1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 81:



            Frank was chuckling. "Give it a rest, Ruy. Sharon, he's been lecturing me on how I've got to do right by Giovanna ever since we left my place, like I couldn't figure out that part by myself."


            Ruy was all affronted dignity in an instant. "It is the proper place for those wise in years to guard against the folly of youth."


            "Damn straight," said Doctor Nichols, senior.


            Sharon groaned. "I take it from this display of what passes for wit among the nearly senile that things aren't too bad?"


            Ruy's fury was suddenly back in evidence. "The answer to that, mi corazon, is both yes and no. The trouble is subsided, Frank's place and the embassy are secure and all seems quiet. But there is news of foul work, this night past. Frank, the rumors you have heard?"


            "Right," said Frank. "First thing we heard after we got back last night was that there was a crowd going over to Borja's place. Word was they were going to storm it and run him out of town on a rail."


            "It was not so," Ruy finished for him. "Frank and I went by the villa on our return here, hence our slight tardiness, for I was certain you would wish earlier news of Frank's wellbeing than you asked for last night."


            "It was a massacre," Frank said. "Nothing but."


            Sharon could suddenly see the reason for Frank's weary demeanor. She could guess that he'd been up all night keeping watch, but Frank was still, in all but name, a teenager. A missed night's sleep wouldn't leave him much out of sorts at all. When he'd trudged in to the ballroom, he'd looked beaten.


            "It is as Frank says," Ruy said, his face growing stonier with the recollection. "We arrived to find burial parties at work. We saw eight corpses, Sharon, and that after those poor souls had been at work for some time. We questioned bystanders, and heard of perhaps thirty. They also spoke of Borja sending a rider for Spanish tercios to suppress the populace, and the Pope calling in his own forces for the same purpose. Such may be accounted wild rumors, but these people witnessed a slaughter last night."


            "How many went there last night?" Sharon's dad asked.


            "Fifty, sixty from my place alone," Frank said. "I don't know how many of them made it back. From what we heard, I'd be surprised if it was less than a couple hundred all told. Borja's goons just fired into the crowd, from what I hear."


            Doctor Nichols nodded. "And you can figure on three times as many again wounded who got away in the night. Maybe half of those will die of their wounds, too." He shook his head.


            "The only mercy, Doctor Nichols," Ruy said, "is that the crowd ran at the first shots, and were not so hemmed in that many would have been trampled."


            "But it's worse," said Frank. "Tell 'em, Ruy. I never would've spotted it, not being a soldier and all."


            "That—" Ruy broke off here to snarl a few choice phrases in broad, rural Catalan. "Quevedo. And his stinking swine of a master, Borja. It is almost certain that they enticed that crowd with the express purpose of firing in to it."


            "Surely you don't get that from just rumor," Sharon protested. While she was quite prepared to assume many bad things of the Spanish government, cynically engineering the murder of civilians was, she thought, something they'd left behind with the previous century.


            "Not rumor, Sharon," Ruy said, the gravity of his tone not mellowing the fury in his eyes one bit. "Simple inference. I saw, with my own eyes, the firing platform which Borja had had built behind his wall. Right up to the gate, and still manned in broad daylight."


            "Oh." Sharon said. He'd been expecting the rioters.


            "Indeed," Ruy said. "I am no doctor of natural philosophy, no student of mathematics, but I can add two and two and reach the same conclusion as any peasant, haggling in the market. With your permission, Sharon, I will seek out Quevedo and deal with him. This cannot go on."


            Sharon knew, without having to think about it, that right here and now she could order a man assassinated, and be sure it was going to be carried out. And, furthermore, that she could refrain from giving the order, and know that Quevedo would be safe from Ruy. She tried to think about it. Was there something to be—


            She cut the thought off. Horrible as the man's actions had been the night before, the proper way to proceed was with an arrest and a trial. The fact that she didn't think they did things that way around here didn't affect, not one little bit, the fact that she knew what was right and what was wrong. Ruy's values were different, but bless him, he was making sure that he didn't do anything she wasn't happy with. "No," she said. "If you run into him and can't avoid it, and can't take him prisoner, then I figure he'll get what's coming him. But I'm not going to order an assassination."


            Ruy nodded, and behind her Sharon thought she could hear her dad letting out a soft sigh of relief. Somehow, that pleased her immensely.


            "For now," she said, "Frank, we're going to get a hot meal inside you, and some coffee, and you can give me all the details. And Ruy, we need to get more information. I need to make a report to Magdeburg and take a decision on whether or not we should postpone the wedding. I want to hear a plan from you."


            "And Sharon?" her dad said.




            "See if we can put out the word that there's free treatment here for anyone who got hurt last night. Maybe we can save a few lives, build up some goodwill. I brought plenty of supplies down from Germany, so I reckon we could do some serious good on both sides of the ledger."