The Salty Dog
Magnus Grey dropped a handful of coins on the bar and grabbed a couple of bottles of ale. The barkeep frowned, but didn’t make a move to stop the young man as he walked behind the counter and down the steps into the tavern’s cellar.
He was on a deep cover assignment, punishment for a politically inconvenient incident involving some new allies called the Meer. For almost a year, Grey had worked his way into the criminal syndicates of Britain, meeting their members and learning their methods.
Magnus took a rusted lantern and used the dim light to guide him to a room hidden behind the barrels and crates. After slipping inside, he carefully raised his hands as a crossbow was pressed against his neck. “I’m here for a hearty stew.”
James Green slowly lowered the crossbow, “Were you followed?”
“Everyone believes I slip off to meet a woman down here a few times a week. I actually get a few good winks maintaining that particular lie,” Magnus said as he brushed off a stool and took a seat. He offered a bottle of ale, which James declined. “I have the information you needed.”
James carefully took notes as Magnus explained that a ship named the Red Pearl would be docking in Britain in a few days, its hold filled with weapons and other contraband. The supplies were part of a Vesper crime family’s attempt to expand into Britain, and such a move would spill a lot of blood in the streets of his city.
“I agree we need to strangle this problem early, but the Royal Council won’t be happy with such things happening so close to where they live. I will make sure some trustworthy people intervene in this matter, but I don’t think that will help you get back in everyone’s good graces.”
“Britain’s my home, and I care more about that than squawking nobles. I’m not the sort for promotion anyway.”
James nodded, “You always were a bit too stubborn for political realities. Before I forget, I was asked to give you this.” He handed over a letter addressed to just “Magnus,” written in flawless feminine script.
Magnus skimmed the note before dropping it in a dark corner. “It’s nothing important. I need to meet some scum down by the River’s Gate Bridge. Hopefully, I can convince them to put themselves in harm’s way.”
Someone hadn’t done their job.
Grey’s work rarely involved the Royal Guard. It was rarer still that anyone was taken into custody. No one who knew any of his other identities should have been in Yew. Grey had seen John Cullen at almost the same moment that Cullen had recognized him. The spy hoped that no one had heard the half-choked name Cullen uttered as Grey shoved him against a wall. He explained things to Cullen, and the erstwhile anarchist agreed to keep silent.
If someone had done their job, the name Magnus had used for a short time as an investigator for the Guard would have been forgotten. Now that name had gotten back to the wrong people. He saw it in the other prisoners’ body language, a eulogy of silence that followed him when he wasn’t in his cell.
After final roll call, Magnus silently picked the lock of his cell and crept down the corridor. When no guard gave a yell, he thought he was safe, but then he saw the shadow behind him. He twisted away, but the knife sliced into his side. The man with the blade was inept, and Magnus was able to turn the weapon against his attacker.
Holding his bleeding side and the shiv, Magnus stumbled down the corridor, keeping his back to the wall. Doors that should have been open were locked, and he quickly found himself with nowhere to go. That is where the others found him.
A Farmhouse in Yew
The farm was dark, but Holt Wilder knew that the man who had tried to kill his protege was inside. James wasn’t one to exaggerate, and he’d said Magnus had come very close to dying in Yew Prison. For anyone else, Holt wouldn’t have come this far, but he didn’t feel like burying another Grey.
The family that lived here were hostages, so Holt couldn’t simply burn his enemy out.