Authors: Susanna Gregory
Tags: #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #Fiction
A Conspiracy of Violence
Blood on the Strand
The Butcher of Smithfield
The Westminster Poisoner
A Murder on London Bridge
The Body in the Thames
A Plague on Both Your Houses
An Unholy Alliance
A Bone of Contention
A Deadly Brew
A Wicked Deed
A Masterly Murder
An Order for Death
A Summer of Discontent
A Killer in Winter
The Hand of Justice
The Mark of a Murderer
The Tarnished Chalice
To Kill or Cure
The Devil’s Disciples
A Vein of Deceit
The Killer of Pilgrims
Mystery in the Minster
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Susanna Gregory
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
For Bernard and Jean Knight
Tangier, 4 May 1664
William Reyner watched Lord Teviot lead the five hundred soldiers to their deaths. It would be easy to prevent the massacre
– just gallop after the column and tell Teviot that more than ten thousand Barbary corsairs were lying in wait ahead – but
he made no move to do so. A large amount of money was at stake, and that was considered far more important than the lives
of mere warriors. Besides, Reyner had never liked Teviot: the man was a greedy fool, who should never have been appointed
Governor of Tangier in the first place.
He glanced around him. Tangier had come to England as part of Queen Katherine’s dowry, but it was a paltry place – a few winding
streets huddled on a hill, rich with the scent of exotic spices, sun-baked manure and the salty aroma of the sea. It was being
fortified, in the hope that it would provide British ships with a secure Mediterranean anchorage, although personally Reyner
thought the King should have held out for
something better. Tangier’s harbour was too shallow and too exposed, while the surrounding countryside was full of hostile
When the last infantryman had marched through the town gate, Reyner and his fellow scouts followed on horseback. Colonel Harley
was in the lead, sullen and scowling as usual, while the impassive Robert Newell brought up the rear. All three were careful
to keep their distance:
did not want to become entangled in the slaughter that was about to take place.
Teviot’s destination was a wood named Jews Hill; a place where corsairs often gathered to harry the town. The three scouts
had assured him that it was safe that day – a good time to chop down some of the trees and make it more difficult for raiders
to use in the future. The reality was that it had never been more dangerous.
It was not long before the first sounds of battle drifted back on the hot, dusty breeze – the yells of men roaring an attack
and the spluttering crack of gunfire. Reyner, Harley and Newell pulled up.
Although Reyner did not care about Teviot, he had always been uncomfortable with sacrificing half the town’s garrison into
the bargain. Harley and Newell had scoffed at his faint-heartedness, reminding him of the fabulous rewards they would reap
when the deed was done, but he could not escape the conviction that the plan was unnecessarily brutal, and that a less bloody
way should have been devised to realise their master’s plans.
The first skirmish did not last long, and the British cheered when the Moors turned and ran. Reyner stared hard at Harley:
there was still time to stop what had been set in motion, to warn Teviot that the first attack was a ruse to lure him and
his men deeper into the
woods. But Harley ignored him. Oblivious to the peril, Teviot rallied his troops and led an advance up the hill.
The British were jubilant at the enemy’s ‘flight’, and it was clear they felt invincible. They walked a little taller in the
wavering heat, the fierce African sunlight glinting off their helmets and weapons. Teviot was at their head, a tall, athletic
figure on his white horse. He looked like a god, although Reyner knew he was anything but: the Governor of Tangier was a vain,
stupid man, whose incompetence was matched only by his venality.
The corsair commander timed his ambush perfectly, splintering Teviot’s column into clusters. There was immediate panic: the
British had been trained to fight in a specific formation, and did not know what to do once their orderly line had been broken.
Teviot did his best, bawling orders and laying about him like a demon. Grudgingly, Reyner admitted that, for all his faults,
the man was no coward.
The battle was short and brutal. Pikes and short swords were no match for ten thousand scything scimitars, and the British
were cut down in ruthless hand-to-hand skirmishing. Teviot managed to rally a few men at the top of the hill, where he mounted
a brave last stand, but it was hopeless. The Moors advanced in an almost leisurely fashion, and Teviot was hacked to pieces.
Without a word, Reyner, Harley and Newell rode back to Tangier, ready to feign shock when news of the catastrophe reached
the town. They did not have long to wait. Miraculously, about thirty soldiers had managed to escape. They stumbled through
the gate, shaken and bloody, gasping their tale to the settlement’s horrified residents.
Reyner closed his ears to the wails of shock and disbelief, telling himself that the massacre was Teviot’s own fault for
choosing the wrong side in the struggle for riches and power – his master had had no choice but to order his elimination.
But he was uneasy, even so. The order to kill Teviot had been delivered with a ruthless insouciance, and Reyner had sensed
a dark and deadly power.
Not for the first time since he had been recruited, he wondered whether he had been right to throw in his lot with such a
person. He had been promised a handsome payment, it was true, but what good was a fortune if he was not alive to enjoy it
– if it was decided that those who had engineered the atrocity were too great a liability, and should be dispatched themselves?
But what was done was done, and there was no going back. He, Harley and Newell would just have to ensure that no one ever
learned the truth about what had transpired on Jews Hill that pretty spring morning. And if that entailed more murders, then
so be it.
Queenhithe, early October 1664
It had been a pleasant voyage for the passengers and crew of
. The sea had been calm, even across the notorious Bay of Biscay, and the winds favourable. The cargo comprised luxury goods
from the eastern Mediterranean, so there were no noxious odours from the holds to contend with, and the journey from Tangier
had been made in record time.
Now they were almost home. They had sailed up the River Thames that morning, arriving at London Bridge just as the drawbridge
was being raised to let masted
ships through. The timing could not have been better, and Captain Pepperell was pleased with himself as he conned his ship
towards Queenhithe. Then he glanced at his passengers, who had gathered on deck to watch
dock, and felt his good humour slip a little.
An irascible, unfriendly man, Pepperell much preferred those journeys where the guest cabins were empty. Still, he had been
paid to monitor these particular passengers, although it had not been easy – they had been almost as reluctant to socialise
as he himself, and the information he had gathered was meagre. Of course, that was not to say it was unimportant, and he believed
it would be very gratefully received.
They were the usual mixed bag. Reverend Addison was Tangier’s chaplain, returning to London for a holiday; Thomas Chaloner
was some sort of diplomat; Harley, Newell and Reyner were army scouts – surly, mean-spirited individuals whom the crew disliked;
and John Cave was a musician who had been sent to entertain the troops.
The Captain smirked as he recalled the garrison’s stunned disbelief when Cave had embarked on a medley of elegant arias. They
liked bawdy tavern songs, and excerpts from Italian operas were definitely not what they had wanted to hear. Yet for all that,
thought Pepperell, Cave did sing prettily. Chaloner played the bass viol, and even Pepperell – not a man given to foolish
sentiment – had been moved by the haunting beauty of some of the duets they had performed on the voyage home.
He gave the last few orders that saw
safely moored, then left his second-in-command, Anthony Young, to supervise the unloading, while he went to
complete landing formalities with the harbour master. He strode towards the customs building, a little unsteady on legs that
were more attuned to the roll of the sea.
He turned when he heard a shout, and saw two men running towards him, one in a brown coat and the other resplendent in a red
uniform with a plumed Cavalier hat. He waited, supposing their business with him must be urgent, or they would not be racing
about like madmen.
By the time he realised they meant him harm, it was far too late to think of defending himself. The man in brown lashed out
with a knife, and Pepperell felt it slice deep into his innards. He gasped in pain and shock as he dropped to the ground,
and tried to shout for help. He could only manage a strangled whisper, barely audible over the hammering footsteps as his
assailants sped away.
Chaloner heard it, though, and Pepperell could have wept with relief when the diplomat snapped into action, yelling for his
fellow passengers to tend the wounded captain even as he vaulted over the rail to give chase. Unfortunately, the others were
slower to react, and several long, agonising minutes had passed before they came to cluster at Pepperell’s side.
‘Thieves!’ muttered Young, shaking his head in disgust as he tried to stem the flow of blood with his cap. ‘The scourge of
every port in Christendom.’
‘But the captain still has his purse,’ Reverend Addison pointed out, kneeling to lay a comforting hand on Pepperell’s shoulder.
‘Besides, I recognise the man who stabbed him. He is Josiah Brinkes, a vicious scoundrel who can be hired by anyone wanting
dirty business done. This was not robbery – it was assassination!’
‘Rubbish!’ declared Harley the scout, staring dispassionately at the dying man. ‘They intended to steal the purse, but Chaloner
was after them too fast – they were forced to run before they could lay hold of it.’
But Pepperell knew the truth. He tried to grab Addison’s sleeve, to draw him nearer so he could explain, but there was no
strength in his fingers. Then Chaloner arrived back, panting hard from his exertions, and the chaplain did not notice Pepperell’s
desperate attempts to claim his attention.
‘Escaped, did they?’ Harley smiled unpleasantly. ‘Well, I cannot say I blame you for deciding to let them go. Dockyard felons
can be notoriously brutal, and there
two of them.’
‘Then you should have gone with him,’ said Addison admonishingly, still oblivious to Pepperell’s weak but increasingly frantic
gestures. ‘You claim to be a professional soldier.’
Chaloner silenced them with a glare, then leaned close to the captain, straining to hear what he was struggling to say.
‘Picc … a … dilly …’
Chaloner regarded him in confusion. ‘Do you mean the street?’
Pepperell’s world was growing darker as his life drained away. He tried again. ‘Tr … trade …’
‘I had better see to the ship.’ Young’s eyes gleamed as he looked at the vessel that was now his to command. ‘Her owners will
not let this unfortunate incident interfere with her itinerary – they will still expect her to sail on the evening tide.’