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Chapter 4

All Journeys Must End

The journal ended there. I knew the story from that night. Perhaps it had simply become too routine. Perhaps Sir Edmond had felt no elevated threat among the staid Dutch and his English friends. He'd left his flintlock pistol at the inn, although he'd often carried it during meetings in France and in the duchies. Flintlocks were a fairly new invention: popular because of their efficiency, but still clumsy and hard to conceal.

Thinking back to that night, I still had no idea why it happened. Had Albrect van der Hoorne betrayed him for more money from French or Spanish agents? Had some minor merchant carelessly shared too much information with some flap-mouthed courtier? Had some of his French contacts grown impatient for their money and rolled over to Cardinal Richelieu? Had some sharp-minded French or Spanish agent finally connected his continental trips to his espionage? There were just too many possibilities. I shook my head in sorrow for my master.

It had been a night for surprises. Six toughs raced out of a dark side alley and jumped us on our only logical route to Der Gilden Schwein. The first was young: younger than me. I dropped our lantern, and, surprisingly, it didn't go out. The attacker grappled me for my cudgel, and he seemed surprised when it came free with little resistance. He continued to seem utterly surprised as my hunting knife went into his chest. The cudgel dropped, and I snatched it up again. There were voices shouting, some of them in French: maybe Rchelieu's men; maybe hired thugs. A brief thought crossed my mind: If we lost, the French had a victory. Sir Edmond's continental network would be shut down, and two strangers would have been killed and robbed in an Amsterdam alley, with few questions asked.

Wheep! My master might have left his pistol behind, but he didn't go about strange streets unarmed. His ornate gentleman's cane had a sword inside. The second tough ran right onto the point: another surprise. He went down silently, dark blood pooling beneath him. Behind him, the unwarned third mugger also took the sword in the chest. He went down as well, cursing in Dutch. Behind the first youth, my hardwood shillelagh caught an attacker squarely in the forehead, before he could bore in with his dagger.

Suddenly, six had become two; the odds were even . . . or so it seemed. The rearmost aggressor had a glowing red coal of some kind at about waist level. He raised it to shoulder height.

In the hot flash of battle, my master must have realized that I had never seen a matchlock pistol. When you're facing death, you do have all the thinking time you need. He was about to experience the other side of the master-servant relationship. The servant is there to take orders, but a good master is there to take responsibility.

Sir Edmond managed a quick, "Look out!" before he shoved me aside, causing the pistol's large ball to strike his chest. He was dead and twitching before he hit the ground. My opportunity to broaden myself by travel had just become an independent matter.

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