Back to the Beginning

Parte Ocho

Christina Smith

"Hullo, ol' chap," the stranger greeted Felipe.

Old chap? Felipe thought. I'm younger than him and father's a few years older. "You're English," Felipe said.

"Yes, I am," the Englishman put his finger to his lips. "But I'll tell ye wot, I won' le' i' bother me tha' ye're Mexican."

Felipe grimaced. This was the second time he spoke without thinking. "How did you know I'm Mexican?"

"We know all abou' ye, Phil."

"Felipe."

"Hmm?"

"My name is Felipe."

"Qui'e righ'; so t'is."

"Who are you?"

"Though' ye'd be tol' by now. Ye mean ye 'aven'?"

Felipe looked at the man blankly.

"Hmm. S'ppose not. Ye see, I was s'ppose t' show up for the mee'in' today, but I kinna go' caugh' up in a bi' of a bind."

Felipe tried to make sense of what the man was saying. He had learned English from Diego, but he wasn't used to the accent or slang.

"I was d'tained - held up - coul'n' make i'."

"Oh," Felipe nodded. "But you didn't answer my question: Who are you and why were you supposed to meet with us?"

"Sorry, ol' chap, forgo' me manners. Me name's Arthur Reynolds. As for the rest, I think i'd be be'er to discuss i' priva'ely."

Arthur looked around and Felipe understood his suggestion.

"Let's go to my room," Felipe said.

As they walked to his room, Arthur talked about Madrid. Felipe assumed from the way he talked, he'd been in Spain for a while. But he didn't know what to think of the rambunctious Englishman. He was tall and skinny, but moved and talked fast. Felipe had to strain to catch key words in the conversation. His hands also distracted Felipe from what he was saying. They moved faster than the man himself and he grew dizzy trying to follow them as they pointed in all directions.

"Here's my room," Felipe said at last.

They walked into the modest room and Felipe felt the Englishman appraise it in one glance. But the appraisal didn't last long and he quickly turned back to Felipe.

"I'm with British Intelligence."

Felipe frowned. "If you're British Intelligence, then what are you doing here?"

"Hmm, didn' think I'd 'ave to tell ye. But England has a vested inter'st in Spain's throne."

"Why?"

The Englishman arched his eyebrows. "Wot do ye mean 'why?' Surely, ye've been tol'?"

"Told what?"

"Again?" the Englishman started pacing.

Felipe shook his head. All of this was too much for him.

"Bloo'y - . The King said 'e tell ye 'isself," Arthur put his hands to his head and rubbed his temples. "If ye wan' somethin' done, do it yeself," he muttered. "Nev'rmin'. I'll tell ye on the way. Ge' yer things t'gether. Yer cousin'll be worried if ye la'e."

"Of course," Felipe took out a small case then stopped. "How did you know I was going to be staying with my cousin?"

"Cause that's wot we d'ci'ed. Don' get me wrong, Roger's clever an' all, but he ten's t' miss a few d'tails now an' then. Chop, chop. We bes' ge' a move on."

Felipe gathered the things he felt he would need. When he was done, he closed and locked it. But before he could pick it up, Arthur reached down in one fell swoop and picked up his case. Felipe was taken aback, but dared not say anything. As they walked to the cab Arthur had waiting, the Englishman started speaking more about Madrid.

How does he talk so much? Felipe wondered. Arthur Reynolds puzzled him. He'd have to ask his cousin who this man really was.

Once they were in the cab, Arthur leaned forward.

"I don' min' tellin' ye, yer in a bet of a mess 'ere. Ye best watch yer step from 'ere on ou'."

"What?" Felipe felt his face flush with anger. "I didn't choose to become a part of this and I can take care of myself."

The Englishman raised his eyebrows. "Tha's not wot we've 'eard an' seen."

Felipe's face flushed again with embarrassment. Then a thought struck him. "You've been following me."

Arthur smiled. "I knew ye were smar'. We've 'ad an eye on ye eve' since ye go' off the ship. 'Cept we lost ye the other night. Where were ye?"

Felipe blanched, that's why the king asked what time I got in last night. He told Arthur about being kidnapped.

"DeSoto? Ye sure?"

Felipe nodded.

"Hmm. This is serious," Arthur shook his head. "Nev'rmin', i'll 'ave t'be deal' with."

Felipe looked at him in confusion. He was getting ready to ask what he meant, when Arthur sat straight up.

"Ah, yer cousin's mansion. Jus' in time."

When they exited the carriage, Arthur again grabbed Felipe's bag.

"Ah, Felipe, come in." His cousin greeted him smiling, but once he saw Arthur, his smile faded. "Señor Reynolds. Please, do come in."

Felipe watched as Arthur walked in and took in his surroundings quickly.

"Ye've changed the 'allway," he said.

"Yes," Don Rodrigo replied. "My wife decided to change the tapestry after your last comment."

"Excellen' choice," he nodded. "Where is Dolores?"

"She'll be down for dinner. My servant will take your bag."

"Oh?" Arthur looked down then set on the floor. "I's no' mine, i's Felipe's."

"Shall we go into the drawing room?" Don Rodrigo asked.

"Let's," Arthur replied and walked ahead of them.

Felipe lagged a little behind with his cousin. "He says he's with British Intelligence. Is it true?" he asked in Spanish.

"Yes."

"What is he doing here?"

"I'm here because His Majesty of England sent me here," Arthur turned around and said in Spanish.

Felipe glared at Arthur.

"I understand Spanish and I speak it as well. Which do you prefer?" Arthur asked.

"Spanish," Felipe replied. "It is my native language."

"Very well, Señor de la Vega, we will continue the conversation in Spanish."

They walked into the drawing room and Arthur sat in one of the high back chairs. Don Rodrigo sat at his desk and Felipe sat across from his cousin.

"Arthur has been sent here by his government to help with the uprising in Spain," Don Rodrigo explained. "England's been helping us ever since the Napoleonic wars."

"I can understand during the Napoleonic wars, but they're over. Why are you still helping?" Felipe asked.

"Since Napoleon and his family are still alive, they are still considered a threat. Not only to Spain, but England as well," Arthur answered.

"Have you told him about Le Reynard?" Don Rodrigo asked.

"No."

"Reynard?" Felipe asked. "Isn't that French for 'Fox'?"

"Yes, it is," Arthur said. "But unlike the Fox in your Los Angeles, El Zorro, this one does not fight for justice and he is deadly. He took his name from the children's tales of a clever fox. He fancies himself to be as crafty and clever as the character. So far, he's been quite successful."

"We believe he's an assassin targeting King Ferdinand. He's killed four people already and leaves this behind on his victims."

Don Rodrigo reached into his drawer and handed Felipe a piece of cloth. Felipe spread the small cloth in his hand and saw it was cut in the shape of a fox's head.

"Do you have any idea who he is?" Felipe asked. "Is he French?"

"We don't know who this Reynard is, no one has seen his face," Don Rodrigo answered.

"Reynard could be a female," Arthur said.

"Not this argument again."

"I just want to keep all possibilities open."

"Then she'd have to be very strong to fight the men which have been killed."

"We have some strong women in intelligence. They're as good a fencer as any man I've seen."

"That's one of the reasons why we didn't want you to get involved," Don Rodrigo told Felipe.

"Does Sir Edmund know about Le Reynard?" Felipe asked.

"He knows Reynard, but we don't know if he's aware that Reynard's here," Don Rodrigo said. "We've been reluctant to contact him. We know that Sir Edmund's alive, but we don't know if Reynard knows. And if we do try to get in touch with Sir Edmund, we fear that he will be Reynard's next victim."

"How can you be so sure Sir Edmund's a target?"

"For several reasons," Arthur said. "With Sir Edmund out of the way, that's less opposition for Reynard and the King's enemies. Another reason is Reynard is a former student of Sir Edmund. It's likely we wants to exact revenge on his teacher."

"How do you know this? If it's one of Sir Edmund's students, surely he would know who Reynard is."

"Just before Sir Edmund left, he told the King to beware of Reynard," Don Rodrigo said. "King Ferdinand laughed it off asking why he should be afraid of some children's story character. It was a joke of the court, until we found the first victim. We think he knows who Reynard is, but to contact him might endanger his life."

"I could speak with him," Felipe volunteered.

"Absolutely not!" Arthur jumped up. "You've had enough danger."

"What do you mean?" Don Rodrigo asked. "He's spoken to Sir Edmund already, perhaps he can speak with him again without harm."

"Really? Did he happen to tell you about running into DeSoto last night?"

"DeSoto's here? Does the King know?"

"I don't think so, but we'll inform him as soon as possible."

"Felipe, why didn't you tell us earlier you ran into DeSoto?"

"I didn't think you knew about him and I guess I forgot to mention it," Felipe replied.

"That's all right," his cousin said. "We know now and that's the important thing. But please, Felipe, in the future tell us of anything which happens to you out of the ordinary."

", Don Rodrigo," Felipe replied.

His cousin looked at the clock. "It's almost time for dinner."

"My cue to leave," Arthur stood up.

"So soon?" Don Rodrigo asked.

"'Frai' so," the Englishman slipped back to English. "With wot we learn'd 'ere t'nigh', there's a lo' of catchin' up to do with Intelligence."

"I see," Don Rodrigo nodded. "Tomorrow?"

"T'morrow," he grabbed Felipe's hand and started shaking it vigorously. "Gla' t' metcha, Felipe."

"Likewise," Felipe said.

He rubbed his arm once Arthur was out of the room.

"Arthur likes you," his cousin commented as he stood up.

"Really?"

"Mm-hmm. He wouldn't have agreed to tell you about Le Reynard if he didn't trust you. And he wouldn't have trusted you if he didn't like you."

"But he's only met me."

"He's a good judge of character which suits his job."

"Does Father know him?"

"Yes, the 'met' briefly," his cousin smiled.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I'll tell you one day. Let's hurry, we don't want to be late for dinner."

Arthur navigated the streets with ease in the darkness. He had been in Madrid so long, he knew every centimeter and could walk through the town blindfolded. He stopped at a few shops and gazed at the displays while checking to see if he was being followed. When he was sure he wasn't, he headed to a small apartment.

He tapped on the door with his boots, pretending to get mud off. After a few minutes delay, he repeated the action. This time the door opened and Arthur slipped inside.

"A' las'," the man said.

"I' wasn' easy, Toby," Arthur explained. "I 'ad to follow the girl t'day and miss'd me appoin'men' with the King. Alfre's sleepin' on the job. When I ge' me han's on 'im - "

"Someone bea' ye to i'," Toby said.

"Wot?"

"'Ere."

Arthur took the cloth from him and held it up to the light. "Le Reynard! When an' where was 'e foun'?"

"This af'ernoon, shortly af'er ye lef'."

"Why didn' one of ye try to fin' me?"

"We did."

"Oh. Cont'nue."

"'E was foun' nea' some tave'n o' so'ts."

"A tave'n ye say?"

Toby nodded.

"I' woul'n' 'app'n t' be the one sev'ral blocks from the unive'sity, would i'?"

"Ex'ctly. 'Owd'ye know?"

"Nev'rmin'. Place someone t' watch i'. DeSoto's there."

"Oh, DeSoto wouldn' dare r'turn t' Spain," the man laughed, then quieted when Arthur didn't join him. "'E did?"

"Tha's wot the young de la Vega tol' me. Tha's where 'e was las' nigh'."

"Bloo'y - "

"Now, now, we go' a job to do. Losin' Alfre's tough, bu' there's still work t' be done. Call a mee'in' t'nigh'. This situation's ge'in' rougher than we though'. We need more people on the case. Rachel was almos' kidnapp'd today."

"'Ow?"

"She was followin' some bloke an' 'e almos' took off with 'er."

"Did ye try to stop 'im? She's no' s'ppos'd to know abou' us. Think of 'er uncle."

"I'm no' so stupid," Arthur admonished. "The lass is brigh' an' 'andl'd 'erself quite well. We coul' do with some 'er smarts in Intelligence."

"Ye sof' on the girl," Toby exclaimed.

"Bi'e ye tongue. She's a key asse' to Sir Edmun', so is Felipe. We know it an' so do the King's enemies."

"Le Reynard?"

"Don' know. Bu' af'er wot 'appen to Alfre', I 'ave me suspicions Le Reynard is boun' to go af'er 'em to. I'm 'frai' somethin's foul in the ai' an' we need to be rea'y when i' 'its."

Arthur threw down the cloth. They both watched as the fox's head came to a rest on the table, grinning with it's own secret.

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To be continued...