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Estaban was not the talkative one. Pedro missed having Diego around to help him react to developments. It was with trepidation that the Ambassador had opened the letter. Estaban had noticed the discomfort.


After reading the contents, Pedro shook his head, muttering in vulgar Spanish slang. "The Queen has dispatched an envoy to London. He is to carry orders for us Estaban. Just what we need." He poured himself a stiff drink.


"First I am ordered to disturb Monsieur's arrival in London, without the resources to accomplish it. Now, I am to dance to the string of some lackey from Madrid? You would think they would treat me better, under the circumstances." Dark eyes looked up from the desk to catch Estaban's. The big man nodded mutely, as was his tendancy.


"How many men can you muster?" Pedro asked with urgency in his voice. "Five," came the reply. "They shall have to do. You leave tonight."

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It was not until Saturday morning that the Spanish Ambassador received the report. The news was not good.


"You did not know, Excellency, that the French were traveling by barge," Estaban tried to explain, to lessen the pain of failure. "The plan was to proceed along the Dover road, just as their gold did," Pedro exclaimed angrily. His fist pounded the desktop in anger. Normally a passive individual, his passions had been awakened of late for various reasons, none of which bode well for him.


"We still have the gold Excellency," Estaban reminded him. "We can still embarrass the French."


Pedro nodded slowly. His underling had a good point. "But how?" the Ambassador queried aloud. He was met only by silence. Estaban was the Spanish muscle, not the Spanish brains in London.

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  • 6 months later...

May 6th


Into the presence of Don Pedro Ronquillo came a young man, fresh from Spain. A letter of introduction had proceeded him and the Spanish Ambassador to England stood ready to welcome the visiting lord.


"Please be seated Lord Carlos," Pedro welcomed, even as the young man brushed the remaining rainfall from his hair and jacket. "Damnable weather."


"The Duke of Osuna, your father, has been able to rely upon me. How is it that I can help you?"


The young man put a scented handkerchief to his nose and looked about the office of the Ambassador with disdain. "We are not pleased at all Don Pedro. Letters are not enough. Now, because of your incompetence, I must come to London to set things right." A letter with a royal seal was placed in the hands of Ronquillo. There was a pause for the Ambassador to absorb its importance. "I see." Ronquillo knew that he was in trouble with Madrid. "I have done all that I could with minimal resources," he explained.


"All you could is not enough. Catholics are being slaughtered in England. The French are in a position to tumble from English favor and what are you doing to see that it happens? Don Juan Jose de Austria arrives openly. In his company is the son of the Marquis de la Laguna and a friend of the traitorous Duke of Alba. The two greatest threats to Spain are in London and what are you doing? Nothing!"


"What would you have me do milord? I have but five men and no funds? I will not attempt assassinations. The French attempted that and fell from favor."


"You have two weeks to scandalize the Austrian bastard and Orleans. Good God man, Orleans has the Italian sickness and is said to have poisoned the King's sister, then his wife. Do something to destroy him, or must I spell it out for you?" he asked in an exasperated tone.


"I shall need money," Pedro advised.


"Spend the French gold you stole. Yes, we know about that," Carlos added impatiently.


"And the Austrian bastard?"


"We cannot trust it to you. The Cardinal shall see to it personally."


Ronquillo realized that things were escalating out of control. The Cardinal was the Austrian leader of the Jesuits forming the Order of Saint Joseph. The Cardinal hated Don Juan and the feeling was mutual. Might the Order move against a fellow Catholic rather than a Protestant, Pedro mused.


It was no surprise that Juan Tellez-Giron, Duke of Osuna, had sent his son on this mission. The Osunas had been out of favor until the deformed King Charles II of Spain was elevated to the throne. Now they kissed the Queen's feet in return for favor. Their rivals were the Albas, one of the most prominent families in Spain. The Baron of Toledo was friends with Alba's sons, and was loyal to the Austrian Pretender, though the rest of the Alba family claimed to be loyal to King Charles. The family was playing both sides and the Osuna family would love to implicate the Albas.


Matters were beyond what Pedro had envisioned for himself. "I am happy to put my resources at your disposal milord," Ronquillo offered diplomatically.

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