As soon as he was released, Moody chose to offer his services to anyone likely to pay, juggling the wants of employers.

The Elizabethan Secret Services

Alan Haynes

The Nag’s Head was a well appointed public house with a bowling green out back. The main room stretched the length of the building and large doors were open in the back, giving a view of the green, the players, and more people at tables outside. By this time, it was coming on evening and the sunlight slanted down on the green sward, bathing it in a golden light and illuminating the fine clothes worn by the men playing at bowls. Inside, the tables along the walls were separated from each other by carved wooden dividers, making each table and its benches nicely private. Helmsley felt satisfied that he did not stand out as being too poorly dressed.

He nodded in the direction of an unoccupied table along the middle of the far wall, well situated to view the comings and goings. He and Jean were nearing it when he was hailed from a nearby secluded table.

“Captain Featheridge! It is good to see you. I hope that your voyage home was without incident.” Moody’s voice was affable. His clothes were travel-worn and dusty and it appeared as if he had only just arrived himself. He had yet to be served.

Helmsley was uncertain what name Moody might be using. “It was indeed without incident, thank you for asking. I am also glad to see that you have arrived safely as well.” Helmsley sat down at Moody’s  table. Jean took a chair at a table out on the floor where he could keep an eye on the entrances.

Moody looked around. “I wonder if there’s any chance of an ale or even a penny pot of wine. I am most powerful parched.” He signaled to a barmaid for two drinks and then looked back at Helmsley. “How are you finding London after so many years away? I would imagine that there have been a great many changes.”

“I am merely glad to be back home in England. Especially now that Catholicism is triumphant across so much of Europe.” He looked directly at Moody and waited for the barmaid to set their drinks on the table. Moody looked at him expectantly, and with a sigh, Helmsley opened his purse and paid for the drinks. “Truly, I wonder how long the Dutch Republic can hold out against such a mighty power as Spain. It’s good that we Protestants can have such a place of refuge as England.” He took a drink. “But now that my travels are finished, my thoughts turn to matters of business. Are you prepared to move on my offer?”

Moody clearly decided to play coy. “And what offer was that, Captain? I’m afraid that you must refresh my memory, as I have so many demands for my business these days.”

“The same offer I made to you on that Vlissingen dock, Michael. You deliver Nick Crossby to me, along with any documents that he might have, and you get paid. The quicker you do this, the quicker you get paid.”

Moody’s face showed only recollection. “Oh, that offer! I recall it now.”

“Michael. Cut the shit. Where’s Nick?”

“Richard. Cut the shit. Where’s my money? All of my money.”

“You’ll get paid when we have Nick. Now, where is he?”

“As you wish. He’s here in London. I know where he is precisely. And I can deliver him to you at a time of your choosing. I would recommend that you take him somewhere near the wharves, so as to bundle him onto a ship so as to get him back to the Low Countries as quick as possible. You do want him alive, do you not?”

“Yes. We need all the information he might have.”

“Then I suggest tomorrow when the tide is going out. There will be numerous ships leaving then. You set that part up and I will have Nick at the Bear Quay, just upriver from the Tower at that time. Be there with my money and you’ll get all that you desire. If not, then … not.”

Jean had been sitting slumped in a chair at a nearby table throughout Moody’s visit. He stared at a mug with such bovine regard that the people elsewhere in the room probably suspected him of being a lack wit. Such observers undoubtedly received a shock when, without any sort of warning whatsoever, Jean was on his feet, knife half drawn.

Moody pushed back from the table, wary eyes shifting from person to person, alert to see how it all played out.

A man was standing in front of the table where Helmsley and Moody sat. Looking beyond him, Helmsley saw that he had a couple of bravos attending on him, hanging back, but clearly there to provide protection. Right now, mastiff-like, their regard clearly centered on Jean, waiting to see if he made his move. The man ignored the byplay going on behind him; he had eyes only for Moody. He was well dressed, clothes of a fine quality, a freshly starched ruff, rings of some value on his fingers, hair neatly barbered recently and his beard tightly trimmed.

The man turned his attention to Helmsley and a calculating expression crossed his face. “Sir, this affair is between myself and this man. But, now that I see you and think upon it, I wonder if we might have some acquaintance.”

“I’m afraid that you are mistaken. I have never seen you before.”

“What if I were to say it might be an acquaintance of correspondence? Perhaps you might know me as Sebastian?”

Spiraling implications began to trace themselves in Helmsley’s mind. He remembered the conversation between himself and Hugh Owen, back in Brussels, and the importance placed on the intelligence sent to them by the correspondent who called himself Sebastian. “I must admit that I have been the happy recipient of your letters during my times overseas. Such letters have brightened my days and the days of my friends.”

“Why, then it is most fortuitous that we have met this day!” The man sat down without further ado. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Adam Denby. I work for the Privy Council and it is that work that has brought me here today.” He turned to Moody. “Sir, you have recently traveled to the Continent. Her Majesty’s government requires you to divulge to me the purpose of your visit and the names of those with whom you conversed during your stay there.”

Moody had his mug at his lips. It froze there for a moment, then he took a leisurely swallow and softly laid it back down on the table. “My name is Stephen Gardener. I work for someone much more powerful than you, you poncy toerag. And you can go fuck yourself.” He smiled pleasantly.

Denby appeared to not be put out by this at all. He merely smiled, crossed his hands in front of him, and addressed his next words to Helmsley. “You see, sir, this man works for a notorious pursuivant and is not to be trusted at all. I know full well who he works for and I also know that the days of his master on this earth can be measured in very small numbers indeed.”

Moody made a great show of straightening his sleeves. “I am sitting here merely because I am wondering if eventually you will come to some point. Any man may sit at any table and claim to be working for the Privy Council, but that does not mean that I will open my affairs to him. My answer still holds. I will tell you naught of my recent travels. I will not even admit to leaving England.”

“I meant what I said. The days of your master are numbered. His yapping has become so loud that I have taken steps to silence him.” Denby made an attempt to appear conciliatory. “But that does not mean that I feel the same about those who work for that wretch.”

If he’s talking about who I think he’s talking about, I wish him all the luck in the world. Bob Poley dead is a result most devoutly wished.

“That’s two bold utterances. You threaten to kill my patron and then offer to hire me.” Moody didn’t seem to be put out at all. Helmsley wondered if this Denby knew that this sort of double dealing was Moody’s meat and drink. “But I am not in the habit of responding well to threats.”

Now what the hell is he on about? Threats are all that he responds to! Well, that and ready money.

Moody finished off his drink and rose from the table. He ignored Denby and spoke directly to Helmsley. “Despite all this jackanapes says, we still have a deal. I’m still the one who knows the whereabouts of that certain person. You know when and where to be with your money to get that which you desire. And you know not to be late, lest others become involved.” With that, he turned and headed for the tavern door.

Jean looked at Helmsley and the bravos looked at Denby. Both men shook their heads. By the time Moody reached the door, he was walking very fast indeed.

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