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Spanish Nights


Blackguard
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During the Period of Mourning

 

Don Juan Jose sat in a cushioned chair by the fire. The flickers of light upon his pale face created a macabre air. Two other men joined him on nearby seats. The drawing room doors were closed with a guard outside. The Hapsburg princeling would have as much privacy as he could wish for in London.

 

It was the handsome Diego Estrada that reported. The Baron of Toledo watched and waited.

 

"The assassin was a woman of English birth," Diego commented. "She adopted the name Sybille and used French silver to leave a trail of French blame. A stable boy thought she might be blond. She was sloppy in the attempt at the inn. The attempt at the Monday celebration was more inspired. She knew your guard would be down as the night progressed. She either hired a servant or did the deed on her own in disguise as a man."

 

"So, it was not the French?" Don Juan croaked in weakness. An unfinished bowl of stew rested on the table at his side.

 

"Unlikely," Diego replied, "though the most clever path is to make an assassination seem to have been done by an enemy trying to blame you." It was not a plan for the masses, but one designed to appeal to more learned minds.

 

"Could it be the English?" Toledo asked as he leaned forward to watch Juan closely.

 

"Unlikely," Diego supplied. "Williamson is in the Tower. It would have to be the work of his replacement, or some disaffected lord."

 

"I have no English enemies," croaked Juan.

 

"No, but you have Spanish and French enemies that might approach the right royal ear and whisper of riches if your Highness were to die in England rather than in Spain. The English king might be in greater need of these friendships than your own."

 

Juan nodded at the logic. Having lived in the Austrian court most of his life, he was well aware of such intrigues and shifting alliances. "Do you have any promising leads?"

 

"I have one," Diego replied. He had cast his lot in with the Hapsburg pretender and now was feeling the sense of danger. His thoughts went to an English beauty that could well have been the assassin, or might be the one to uncover her for him.

 

There was another blond beauty on the mind of Don Juan, but this one was German rather than English. With a casual glance to Toledo, he commanded "you should call upon Doolittle and Kirke." There was a nod of acceptance from his loyal follower.

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