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A Divided Coach


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Perhaps it was a coincidence. Perhaps it was not. The Spanish Ambassador's coach had broken an axle as it approached London. It would take a couple of days for it to be repaired, leaving Pedro Ronquillo and his men stranded at the side of the road. Much to the group's surprise, another coach came along in short order. Out stuck the head of Diego Estrada. "Can I offer you a ride to London Don Pedro?"


The shock was difficult to melt from Pedro's face. "What are you doing here Estrada?" Estaban gave both men a wary look. This was not a good sign.


"I might ask you the same," came the young Spaniard's reply. "I'm happy to leave you here, but if you want to arrive in time for the English Parliament session and the Saint George's ceremony, there is no time to lose. I cannot tarry here overlong."


Pedro needed to get to London in the worst way. Was this a trap? Did Diego mean to kill him? He doubted it. If Diego wanted to kill him, it would be done in secret, not plain view. "Very well." Pedro turned to look at Estaban.


"There is room only for you Your Excellency." It was a clear message that Pedro needed to leave his protector behind. There was a certain hestitation in Pedro's movements. It was clear that Diego wished to speak with him alone. "Very well"


The coach lurched forward after adding an additional passenger. Two men sat opposite each other, each with thoughts cloaked from the other. Diego had been Pedro's spymaster until he was dismissed at Windsor. Diego had remained in England against Ronquillo's express instructions. Now Diego was his own master and Pedro was left to bring a new man to London.


"You play a dangerous game Estrada," the older man warned. "You have aligned yourself with Don Juan. The man is a bastard and shall never rule Spain. The Queen Mother and Valenzuela are too strong. He has been exiled here, without significant supporters. You stand to lose everything."


"What is it that I stand to lose? My self-respect perhaps?" Diego held no great lands or title in Spain.


There was a tension in the air. Not only were they opponents on the political battlefield; but, there was an English lady at the heart of the divide between them. Pedro had been nursing emotional wounds while Diego had been nursing the physical wounds he had received from the Jesuit known as Judas.


The coach rolled onward towards its destination. Further words were exchanged en route. Lines were drawn. One, or even both, of them was going to lose. As the sun began to set, the sky was a brilliant red.

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