1634: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 70:



            “Not like her at all,” Juliet said, looking a bit drawn. For the first time, Harry realized that the Englishwoman was actually quite upset. Juliet had a temperament that was, if anything, more placid than her husband’s. For her, this amounted to a screaming fit.


            “You really think something is wrong? With her personally, I mean. Keep in mind that from everything you told us last night the whole city’s been in an uproar ever since the queen got killed.”


            Juliet sneered. “Who cares about that silly French bitch? Nobody in Southwark, I can tell you that.”


            Her husband smiled. “Not until the Lord Chamberlain finally remembers to order the theaters closed for a period of mourning, at any rate. But she’s got the right of it, Harry. Westminster is in an uproar, sure enough. Rumors are flying all over the place, even here in Southwark. But it’s not as if any of London’s commoners will shed a single tear over the accident. That would have been true even if the whole royal family had been killed. They’d be more likely to throw a celebration, come to it.”


            Harry wasn’t surprised. The Stuart dynasty had spent the three decades since it came to power steadily squandering away whatever goodwill it might have started with. Constant clashes with Parliament, the incredibly excessive favoritism showed to the Duke of Buckingham by both James I and his son Charles, the son’s asinine attempt to marry a Spanish Infanta with that same Buckingham as his sidekick, the list went on and on. Charles I hadn’t been popular even before he brought in Wentworth and imposed direct royal rule, using mercenary companies from the continent paid for with a very mysterious and suspicious source of money.


            Juliet nodded. “Elizabeth and I were very close friends, Harry—and we hadn’t seen each other in several years. But she acted as if she just wanted to get rid of me.”


            The first thought that crossed Harry’s mind, of course, was to wonder if that was because this Lytle woman had figured out why they were in England. But he dismissed the notion almost instantly. None of the crew had left the house since they arrived except George and Juliet. Since they were natives and knew Southwark particularly well, Harry had sent them to cruise about to get the sense of things. There was no way Lytle could have deduced anything simply from the fact that the Sutherlands had re-appeared in England.


            “See what you can find out, then,” he told her. Then, seeing a questioning look from Gerd, he shrugged. “Why not? We can’t do anything more until we get in touch with Julie and Alex. Speaking of which—”


            He glanced up the stairs, where Paul Maczka was setting up the radio in one of the upper rooms. “It’s probably about time for one of us—”


            “It’s your turn, Harry,” said Matija. He held up his hand forcefully. “Don’t argue about it! I’ve kept the records.”


            Harry scowled. “Where the hell did this idiot tradition get started that everybody in the crew shares equally in the manual labor? Dammit, I’m the commanding officer.”


            George cleared his throat. “Well, actually, you started it. If you’d been an Englishman, you’d have more sense. But you Yanks are besotted with that silly egalitarian business.” He started putting his coat back on. “Come on, Juliet. Let’s see what’s up with Lizzie dear.”


            She looked a bit startled. “Right now? It’s getting dark out.”


            “Yes, I know. That’s why right now. A man my size creeps about better in the dark than he does in broad daylight.” He gave his heftily-built wife a look that was both measuring and appreciative at the same time. “So do you, for that matter.”




            After they left, Harry climbed the stairs. He didn’t quite trudge the steps, but that was only because he felt he had to maintain a certain august demeanor as the commanding officer. Even if all he was going to be doing was the coolie work of cranking the pedals to fire up the blasted radio so Paul could get in touch with Amsterdam.


            Luckily for him, they had a good window that evening and they got all the reports relayed sooner than usual. So, it was with light and airy steps that Harry came back down the stairs.


            “Gentlemen!” Then, with a little bow to Sherrilyn: “And lady. I am pleased to announce that we’ve gotten in touch with Julie and Alex Mackay. Indirectly, at least—but it won’t be necessary to use the Amsterdam relay any longer.”


            “They’re that close to London?”


            “No.” Harry struggled to make his grin cheery instead of savage. “They’re not ‘close.’ They’re here.” He pointed to the wall of the house that faced the west. “Apparently, they’re taking in the theater tonight. Julie insisted she wanted to see the Globe while she was in town. Seeing as how she probably wouldn’t have the chance again.”


            “Harry,” said Sherrilyn. “Stop grinning. You’ll scare the children.”


            His grin widened. “Don’t be silly. There aren’t any kids here in the first place.”


            She covered her face in the peek-a-book manner a child uses. “Fine. You’re scaring me.


            “Me, too,” said Felix.




            Harry went alone, since he saw no reason for a large party. He spotted Julie and Alex Mackay as soon as they came out of the Globe. It wasn’t hard, since they were almost the first ones out.


            He angled across to intersect them. Alex spotted him coming before Julie did, and his hand moved down to the hilt of the sword at his waist. In the dark, of course, Harry would just look like any man.


            “Psst!” he hissed. “Hey, lady!”


            He opened one side of his Lee Van Cleef style coat. “Wanna see some feelthy pictures?”


            The couple came to an abrupt half. There was silence, for a moment. Then Julie said: “Harry, you’re a jackass.”


            “Hey, it worked, didn’t it?”




            On their way to the house where the crew was staying—the Mackays had rented quarters on the other side of the theater district—Julie was full of complaints.


            “Jesus, that theater stinks. If that was Shakespeare, you can have it. The audience were pigs. And since when”—her voice got a bit shrill—“does Juliet get played by a guy?”


            Alex cleared his throat. “I did try to warn you, love.”


            “I thought you were pulling my leg. Juliet—played by a guy? So was every so-called woman in the play—including the nun! Jesus! Why don’t they just call it the Drag Queen Palace and quit pretending they’re doing legitimate theater? It’s disgusting!”


            Thankfully, the skies were overcast and it was quite dark. So Harry didn’t think Julie could see his smile. “Well, tell me. Did you find out the truth? Did Balthazar have it right? Shakespeare wasn’t actually written by Shakespeare?”


            “Who cares?” Julie hissed. “Whoever the hell wrote that play, he was a fucking pervert. Juliet—played by a guy.