€œBut â€¦ I donâ€™t.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a squinty fellow. Heâ€™s always squinting. Heâ€™s got a hawk-like nose.â€
â€œFour days ago, you said.â€
â€œWhere was he going?â€
The man merely shrugged his shoulders.
â€œWhoâ€™s his friends?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ the merchant said. â€œHeâ€™s Dutch!â€
â€œTo Hell with him!â€
â€œOnce youâ€™ve had a few ales, surely you forget.â€
The three men returned to the other two and related what they learned. No one had seen the woman. Selwyn suggested it might have been the box mentioned in Croftâ€™s journal. Hawksworth pointed out Croft got the box in 1602 and so doubted it was the same one but was unsure.
â€œWhat do you think about the possibilities of us getting into this building?â€ Skern asked.
â€œI mean, if we wait â€˜til the wee hours of the morning, most people will be asleep,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œWhat if we meet here in the morning, instead of the Mermaid,â€ Skern said. â€œBreak in here, real quick, give a look aroundâ”€â€
â€œBreak in here real quick!?!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œâ”€and then go!â€ Skern finished.
â€œWhatâ”€!?!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œWeâ€™re breaking in?â€ Godfrey said.
â€œâ”€are you saying, Octavian?â€ Selwyn finished. â€œWe are just searching the premises. There is no breaking in.â€
â€œRight,â€ Skern said. â€œI mean â€¦ you know. Weâ€™re just concerned citizens, really. Itâ€™s our duty to â€¦ lookâ”€â€
â€œItâ€™s our duty to break in!?!â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œTo look upon the missings of this young woman!â€ Skern said.
â€œWeâ€™re looking for a missing young woman!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œFrom what I hear.â€
â€œThink about the young woman!â€
â€œI think you two have gone mad,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWhoâ€™s the one spouting gibberish earlier this afternoon?â€ Skern said.
â€œAll right, thatâ€™s a once in a lifetime thing,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œAnd you know what? Maybe I was acting. You wouldnâ€™t know, would you?â€
â€œActing as what!?!â€ Selwyn said.
â€œAll right. All right,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œI had a breakdown. I understand that.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ Skern said. â€œIâ€™m sorry. I shouldnâ€™t have brought that up.â€
â€œWe shouldnâ€™t break in though.â€
â€œJust down?â€ Selwyn quipped.
â€œIâ€™ll give you that one,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œThatâ€™s a good one. But â€¦ this is a crime. Love or not, this is a crime.â€
â€œWhat about the crime of a missing girl?â€ Skern asked. â€œWe need to find out what happened to her.â€
Hawksworth and Dr. Whitewood realized breaking in and searching the premises due to their suspicions, but not stealing anything, was not technically against the law. Also, the man was Dutch. If they got caught, they could get in trouble, but if they did it in secret and were not seen, it shouldnâ€™t be a great deal of trouble.
â€œIf you were to break in,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œIf.â€
â€œTo step on premises, yes,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œIf you were to break in, as you said, I might turn a blind eye and look out if the Dutchman were to return,â€ Hawksworth went on. â€œMaybe. Possibly. I will not set foot in that house. I will not be incriminated.â€
â€œOh, thank you Hawks â€¦ worth,â€ Skern said, having trouble remembering his name.
â€œSo, tomorrow morning?â€
â€œWhat is the plan? Are you going to do it or not?â€
â€œIâ€™d like to do it. Tomorrow morning.â€
Skern suggested they get some shuteye and then meet the next morning.
â€œCome ready to go to Deptford right afterward, all right?â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWeâ€™re not going back. Weâ€™re going to Deptford immediately.â€
They all headed home to get some sleep.
* * *
Hawksworth, when he went to bed that early evening, had terrible nightmares. The terrible yellow sign from John Croftâ€™s house was there, writhing and crawling, reaching for him with terrible certainty. There was also a man at least twice as tall as any he had ever met before, who wore pointed shoes under his tattered, yellow robes. A streamer of silk appeared to fall from the pointed tip of his hood. At times he appeared winged, at others, haloed. He wore a plain, pallid mask. Then there was something else. A lake by a city was in his dreams and the water rippled as if something were within it. Some titanic, aquatic tentacle-covered being pulled itself out of the water and he found himself fleeing for his life.
He awoke in a cold sweat, feeling terrible.
* * *
They met on London Bridge in the wee hours of the morning, sometime around four of the clock. The bridge seemed abandoned and when they all met, Hawksworth crossed the narrow street and lay down in the shadows like a vagrant, keeping watch up and down the bridge.
Selwyn lost no time in opening the lock on the front of the shop and the other men slipped into the place. Selwyn closed the door behind them but did not lock it.
The room was very dark but their eyes adjusted quickly.
â€œCatherine!â€ Selwyn called quietly. â€œCatherine!â€
He couldnâ€™t remember the missing girlâ€™s name.
â€œItâ€™s Marijne!â€ he said, suddenly remembering. â€œMarijne!â€
â€œMiss Barents!â€ Skern hissed.
The room contained a hearth and fireplace. A counter cut the room in two and behind it was the display case that could see be seen from the window. Another door left the back of the room. A tapestry hung from one wall.
Selwyn headed over to the display cabinet while Skern and Dr. Whitewood went into the back, followed by Godfrey. They found a dark workroom with two windows looking out of the back of the building. Steps went up and they could see the shadowy forms of a worktable, large cabinets, shelves, and a smaller hearth.
* * *
In the shop, Selwyn carefully opened the cabinet and pocketed the silver necklace and the gold cross. He decided to leave the goblets, figuring they were too heavy and not worth the trouble.
* * *
Skern headed up the stairs in the workroom, followed by Dr. Whitewood.
â€œIâ€™ll stay down here and look around,â€ Godfrey said.
He found a candle and lit it. He looked around and saw the room was in some disarray. Small gems were scattered across the table in the center of the room, some worked into marvelous cuts. Some were quite large, though they seemed too big to be real gems. A small brazier for melting gold sat on the table, the gold within it now solidified in the base of a metal pestle. A few papers were also on the workbench.
* * *
The stairway opened onto a dark landing with two closed doors in the wall to the right. It was nearly pitch black and only the dim light from the room below allowed them to see. There were no windows.
â€œDo you want to go to one room and I the other?â€ Skern said. â€œOr do you want to stay together?â€
â€œProbably safer if we stay together,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
Skern felt his way to the first room and opened it. Dim light came from windows on the back of the building, barely illuminating a bedroom with wardrobe, bed, washstand, and table. A few tapestries adorned the walls. Skern lit a candle after closing the door and they began their search of the room.
Several books lay on the table though they didnâ€™t seem to be any of interest. A few pieces of paper and a poster were there as well. Skern picked up both and looked them over.
The note was undated and read:
It has come to my attention that a certain scribbler of playes, John Croft, has been speaking
in the Mermaid Inne of things which should not concern him. Croft has apparently come into
possession of Marloweâ€™s ramblings. A curse on writers who insist on jotting everything down.
He has been dabbling, in association with William Shakespeare of all people. Croft, thankfully,
is no longer with us â”€ his amateur meanderings have taken their fateful toll. Shakespeare,
however, is still extant and must be taken care of. Do what you feel necessary.
The poster was for a play and read:
The first performance of William Shakespeareâ€™s tragedie â€œHamletâ€ will take place in the Globe
Theatre, Bankside on January the 8th. The parte of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, will be played
by Richard Burbadge with the Lord Chamberlainâ€™s Players in sundrie other roles.
He showed Dr. Whitewood what heâ€™d found.
* * *
Selwyn, having found nothing else of value in the front room of the shop, opened the door to the workroom. He was surprised and unhappy to see the lit candle in the back room and quickly slipped in, closing the door behind him.
â€œWhy is the light on?â€ he said.
Only Godfrey stood in the room, a candle lit nearby. The fat banker looked at the steps leading up but, every time he did so, despair crossed his face and he sighed. He dabbed at the perpetual sweat on his forehead.
Selwyn noticed the small piece of paper on the work table. He picked it up and saw it was the diagram for a many-faceted gem giving measurements for cuts to be made. Several mathematically calculations were scribbled beside the carefully drawn diagram. In the top corner of the diagram was the date of January 12th.
He also noticed the large gems, each the size of a duck egg. They were crafted in a like manner to the diagram and he looked at them but found they were worthless glass. Though they were just glass, as he examined one of them, his mind was suddenly assailed by the confusion of angles contained within the facets.
â€œToo good cuts!â€ he muttered. â€œThis is absolutely mind-blowing!â€
He realized the stones were templates upon which some final gemstone would be based and were cut according to the markings on the nearby paper. He tucked the diagram into his pocket. He saw a few other gems on the work table and the gold in the pestle as well.
â€œHave you inspected these stones?â€ he asked Godfrey. â€œLook at these cuts.â€
He shoved one of the glass stones into his hand. Godfrey looked into the depths of the gem and found his mind assaulted by the terrible angles. While he was distracted, Selwyn grabbed the small, real stones off the table and into his pocket. Godfrey, terrified by what heâ€™d seen, dropped the stone back onto the table.
â€œIâ€™ve been wanting one of these,â€ Selwyn said, pocketing the small, gold-filled mortar and pestle.
Godfrey stumbled to the window and was lost in thought. He had been deeply disturbed by what heâ€™d seen.
* * *
â€œThis is a very concerning note,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
Skern had looked over the books but found they were all written in Dutch and didnâ€™t seem to be of any interest. They quickly searched the rest of the room.
â€œWe should, perhaps, check the other room,â€ he said.
Skern blew out the candle and they crept into what proved to be a kitchen. A fireplace stood on the interior wall while a table and single chair stood in the center of the room. They found nothing of interest or import there.
* * *
Selwyn found the cabinets built into the wall were locked. He got to work on the left door and soon opened it. Within was a vast array of tools as well as what appeared to be most of the storeâ€™s inventory. It was quite a collection of gemstones, gold, silver, and the like. He guessed there might be as much as a thousand pounds worth in the cabinet.
He looked over at Godfrey, who continued to stare out the window. With a shrug of his shoulders, Selwyn stole everything of value in the cabinet. Godfrey watched the lights of the city, trying to process the horrors heâ€™d seen, trying to make some sense of the awfulness in the gemstone.
* * *
â€œShould we show this note to Hawksworth?â€ Skern asked.
â€œYes,â€ Dr. Whitewood replied. â€œI think itâ€™s imperative.â€
They headed down the steps and found Selwyn working on the right hand door on the cabinet built into the wall. Dr. Whitewood passed the man, slipping quickly into the shop and then out onto the street where he saw Hawksworth lying on the ground. He crossed the street, looking up and down the empty bridgeâ€™s street. He handed Hawksworth the note as the man stood up. Hawksworth looked it. He could make out writing on the piece of paper but little else.
â€œWhat is in my hands?â€ he said.
The other man looked at him.
â€œOh!â€ Dr. Whitewood said, realizing it was too dark to read. â€œItâ€™s a note from Joseph to van der Wyck. It says something about â€¦ he said thankfully Croftâ€™s out of the way and Shakespeare has to be dealt with next. It sounds very â€¦ sketchy.â€
â€œWho â€¦ who says that?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œTo van der Wyck.â€
â€œSo van der Wyck is Dutchie.â€
Dr. Whitewood just shrugged.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s what I think,â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWhere have they gone?â€
â€œWe didnâ€™t find anything about that,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œBut Shakespeareâ€™s play is going to be premiering the 8th.â€
â€œAt the Globe?â€
Dr. Whitewood held out the poster theyâ€™d found.
â€œWhatâ€™s this in front of my face?â€ Hawksworth asked, still unable to see in the dark.
â€œItâ€™s the advertisement for the play,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œFor that Hamlet?â€
â€œThatâ€™s gonna flop.â€
â€œI think they might be doing some shady business with William.â€
â€œYou think the playâ€™s going to come alive? Again?â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t want a â€˜maybe.â€™ If the playâ€™s coming alive, I want to know!â€
* * *
Selwyn finally opened the other cabinet door. That side of the cabinet appeared to be a plain closet that was empty save for a pair of shoes and a mud-spattered cloak. Small symbols were worked into the collar of the cloak. Godfrey walked over and peeked in as well. The symbols didnâ€™t appear to be the same as those in Croftâ€™s room. Then Skern noticed the back of the cupboard was very nice. He leaned in and felt around on the wall. Selwyn realized the backing was different from the other side of the cupboard. Whereas in the other closet, the backboard had been a rough, unvarnished piece of timber, this one appeared thicker and more finely crafted.
A search revealed hinges. Skern felt around in the cupboard and found nothing but Selwyn, when he leaned in, found a catch in a shallow recess in the backboard. When he manipulated it, the secret door swung open to reveal a narrow set of stone steps leading down, presumably into the middle of the stone pier on which the shop rested. The steep, exceedingly narrow stone staircase was dark and forbidding. The cold, damp smell of the stones and the river wafted up, mixed with other odors, perhaps burnt candles and flyblown meat.
â€œOh good Heavens!â€ Godfrey exclaimed. â€œStairs!â€
Selwyn drew his sword.
â€œPeter!â€ Selwyn said. â€œIf you could get the people outside, this is a discovery! She might be down the stairs.â€
â€œShould you be sending the large, sweaty man outside?â€ Godfrey said.
â€œOr would you rather go down the stairs?â€
He headed out of the room
* * *
â€œWhatâ€™s taking them so long in there?â€ Hawksworth said. â€œWe have what we need, right?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œIâ€™m not about to go in there after spending all this time out here.â€
â€œReginald was messing with some cabinet. I donâ€™t know.â€
â€œWould you mind go checking?â€
Just then the front door of van der Wyckâ€™s shop opened and Godfrey stepped out. He looked about himself in some confusion, saw them, pointed at them, and then crossed the street. He stopped and wiped his brow.
â€œWell, where are the other two?â€ Hawksworth asked.
â€œThey found a secret door in the cabinet,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œWhat?â€ Dr. Whitewood replied.
â€œThereâ€™s a secret door with â€¦ stairs â€¦ leading down,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s why you came out.â€
â€œNo, I came out because I want the fresh air. Of course thatâ€™s why I came out!â€
â€œAll right,â€ Hawksworth said.
â€œWell, someone has to keep watch,â€ Dr. Whitewood said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, but if this is what you told me it is, I need to act on this as quickly as I can,â€ Hawksworth said, holding up the note. â€œIâ€™m going to fine William Shakespeare.â€
â€œAre you sure you donâ€™t want to wait for the others?â€ Dr. Whitewood asked.
â€œIâ€™m sure. Youâ€™ll know where to find me. Iâ€™m going to find William Shakespeare and, if nothing else, meet me at the Globe on January eighth.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think you should go alone.â€
â€œIâ€™ll be fine.â€
Hawksworth turned and walked south. Dr. Whitewood was wracked with indecision for a moment.
â€œYou keep watch,â€ he suddenly said to Godfrey. â€œWeâ€™re going to find William Shakespeare.â€
He left the man, running after Hawksworth.
Godfrey found a place nearby in the shadows that sheltered him from the wind.
* * *
Skern and Selwyn didnâ€™t wait for the others but, almost as soon as Godfrey had left, proceeded down the terribly narrow staircase. Skern kept his sword ready and Selwyn held the candle to light their way. The stairs were steep and extremely narrow, their shoulders scraping against the damp stone.
â€œWho made these!?!â€ Selwyn complained.
The descent eventually brought them into a low, small, stone-walled, wood-ceilinged room, no more than 12 feet wide and long. Furnishings were minimal. At opposite ends of the room rested two chairs, the one furthest from the stairs being the more ornate of the two. Carved symbols and strange creatures adorned the chair. The volume of carvings, scene upon scene, gave the chair a lumpy, pustular shape which almost seemed to move and writhe. Behind the ornate throne, worked into the wall in what appeared to be hundreds of pieces of topaz or amber, was a strange symbol upon which they found it hard to focus. They recognized it as the sign from John Croftâ€™s wall.
The other chair was significantly less ornate, being a simple wooden armchair, its only concession to luxury a small cushion on the seat.
In the middle of the room, a pole ran from the ceiling to the floor. Tied to the pole was the naked body of a young woman. Great welts and lacerations covered her torso and legs in thick, visceral bands, encrusted blood, dried to a muddy brown, marking the ebb of the poor girlâ€™s life, slowly drained by the lashing of some fantastic whip. The girlsâ€™ face, too, had been mutilated but in an altogether different manner. It looked as if hundreds of tiny suckers had been fastened to her face and blood drained through them, each sucker leaving a tiny, livid blemish behind as if she had been stricken with a virulent pox. Her blotched face was drawn back in a hideous, wide-eyed scream, her last act being an expression of her profound terror. The woman appeared to have been dead for many days.
Against the wall lay a pile of torn clothes and personal items.
Skern crossed the room and rifled through the clothing on the floor. They proved to be a womanâ€™s clothing. Among them was a gold locket and chain. Inside the locket were small cameos, one in either half of the locket, of two womenâ€™s faces, one young and one older but definitely related. The back of the locket was inscribed â€œTo my darling Marijne on your birthday, from your loving mother, June 1600.â€
â€œWhat do you have there, Octavian?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œItâ€™s Marijne!â€ Skern said. â€œOh, Lucy is going to be so upset!â€
He pocketed the locket.
â€œSelwyn! Reginald!â€ he said. â€œWhat do you make of all this?â€
â€œThe Dutch are bad people,â€ Selwyn said.
â€œIs this not the same symbol we saw at John Croftâ€™s house?â€
â€œIt is the same!â€
Selwyn considered picking out the stones from the symbol but realized it would take hours and the stones might not even be worth it. He decided against it.
â€œI must get back to Lucy and tell her of this news!â€ Skern said.
â€œThis was your friend, wasnâ€™t it?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œWell â€¦ not my friend. I didnâ€™t know her but â€¦ this is, I believe, whoâ”€â€
â€œBut that was your link to true love!â€
â€œAnd itâ€™s gone.â€
â€œI must tell my Lucy what we have discovered.â€
â€œOh. Well, if youâ€™re going to tell her about this, then we will have to tell the constable. But if youâ€™re going to do that, donâ€™t mention me.â€
â€œThatâ€™s fine. You need not beâ”€â€
â€œBut also, mention that it looked like the place was broken into.â€
Skern realized if they left the shop and the secret panel open, someone in authority would certainly find it. He decided to keep the locket.
â€œLetâ€™s just leave things open there,â€ he said.
â€œSounds good to me,â€ Selwyn replied.
â€œLetâ€™s go find the others.â€
They left the horrible room and the shop, leaving the secret door open as well as the front door of the shop. Only Godfrey was out in the street, to their surprise.
â€œGodfrey,â€ Skern said. â€œWhere are the others?â€
â€œThey went to go find â€¦ who are they going to find?â€ Godfrey said. â€œOh! Shakespeare! They went to go find Will.â€
â€œShakespeare?â€ Selwyn said.
â€œAh yes, the note,â€ Skern said. â€œWe didnâ€™t tell you.â€
â€œSomething about a note,â€ Godfrey said.
â€œWe found a note,â€ Skern said. â€œFrom his Joseph fellow. It mentioned the death of â€¦ John Croft and â€¦ and said that Shakespeare had to be next. There was alsoâ”€â€
â€œOh the chopping block?â€ Selwyn asked.
â€œUh â€¦ yes, that was implied,â€ Skern said. â€œThere was also a post mentioning the opening of Shakespeareâ€™s near play, Hamlet.â€
Someone carrying a lantern approached from the south side of the bridge.
â€œPerhaps we should get out of here,â€ Skern said.
â€œWe should move,â€ Selwyn said.
Godfrey sighed and they fled from the approaching light. As they left the bridge they heard a shout from behind: â€œBurglary! Theft!â€ They fled the area and parted company.
â€œShall we reconvene at the Hamlet play?â€ Skern said.
â€œYeah,â€ Selwyn replied. â€œWell, they said something about meeting at the Mermaid tomorrow.â€
â€œOr did that get scratched?â€
â€œThat was kind of scratched.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to go home and then Iâ€™m going to make my way to Deptford. I had a good amount of sleep already.â€
â€œAll right. Iâ€™ll â€¦ maybe see you there.â€
Selwyn went home before heading to Deptford. Godfrey went to the Mermaid but found it closed so he headed off to Deptford as well.
* * *