My Lord and Spymaster

(The second book in the Spymaster's Lady series)

A novel by Joanna Bourne

For Douglas


I’d like to thank my ever-patient editor, Wendy McCurdy, and my agent, Pam Hopkins, for untiring advice and support in the production of My Lord and Spymaster. Thanks also to Mary Ann Clark and Wendy Rome, and the other Ladies Who Drink Coffee, Claudia McRay and Sofie Couch. Finally, I am endlessly grateful to the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, that hatching ground of writers, whose members have offered aid and comfort. Thank you Susan Adrian, Betty Babas, Jennifer R. Clark, Allene Edwards, Diana Gabaldon, Claire Greer, Jennifer Hendren, Carol Krenz, John S. Kruszka, Darlene Marshall, Janet McConnaughey, Jenny Meyer, Pamela Patchet, Vicki Pettersson, Barbara Rogan, Beth Shope, and Karen Watson. The lines “Debts must be paid. The books must balance,” are from master story-teller R. A. Heinlein.


Katherine Lane

ONCE YOU GET A TASTE FOR THIEVERY, YOU never lose it. Papa used to say that, clouting her on the side of the head a bit to let her know who he was talking about.

She missed picking pockets. Missed the cool, stealthy slide of fingers into a coat. Slithering away with a purse, wise and secret. She missed the best part—jingling the coins out on the cobbles, squatting down with her mates, and counting out the take. She’d learned to keep accounts, working out a fair cut.

Respectable was flat beer compared to that. Maybe that was why she’d talked herself into running this rig. She was so damn tired of being respectable.

It was a good day for robbery. Fog crawled up out of the Thames and made itself at home on Katherine Lane. It coiled over the drains and lurked in the corners, smelling like the river, which wasn’t precisely ambrosia and mead as smells went. Anything could hide in that fog. Probably did.

“Welcome home, Jess,” she whispered. She pulled her hood up and kept walking. The afternoon folded in around her, drizzling.

In the fog, on both sides of her, all the length of Katherine Lane, citizens were closing up shop, putting merchandise away, giving the day up as unprofitable. The street girls had moved inside, too, into the pubs, taking their sailors with them and the noise and the bright color of their dresses. More and more, she was passing dark doorways and rows of blank shutters. Pretty soon there’d be nobody in the street but her and that cat picking his way, finicky, across the cobbles. He had errands to run, that cat. You could tell by looking at him.

She’d have lots of privacy to pick Sebastian Kennett’s pocket.

The last thing Papa’d said when they were dragging him out of the Whitby warehouse in his shirtsleeves was, “Don’t do anything daft trying to get me free.”

Papa knew her pretty well. He wasn’t going to be pleased when he found out about this.

The alley to the right was Dark Passage—and wasn’t that a fine, descriptive name? To the left was Dead Man’s Way. Another piece of poetry. When she was a kid she’d run this warren barefoot. She knew these streets, knew every thin trickle of an alley that ran into Katherine Lane. She’d been born in a grim little attic a dozen streets to the north. Time was, she chatted friendly and easy with every beggar and pimp on the Lane. She could have ducked into any of these taverns and been welcome to dry out by the fire. Now she was a stranger. Not Jess. Now she was Miss Whitby. She didn’t belong anymore. I didn’t used to be scared here.

She walked slower as the Lane curved south and slanted down toward the Thames and she watched her feet. The cobbles were slick with muck. Every corner was a puddle. In the old days, she’d have brought Kedger with her, for company. The left side of her cloak, under her elbow, had a pocket sewed for him to ride in. Used to be she’d set him on her shoulder when she had a ways to walk and she was uneasy about it. He’d sit quiet, breathing in her ear, keeping watch.

But this wasn’t any place for Kedger. This she had to do alone.

Then she wasn’t alone.

She stopped cold, and her heart banged in her chest like a trapped rabbit. A shadow shifted. A hulking shape emerged from the dark of a doorway.

He came toward her, walking out of the gloom, soft-footed for all his size. He carried his lead pipe with the nonchalance of someone to whom this was not a novelty.

“Well now.” He slapped the pipe across his palm with a meaty thunk.

He was a thickset man about fifty, graying and weather-beaten. A thin, wicked scar slashed from his right eyebrow to the stubble at his jaw. A soaked and crumpled hat shaded his eyes. Those eyes were his best feature; he didn’t look half so villainous when you could see his eyes.

“You going to tell me what we’re doing ’ere?”

“Doyle.” She let her breath out. “You would not believe how much I enjoy working with someone utterly reliable. Can we go down that alley a bit? If somebody spots you with that pipe, they might just come rescue me. Could be drier in there, too.”

“Not much.” He lumbered ahead of her, parting the fog as he went. “I been standing here a while, wondering whether I’ll die of the ague or some bloke’ll come along and slit me throat, just fer a lark. Don’t know which I fancy.”

“That’ll be one of those moot points they talk about.”

“Moot. That’s the word I wanted.” In the alley, he picked a convenient spot, scattered some oddments aside with his boot, and leaned against the grimy wall. “You ain’t paying me enough for this, miss, if you don’t mind me sayin’.”

She followed him and found her own clean spot of wall, companionably face-to-face with him. The overhang of the roof kept some of the rain off. But not, as Doyle said, much. “Impressive piece of pipe, by the way.”

“Why thank you, Miss Whitby. I picked it out special when I got your note.”

A right old villain, Doyle. She’d been lucky to hire him. He’d been a Bow Street Runner, they said, before he went bad. Now he took jobs an honest Runner wouldn’t touch. There was no end of illegal odds and ends to this business of getting Papa free. Doyle was helping her with most of them.

“We’re expecting company?” He’d spotted the way she was keeping an eye on Katherine Lane. No flies on Mr. Doyle.

“One man. Largish fellow, by all accounts.”

“You want me to hit him over the head?” He hefted the pipe reflectively.

“Would you do that for me?”

“Not on your life.” When he smiled, the scar on his face creased horribly. “Leastways, not fer what you’re paying me.”

A man of principle. She liked that about him. “Happen I don’t want you to hit anybody today. Just chase after, with what you might call intent to clout.”

“Sounds easy enough. Who do I chase?”


“Ah . . . That’ll make a nice change from me usual habits. Why don’t you tell me about it?”

Doyle wasn’t going to like this. She laid out what she had in mind. She didn’t go into details he didn’t need to know, which kept it brief.

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