1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 49:

“If Your Eminence will forgive me, I have some prior knowledge of the character of Ruy Sanchez de Casador y Ortiz. It is the defining character of the man that he is honourable, almost to excess in certain matters, and he is engaged to be married to the moorish american woman. If there is one thing he was not doing it was engaging the services of a prostitute.”

“And do we have information as to why he was actually speaking to this pimp?” Borja asked. “Did we, for example, overhear the conversation?”

“I must ask Your Eminence’s forgiveness,” Quevedo said, “but my surmises are based on observations of Sanchez’s character and habits, and of his actions during the time I saw him. He was affecting some rudiments of disguise, sufficient that he would not be readily recognised at a distance by anyone who did not know him well. I myself did not pick him out for some considerable time, and was not certain of my identification of him until he called attention to himself. His voice, Your Eminence, was quite distinctive. His actions, in so far as I observed them, were that he was haunting a popular taverna close to the church of San Gioacchino, engaging the patrons in conversation. The taverna was too crowded for me to overhear every conversation, and as I have adverted to Your Eminence, I did not at first notice Sanchez’ arrival.”

Too busy drinking and whoring, Borja thought, but kept the spiteful remark to himself. This was shaping up to be interesting. Sanchez was Bedmar’s creature, and Borja had a personal dislike for the sarcastic little Andalusian. Anything that redounded to Bedmar’s potential embarrassment was worth the listening for entertainment value alone.

“Sanchez spent some time in conversation with a pimp known to me as a regular in that taverna,” Quevedo continued.

And you known to him as a regular customer no doubt, Borja silently added.

“The pimp in question is a low and uncouth fellow even by the standards of such,” Quevedo said, oblivious to Borja’s silent commentary, “And is apt to grow insistent on the subject of his business. I gather that when he did so, Sanchez picked a fight with another patron in order to divert attention from his departure. The manner in which he did so was typically flamboyant, I must inform Your Eminence, and it was at this point that my identification was certain. The resulting disturbance embroiled the entire taverna, and Sanchez made his exit under cover of the fighting. I did not discern the moment at which he made good his escape, as the fighting spilled over into the part of the taverna where I was sitting and I was forced to defend myself.”

“Am I to presume you spoke to this pimp after the event?” Borja asked, picking up on Quevedo’s obvious inference.

Quevedo smiled slightly, in a smug manner that Borja found even more irritating than usual. “Your Eminence is most astute. The fellow was stunned in the fighting. It was a simple matter to pick him up from the floor after the brawl had subsided, revive him with cold water and ply him with strong drink. I received a full account. Sanchez was posing as a porter from Barcelona, in Rome with the retinue of one of the cardinals Your Eminence has summoned on his own business. I identified Sanchez to the man as an agent of the United States of Europe, and enough people saw the disguised Sanchez that when the rumour spreads, the sight of him in the company of Dottoressa Nichols will confirm the rumour that the United States is fomenting discord in Rome in an attempt to suborn the See of Rome for their own nefarious purposes. I suggested as much to the pimp, and I have no doubt that the rumour is already beginning to spread. Your Eminence may depend upon it that I made much of Sanchez’ hand in the Venetian conspiracy.”

Borja realised that it would be ungenerous to begrudge Quevedo his smug expression, not least because there was a delicious irony in him, of all people, exploiting Sanchez’ involvement in Bedmar’s attempt to take Venice: Quevedo had been Osuna’s man on the inside of that plot and had done just as much as Sanchez had, if not more. Irony aside, Quevedo had exploited a providential opportunity in a manner that would undoubtedly open up further opportunities to profit. If it became a matter of general gossip in Rome that the pope was somehow under the sway of the United States of Europe, for preference at the hands of that scheming Jew Nasi that styled himself a Don, much could be done to undo the harm that the Barberini had done to Spain’s cause by publicly withdrawing his support. If, after all, he had been induced to do so by the machinations of a sinister Byzantine Jew …

Borja returned from his musings to ask Quevedo, “And what do you propose to do to further exploit this opportunity?”

“For the moment, Your Eminence, I will, with your permission, observe closely and react to whatever actions Sanchez undertakes. I would remind Your Eminence of my earlier remarks regarding the natural development of popular dissent. It is seldom that attempts to force such matters past their proper pace prove fruitful. The disorder we are provoking will create a soil in which any seed of genuine dissent may prove fruitful, but it is in God’s hands whether any such seeds fall on the ground we have prepared, Your Eminence.”

Borja nodded. It was as well to trust in Providence in such matters, for there was little that the agency of one man, or even a whole combination of men, could achieve. “I shall pray for the success of your efforts,” he said, and realized that there was more. “I shall also thank God,” he said, “for His having placed this opportunity in your path.”

“Your Eminence is most kind,” Quevedo said. “I only hope that the Lord God Almighty saw fit to direct Sanchez’ eye to where I sat.”

“Truly?” Borja said, intrigued, “Why so?”

Quevedo’s smile was impish in the extreme. “The man bears a grudge like no-one else I have ever known, Your Eminence. If he believes me to be involved in Your Eminence’s business, he will stop at nothing to intervene and foil me. It is his rather, how shall I say this, rather rustic notion of hidalgo honour. As well the fact that he is a Catalan, a breed notorious for their touchiness, Your Eminence. I feel we may depend on Sanchez to worsen his own party’s position quite unintentionally.”

Borja allowed himself a smile. “And, of course, he is Bedmar’s man. And Bedmar is now firmly aligned with Flanders, and they in turn making overtures to the United States of Europe. The opportunities for placing the blame do rather multiply.” He savoured the thoughts, for a moment, and then. “Senor Quevedo y Villegas, your work goes well, and I am indeed pleased. I thank you for your efforts, and shall indeed pray most earnestly that God grant you further successes. You may go.”

“Thank you, Your Eminence,” Quevedo said, and with the proper formalities, left.