By Dean Hamilton
Who rules London? Kit Tyburn is about to find out.
Kit Tyburn, ex-soldier turned play-actor and part-time intelligencer for the Queen's spymaster Francis Walsingham, is back in London and adrift. Penniless, cut loose from both his playing troupe and his mercurial employer, Tyburn is hired by James Burbage to track down a missing gold-seller who has vanished, along with the monies needed for the completion of London's first permanent theatre.
But London's dark and fetid back-alleys hide deadly secrets, as Tyburn uncovers a more treacherous game - a war between two noble houses that pulls him into a murderous conflict on the streets, a deadly Spanish conspiracy and a twisted thief-lord chasing her vengeance.
A man on horseback thrust his way through the press, in the wake of a liveried groom who shoved people aside. “Make way. Make way,” he intoned.
Tyburn felt a brief clutch at his left arm and Stokely half gasped, half retched.
The player turned.
Stokely was frozen in place, his eyes staring down the length of the bridge. His once-fine coat bulged, strangely tented above his left breast. Tyburn felt someone push past on his right as he watched the expensive material of the coat split asunder, the thin reddened tip of a long poniard emerging with sullen slowness, protruding outward from below Stokely’s left collarbone. Stokely retched again and staggered, grasping at Tyburn’s arm with nerveless hands. He fell to his knees and someone shrieked in horror. The hilt of the weapon protruded out of Stokely’s back, the blade angled upwards into a neat and precise thrust to the heart.
The player spun around, eyes seeking. The flat lockbox was gone. Stokely slumped down into the roadway, blood dripping down the front of his now sodden coat. He toppled onto his side, emitting a deep groan that faded into a long hiss.
Shouts of alarm rose and the crowd split to both sides. Tyburn stared down the length of the bridge, looking for the assailant in the dense throng. Pale shocked faces stared back at him in a ring. The killing had brought the crowd around them to a dazed halt, opening space in the relentless bridge commute. Tyburn craned his neck and shoved his way away from the supine body for a glimpse.
The lockbox was in the hands of a man dressed as a harlequin.
Pushing their way through the crowd ahead of him was the group of garishly dressed street performers that Tyburn had observed near the Clink, still wearing their checkered red, white, and black masks. One wearing a half mask gazed back and caught the player’s eye. Tyburn saw the face twist in a lazy, contemptuous smile and turn away as they vanished in the crowd.
“Shit.” Tyburn heaved a gawping bystander out of the way and pushed through the crowd, ducking and sliding sideways, one hand on his sword and the other bodily thrusting people out of his path. “Make way, you bastards! Move!” He used his best sergeant’s voice as he slammed past the man on horseback and his servant, dodging a food stall and slipping past a cart stacked high with produce.
The harlequins were gone. He clambered up on the cart, raising himself above the crowded traffic. He could hear shouts behind him where Stokely’s body lay bleeding out on the cobbles. There was no sign of them ahead on the bridge. Tyburn glanced about but the traffic in front continued unabated and undisturbed. Anyone running or pushing through would have disrupted the surface calm of the crowd, but it was as placid and composed as a slow-running brook.
Only one place they could have gone, the player thought, his eyes drawn to an open wooden doorway in one of the buildings. He jumped from the cart, ignoring the wealthy rider berating him. The player charged through the open door, finding himself in a small entrance room, with a shop doorway opening to the right and a narrow staircase to the left. The bridge buildings extended out over the edge of the bridge, supported on heavy thick wooden beams and buttresses, but they were still relatively narrow. There was only one direction to run.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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Dean Hamilton was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He spent the first half of his childhood chasing around the prairies and western Canada before relocating to Toronto, Ontario. He has three degrees (BA, MA & MBA), reads an unhealthy amount of history, works as a marketing professional by day and prowls the imaginary alleyways of the Elizabethan era in his off-hours. Much of his winter is spent hanging around hockey arenas and shouting at referees. He is married, with a son, a dog, and a small herd of cats.
He is the author of the gripping Elizabethan era thriller The Jesuit Letter. Thieves’ Castle is the second book in the Tyburn Folios series.