Excerpt from Chapter 2
Doyle stood outside the tavern. The square was now cloaked in darkness except for a single guttering lamp at the tavern’s door. He watched Grey leave first and head toward the surrounding maze of narrow, cobbled streets, lit only by the occasional burst of light from an open door or window, usually accompanied by music and laughter, or sometimes by voices raised in anger. At this hour, the streets leading out of the square were empty.
One of the Frenchmen who had been watching them exited the tavern and followed after Grey. It was the big one, taller than himself, and probably twice his weight. Gelada, Doyle thought. No notion of a fair fight. Doyle let Gelada pass, then stepped out and called in a soft voice, “Pardon, M’sieur. Vous désirez…?” Gelada turned, and in that instant, the hilt of a throwing dagger blossomed in his throat. Gelada looked at Doyle in angry surprise, took a step towards him, then crumbled to the ground. Doyle stepped to the body. A sharp pull to free the blade completed the work.
Grey heard the scuffle, turned and ran back toward the noise. He saw Doyle standing over the body. Grey knelt down in the dark trying to look at the man’s face. “You know him?” he asked.
“Gelada,” Doyle said. “They call him ‘The Bull,’ or more properly, called him. Easy to see why. He’s a French agent, as you might have guessed.”
“You might, at least, have spared him so I could talk with him,” snapped Grey.
“Or I could have let you attempt to deal with him yourself,” said Doyle. “No offense, of course, but I would have liked to have seen you attempt that. Happily, now you can make your way home in safety. I trust you can manage that?”
Grey glanced up at Doyle, saw the look in his eyes and the bloody knife in his hand, and thought better of the retort he had intended to make. “I’m sure I’ll make do,” he said. “Perhaps you and I will meet again.”
“It would be my pleasure, at any time and place of your choosing.” said Doyle. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a body to attend to.” Grey rose and headed back up the street toward his lodgings without a word.
Doyle wiped the knife on the man’s cloak and dragged the body into the shadows. I should scalp him. That would certainly create a stir in the morning. Well, his purse will do, Doyle thought. One more robbery in a part of town accustomed to dead, looted bodies. I will probably regret not having taken care of Grey in the bargain.
Doyle walked back to the tavern. Above the square, the looming walls of the fortress stood out against a moonlit, cloudy sky. Doyle stepped back into the blackness under the market stall nearest the tavern’s entrance to wait.
Several minutes later, Eaton and Leitensdorfer emerged among a boisterous group of sailors. The sailors shattered the quiet of the evening with their singing as they staggered down an alley leading to the harbor.
Some die of constipation, some die of diarrhea.
Some die of deadly cholera, some die of diphtheria.
But of all the dread diseases, the one that we do fear,
Is the drip, drip, drip from the chancred prick of a British Grenadier.
Americans, Doyle thought. The new, rising power in the world. Not what you’d call an improvement.
He saw his two colleagues head up the hill towards their hotel. The second Frenchman he had spotted in the tavern dropped in behind them. Lapin. Gelada’s little rabbit. He’ll be easier to deal with and far more talkative. Noiselessly, Doyle followed the three men as they turned up a steeply climbing street toward the fortress. Lapin took a double-barreled pistol out of his pocket and held it down at his side. Ahead of him, Leitensdorfer dropped something, and, in the process of picking it up, spotted the Frenchman shadowing them. Smoothly done, thought Doyle. The two continued their way up the hill, wrapped in conversation, but now, he guessed, talking about the Frenchman behind them. They are both professionals, aware of the danger, and will not have seen me behind them. Tricky, he thought.
Doyle soundlessly closed the distance between himself and Lapin, now some ten paces behind his prey. He stretched a long dagger across the Frenchman’s throat. Lapin came to a startled halt, not daring to look around at the person holding the blade.
“Gentlemen,” he called ahead. “We have a guest.”
Eaton and Leitensdorfer spun around, both now holding pistols.
“Well, my friend, you do show up in the damnedest ways,” Eaton commented.
“Your servant, sir,” Doyle replied. “It would seem that our party has grown by one. Your friend, Gelada” he continued, addressing Lapin, “is lying several streets away in the gutter with his throat slit. Be careful in your own movements unless you wish to join him. Now be a good sport, and give my companions your pistol.” The Frenchman immediately complied.
“General,” continued Doyle, “perhaps you would do me the honor of allowing me to have a few words with this fine chap. I may be able to convince him to talk freely by methods that might be uncomfortable to you.”
The men exchanged glances. “By all means,” Eaton replied. “You know our concerns. I am sure he will make a clean breast of things with appropriate persuasion. So deal with him as you think best. If there is any pressing news to be gained from him, you know where we lodge. If not, we will meet again at our rendezvous.” Then he looked directly at the Frenchman. “God speed all of us on our coming voyages. Adieu, M’sieur. On ne pourrait pas dire ‘Au Reviour.’ Come, Leitensdorfer. The evening has been long and more of that excellent Madeira awaits us, assuming of course, your Mussulman religious scruples will not compel me to drink alone.”
When the two had gone some distance up the hill, Doyle moved Lapin into a dark alleyway several yards ahead and spoke quietly with him. Whatever bluster of resistance Lapin might have offered drained from him. When Doyle had gotten all the information the Frenchman could provide, he lifted Lapin’s chin up to look in his eyes. “I’ll give you what you and Gelada would have given the Americans,” he said, “but spare you the beating that would have preceded it.” With that, he slit the Frenchman’s throat in a single, quick slash, wiped his dagger and dropped the body in the alley.
He started up the street that led to his rooms near the Upper Barraca Gardens, by the old castle of the Knights of St. John. The slightest breeze from the harbor would not have moved more quietly or invisibly along the dark streets.
To be a Sufi means to be a lump of sifted earth with a little water sprinkled on top.
It means to be something that neither harms the soles of the feet nor leaves a train of dust behind.
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