The Twelfth Night Murder

The Twelfth Night Murder

by Anne Rutherford

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As The New Globe Players bring laughter to audiences with their production of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, Suzanne Thornton must bring justice to the tragic victim of a brutal murder…
When the body of a young boy—murdered, mutilated, and clothed in women’s attire—is found under London Bridge, Constable Pepper

…  See more details below


As The New Globe Players bring laughter to audiences with their production of Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, Suzanne Thornton must bring justice to the tragic victim of a brutal murder…
When the body of a young boy—murdered, mutilated, and clothed in women’s attire—is found under London Bridge, Constable Pepper believes him to be a member of The New Globe Players, one of the actors who specialize in women’s parts. 
He is not, but Suzanne, summoned to make an identification, does recognize him from an encounter in the tavern the night before—as the alluring doxy who caught the eye of more than a few of the patrons. Suzanne suspects that whoever hired him for the night reacted violently when his true sex was discovered.
Moved by the lad’s fate, Suzanne determines to find his killer. And first, she must uncover his identity—an investigation that leads her to one of England’s wealthiest families and a powerful politician determined to keep the truth from being revealed at all costs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Rutherford’s appealing third Restoration mystery (after 2013’s The Scottish Play Murder), a soothsayer warns prostitute-turned-actress Suzanne Thornton to avoid the River Thames, as well as her favorite pub, the Goat and Boar. Suzanne can’t stay away from her friends at the Goat and Boar, where one night she spots a flirtatious boy “just beginning his entry to manhood” dressed as a girl. The next morning the boy’s mutilated body is fished out of the Thames. Suzanne is capable of a bawdy line (on expensive wine: “Anything less would not be worth the swallowing, much like most men I’ve known”), and of (somewhat anachronistic) pique when women are insulted, or when it’s suggested that boys turning tricks by definition could not be raped. Most readers will spot the murderer’s identity a mile away, but all will find Suzanne a charming narrator. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In her third historical outing (after The Opening Night Murder and The Scottish Play Murder) Suzanne Thornton, founder of the New Globe Players, recognizes the body of a young boy dressed in women's clothes. He was the alluring doxy who flirted with patrons at the local tavern the evening before. Did someone object to his true gender when it was revealed? Thornton decides to investigate.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
A Restoration Mystery Series, #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Author’s Note

The Twelfth Night Murder is the fifteenth historical novel I’ve written for publication. Ordinarily I would never take liberties with history, since I have immense respect for the truth. However, in this series I found it inconvenient that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was torn down by Cromwell’s anti-cultural administration a number of years before I needed it. I am as annoyed by that as the people of London at the time must have been. But unlike them I am working inside a fictional world of my own design. By definition, many of the things in this book are untrue. Among those things is the presence of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I needed a theatre, and it was just as well to have a fictional one. Such a small thing, and I’m sure I’ve made actual errors of greater consequence than this. So please forgive me my deliberate anachronism, and any other minor flaws I may have perpetrated more accidentally.

Over the years I’ve thanked folks who have helped me in my research and my efforts in publication. Today I would like to give a nod to my readers, who are the reason I continue to write. You’ve been such an appreciative audience, and I’ve been so neglectful in acknowledging you. Thank you all for your attention. I hope you will enjoy this, the third in the Restoration Mysteries.

For news of future books in this series, sign up for the free History Geek newsletter at

Anne Rutherford

Chapter One

In the dressing room after the day’s performance at the Globe Theatre, Suzanne Thornton sat before the paint table, and sagged happily, exhausted but exhilarated. A dozen or so candles lit the room with a lively, warm flicker. The Players around her chattered and laughed, in high spirits after a show that had been well received by their audience. In spite of the January cold, with the promise of snow in the air—or perhaps because of it—The New Globe Players’ presentation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night brought much applause and laughter of the kind that made the performers want to join in. Sometimes it was difficult to keep a straight face in the comedies, and that was Suzanne’s great weakness onstage, for in the past she had never had much to smile about and these days she was sorely tempted to laugh whenever she could.

Nevertheless, it was a joy to have returned to the stage. After a lifetime of struggling to escape the predatory notice of those more powerful than herself, and at her age when there were few opportunities to attract benevolent attention from anyone, appreciative audiences were a delight. Life was finally looking up.

She picked up the troupe’s newly purchased mirror from the table and propped it against a ceramic mug filled with paintbrushes standing on end. The mirror was small, but was all she could afford for The New Globe Players just then, and far nicer than the large, ragged shard they’d all been using up to last week. At the moment, Matthew had the old mirror, a big piece of broken, silvered glass, with patches of the silvering missing from the back and its sharp edges filed down and covered in melted wax. It sat propped against a small wooden box of lead powder, all of which smelled sharply of sheep fat and oil, with an underlying earthiness of talc. To Suzanne it was a smell uniquely theatrical. It smelled of home.

Matthew sat opposite Suzanne, removing white lead paint from his face with linseed oil and speaking to Liza, the girl who was their Viola these days, in cheerful, self-congratulatory terms. Besides playing the central character in Twelfth Night, Liza was the girl at the center of Matthew’s affections, and just then he sounded a bit condescending in his assessment of her performance that afternoon. He seemed disparaging of women acting on the stage, telling her she had done well that day, for a woman.

“Nonsense,” Suzanne said in a light, don’t be silly tone as she wiped oil over the blacking around her eyes until she looked much as she often had in her youth after having been beaten by her father. “She was absolutely perfect. No man could have played that role better than our woman.”

From across the room, Louis chimed in. “Kynaston could have. He’s far prettier than Liza, and his voice carries into the rafters. The man’s a genius.”

Suzanne shook her head. “He’s a sodomite, and should have been born a woman.”

“He’s not prettier,” said Liza in a defensive, slightly horrified voice. “He’s a skinny, soft boy whose balls never dropped, and the only reason anybody thinks he can play women is that they’ve never seen a real one onstage before.”

“He’s an artist,” Louis continued. “I saw him once. In The Maid’s Tragedy, last year.” His voice took on a note of admiration Suzanne thought a little strange. She’d often heard people talk of Ned Kynaston that way. She’d also seen him on the stage, and knew he possessed a beauty so androgynous that it seemed the whole of London wanted to bed him, men and women. She herself confessed to a slight attraction, though her preference was very much for hard-edged, mature masculinity and not so very much for Kynaston’s bee-stung lips and doe eyes. He really did seem an innocent, prepubescent boy, though he was in his early twenties and by all accounts was not so very particular where he slept.

She said, “The fellow is exceedingly fair, and decidedly undecided in his sex. But that doesn’t make him a woman, or even a facsimile to portray us on the stage. At best he paints a picture of us in broad strokes so that the male audience can comprehend in unsubtle ways. In short, young fellows, he simplifies so those such as you might comprehend womanhood on an elementary level, which is, after all, your capacity.”

Louis and Matthew fell silent and gazed at her for a moment, Louis with a puzzled crease between his eyes and Matthew’s eyes narrowed in search of a suitably witty retort. He didn’t find one. Liza snickered to herself with a breathy, hee-hee sound.

Matthew opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted when one of their young boy actors, who went by Christian, blew into the room at top speed, skidded to a stop just inside the door, and said in a near-shout, “Mistress Thornton!” He swayed where he stood at the end of his slide. “You’ve a visitor!”

There were always visitors after a show. Everyone in the audience who thought they might have a chance at going backstage to socialize with the actors came after the show or before it. Horatio, who directed the plays and often acted in them, was ever struggling to keep the green room and dressing room from filling wall to wall with those who wished to be actors but hadn’t the talent or discipline for it. Some sought sexual liaison with the performers, and others simply wished to bask in reflected glory and tell of it later to their friends. Since the Globe Theatre was not the most fashionable playhouse in London, the quality of their visitors was never high, and Horatio’s effort was mostly aimed at keeping out those who would steal costumes and properties. She asked, “Who is it?”

He shook his head. “Dunno, mistress. She’s a queer old woman, I vow. Dressed a bit strange, like she was fresh from the countryside but . . . I dunno. Strange.”

Suzanne was tired. It was time for supper, and she could smell it being prepared by her maid downstairs. Having spent the entire afternoon entertaining people, she was ready to have the evening to herself. “Tell her I’ve gone home. Since I live on the premises, that won’t be a lie.”

“Very well, mistress.” With that, Christian bolted from the room as speedily as he’d arrived, leaving Louis to close the door behind him. The boy returned in but a few moments, before Suzanne could wipe the remaining paint from her face.

“Mistress Thornton, begging your pardon and sorry to disturb you again, but the woman outside is insisting she be permitted to see you.”

Suzanne turned from her mirror, resigned to deal with this. “What, exactly, does this woman want?”

“She says she would warn you.”

Warn? As much as Suzanne knew this must be a ploy of some sort, her curiosity was now piqued. Ignoring a warning was one thing, but to never even hear it was tempting fate a bit too much. She said, “Very well. Show her in.”

Christian ran out again at full speed, dodging others standing in the room awaiting a turn at the table.

Suzanne hurried to get as much paint from her face as she could, and had begun wiping the oil with a dry cloth when Christian returned with an old woman in tow.

The crone was old indeed, and dressed very strangely. She wore no bodice, but only a skirt and a long maroon scarf tied at her midriff that restrained her blouse. Another scarf, an orange one that bore a ragged fringe, lay draped about her hips. From its knot at her side hung a purse of bright, shiny red silk. The skirt was a lively orange and red print, faded now but clearly it had once been bright and eye-catching. Her blouse was relatively new and of a deep turquoise color that argued bitterly with the rest of the costume. Beneath the baggy and loosely woven cotton, her large breasts swayed and sloshed without restraint. Its sleeves gathered at the wrist then splayed in copious blue lace to beyond her fingertips. Her hands were quite lost in it until she flipped it back to reveal them and the enormous jeweled rings she wore on gnarled fingers. Her hands were great clusters of knobby knuckles and semiprecious stones, connected by fingers little more substantial than her bones. Yet another scarf, this one of bright green, adorned her head, secured at the nape of her neck with a simple brooch of plain copper. Long, wavy gray hair spilled from under the scarf, nearly to her waist. Amid the festive explosion of color she wore a wide smile and revealed a surprising number of teeth for one so obviously aged.

“Hello,” she said, her words oddly clipped and her smile a bit stiff. “’Tis a good thing to meet you today, mistress. I’ve got an earful for ye.” She nodded as if to affirm her words, then turned her attention on Matthew at the table and gave him a hard stare.

Matthew seemed unsure what she wanted from him, but then realized it was his seat she expected. Without argument, he vacated the chair and took his mirror and rag with him to stand aside, where he resumed wiping oil from his face. The woman sat, and returned her attention to Suzanne.

“My name is Esmeralda La Tournelle. I am the astrologer to King Charles and many of his court.”

Suzanne recognized the name. La Tournelle had a long reputation in London for her odd predictions that often were realized. Many Londoners, especially those of the Puritan and Presbyterian bent, decried her as a devil woman, but Suzanne couldn’t dismiss her or her craft entirely. She knew from experience there was something to observing the movements of planets in God’s orderly creation. She nodded to the old woman. “A pleasure to meet you, Mistress La Tournelle.” It was indeed a pleasure, for the woman’s fame was far greater than her own, and a presence of power followed her like a cloud of energy, a nearly visible thickening of the air around her so that one couldn’t help staring at her. She seemed to fill the room all by herself, leaving little space for anyone else. All eyes were on her, and all conversation in the room ceased.

“Call me Esmeralda. I’m mistress of naught other than my fate. I’ve come to do you a good turn.” Now her graciousness filled the room and everyone in it was put at ease.

Suzanne smiled, but was buying little of it yet. “And what will this good turn cost me?”

The woman’s eyes darkened and she lost her smile. Her back straightened and she raised her chin. “I charge them as come to me, and them who has more money than they truly need. You ain’t among them. Not yet, in any case. I’ve come to warn you of an event that will possibly change your life.”

“I expect there will be a great many events in my future that will change my life. It is the nature of the world, and of life as God has given it to us.”

The woman shook her head. “This is a crossroads that you must avoid, and you will come to it soon.”

“Why must I avoid it?” Suzanne glanced at the others in the room, inviting them in on her jest. “My life isn’t so perfect that I wouldn’t want a change.”

A low chuckle riffled through the room.

“Hear me, Mistress Thornton.” A severity hardened the lines in La Tournelle’s very lined face. Her pale blue eyes appeared icy, and a shiver skittered down Suzanne’s spine.

All of a sudden the woman’s presence made Suzanne uncomfortable, the way bad news made one wish to return to the moment before. She wished she hadn’t allowed Christian to bring this strange, old woman into the room. Suzanne would have liked to have her removed, but her bourgeois upbringing wouldn’t permit her that sort of gracelessness. Her manners may have been ordinary, and over the years many had worn off or had been beaten from her, but there were some things one just did not do. Particularly since life was improving and she hoped it would continue to do so. She smiled at her uninvited guest and said, “I’m listening.”

The old woman leaned close as if imparting a secret, though everyone in the room was listening and most were leaning in, the better to hear every word. She said, loudly enough for all to hear, “Beware the river tonight for it will bring you death.”

“The river?” The wide, filthy Thames was not far from the theatre, and when the wind was from the north one could smell it and the things floating on it. “How will it do that?” Suzanne had no plans for boating or bathing that night, but her favorite public house was in a short alley just off Bank Side. She would more than likely come very near the water sometime that evening. “I should stay away?”

La Tournelle gestured overhead with one gnarled hand and waving fingers, staring upward as if gazing at a night sky. “The stars have revealed to me that your life will be changed soon, by water, and death stalks you.”

“As it does us all.”

“It will figure significantly during the coming weeks. You will be consumed by it, and it may consume you.”

Suzanne opened her mouth to point out the oxymoronic nature of her comment, but changed her mind as she saw the different meanings of “consume.” But La Tournelle still made little sense. “Do you mean I’ll drown?”

The old woman shrugged. “That is one possibility, if the sign is to be taken literally.”

“And if not literally?”

“The water will figure mightily in your life.”

“Any water? Not necessarily the Thames?”

“Do you know any seamen?”

There was the pirate who had attacked her a couple of months ago, but she shook her head. That man was in prison, awaiting hanging or pardon according to the king’s pleasure. She didn’t know any seamen, and had never seen the ocean. Nor even the English Channel, for that. She’d lived in London her entire life and for lack of means had never strayed far.

“Then I suggest it would be the Thames.”

“And I’m to stay away?”


“For how long?”

The old woman looked off to the side for a moment, thinking, calculating, then replied, “I think three weeks. Four at the most.”

To stay away from the Goat and Boar for an entire month would be torture. Impossible for her. “I don’t think I can do that. Are you saying that if I walk down Bank Side, no matter how sure-footed, I’ll fall off the bank and drown?”

“Someone will drown. It may be you, it may not. Or it may not be drowning at all. But you will be affected by it one way or another, and severely.”

Others in the room laughed, a tense, uncomfortable chuckle. Suzanne sat back in her chair and clasped her hands. Her knuckles went white, though she struggled to appear as if she didn’t believe any of this. “How do you know this?”

“The stars never lie. They are as God made them, and they show us the entirety of existence, for all creation is interlinked and purposeful. God knows every sparrow that falls, because He created not only the sparrow, but that which destroys it.”

“You think the stars cause things to happen?”

A slightly amused look crossed the woman’s face. She sat back in her chair and folded her hands in her lap. “Of course not. The positions of the planets relative to each other and the stars in the sky do not influence. Only God can do that. The stars merely speak to us, and tell us of what will be.”

“So you believe in God?”

“I could hardly advise the king, did I not. His majesty could never be known to consult a heretic, could he?”

Suzanne allowed as that was true. She said, “I’ve consulted with astrologers before, but I must tell you I’ve never done well by it. I find that when I follow the recommendations of someone who has read my horoscope, the results are never what I expect.”

“Then it is your expectations that are faulty. Those who aim to make themselves richer or more powerful by reading the heavens are doomed to failure. One can never bend creation to one’s own wishes. One can only take heed of what must be and act accordingly.”

“So I should keep away from the Goat and Boar for a few weeks?”

“You should beware of the water, whatever water there might be, and if water flows near the public house then you would do well to avoid the place.”

“Why me? Of all the people in London who might need this warning, what has brought you to me?”

“Mistress Thornton, God has sent me to you.” She said it with a note of exasperation that she must repeat herself.

“God? You’ve spoken to Him, then?” Suzanne hoped this wasn’t going to disintegrate into the rant of a madwoman. She’d been willing to consider keeping away from the river for a while, but if this woman revealed herself to be insane then Suzanne would have to go to Bank Side only for the sake of demonstrating to the rest of the troupe that she hadn’t been taken in by madness.

“Not to hear His voice, at all, mistress. I mean, I’ve had some dreams. I’ve awakened in the night with a strong, ugly feeling regarding you. I was moved to come speak to you. Warn you.”

“Ugly feelings regarding me are not all that uncommon, I vow. How do you even know who I am?”

“Oh, all of London knows who you are, Mistress Thornton. You’ve quite a name this past year or so.”

Suzanne’s head tilted a bit, and she crossed her arms. “Indeed? And God has been telling tales about me?”

“Aye. He’s sent me a strong message, that you will be influenced by water, and soon.”

“I’ll drown.”

“I never said ‘drown.’ I said your life will be changed.”

“So I’ll still be alive?”

“Possibly. Possibly not. And whether you die or not, it may not be the water will be the direct cause.”

“So . . . let me sort through this. In the next few weeks I may or may not die, and if I do it may or may not be of drowning.”

“The only thing certain is that your life will change, and ’twill be caused by water.”

“But we don’t know what water it will be. Probably the Thames, but not necessarily.”

The old woman nodded and smiled. “Now you see.”

Suzanne saw nothing, and only her belief in the basic principles of astrology kept her curious about what this all meant. She stood, indicating that her guest should ready herself to leave, and said, “Well, I thank you for your advice, Mistress La Tournelle. I shall take your premonition under advisement.”

The old woman hesitated, and a sour look crossed her face in realization that she was being dismissed without consideration. She stood, gave a quick nod, and said, “Then I hope you’ll beware, for I am a Christian woman and I never like to see anyone suffer.”

“I appreciate that. Our boy will show you out, and I thank you for coming.”

“Oh, I was already in the theatre, mistress. I came to see the play this afternoon. Excellent play, I’ll add. You all should be pleased.” She nodded and waved to the other players in the room, who acknowledged the praise with smiles, nods, and murmurs of thanks. Then the old woman followed Christian from the room and they watched her go.

They waited while she removed from earshot, her footsteps fading down the stage left stairwell and out the rear to the house.

When they were all certain she’d gone, Matthew stared after her and said, “Well, there’s a woman with a belfry chock full of bats.”

A nervous laugh riffled about the room, and Suzanne had to chuckle as well. “Water, she says. And with the Thames only a stone’s throw away from this theatre.”

“Perhaps she means rainfall?”

Louis added, “Maybe you’ll have a rain barrel fall on you?” Everyone laughed at that, and he added, “Don’t you be climbing atop any cisterns, then, eh?” That brought more laughter, and Suzanne joined in. She resumed the removal of her makeup, and stared into her mirror, thinking hard.

Chapter Two

Having cleaned up and retreated to her quarters downstairs, Suzanne considered her options for the evening. Most nights she would head to the Goat and Boar for some supper, some ale, and some good company. For more than twenty years Southwark, and particularly Bank Side, had been her home, and she knew nearly everyone within a half mile of the Globe. Even more, during her years as a whore in Maddie’s brothel on Bank Side she’d serviced a great many of her neighbors. Though wealthy and adventurous clientele from across the river had been a significant part of her trade, her bread and butter had always been the neighborhood itself, where her regular customers had lived, worked, and taken their recreation in the brothels and animal-fighting arenas.

She’d accepted her lot without shame, for prostitution had been all that was open to her, and the money had kept herself and her son alive. She felt that if God had wanted her to do something else, He would have presented her with an opportunity to do something else. Pregnancy had kept her from marrying, and she couldn’t imagine life without Piers. He would be twenty this year, and he’d grown to be a good, honest man. Whatever she’d done to that end was worth whatever cost to her reputation or her soul.

In any case, she still enjoyed the platonic company of many of the men she’d known then, and some of them worked with her in the theatre. Were she to heed the recommendation of Mistress La Tournelle, it would be a long, lonely several weeks away from her dearest friends. She didn’t relish hiding in her room.

She opened the armoire in the small bedroom she occupied, in her apartments tucked in a corner of the Globe’s basement floor. Whitewashed stone walls brightened the odd corners and nooks of it. The floor was mostly even, though it had a slight slant at one end, where it took a step up to a tiny alcove where stood her writing desk and a wooden chair with a tall back and heavy arms. The armoire wobbled somewhat on the uneven stone, but was steady enough when she jammed a bit of wood beneath one of its feet. The thing was a rather old piece of furniture, and smelled musty, but she’d had it since the year she’d started up with her former patron nearly eleven years ago and it was holding up nicely. It looked somewhat German, painted with vines and flowers along its frame and sides. Having had little of worth in her life, she was now rather attached to it. It represented a significant improvement in her life recently.

The same was true about many things she’d acquired, and also about some of the people in her life, some old friends and some newly met. As she gazed at the clothing in her armoire, most of it bought very recently, she considered who she would miss, were she to stay away from the Goat and Boar as recommended. Big Willie Waterman, of course. He was a musician who worked often with her Players and sometimes played small roles, but he was most fun when holding forth in conversation or fiddling freely on his instrument at the public house. Then there was Warren, Willie’s flautist friend, whom Suzanne knew less well. The two played often together, and if Willie was hired for a play, Warren usually was as well. Willie, Warren, the Goat and Boar proprietor Young Dent, and the performers in The New Globe Players filled her evenings with good company. She was closest to Matthew, Louis, and Liza, and of course Horatio, who directed the Players and whose love of Shakespeare was ever-present. He was like an uncle to her and represented the only family she had ever trusted. Even Daniel had never been the rock Horatio was to her.

Oh yes, Daniel as ever. Daniel Stockton, third Earl of Throckmorton. He was Piers’s father and the man Suzanne had once loved so much she threw her life away on him at seventeen. With him the question was never whether she would miss him, but would he miss her? Would he even notice her absence? And could she afford to care anymore whether he did? Because now there was also Diarmid Ramsay, the wild Highland Scot who was even less trustworthy, and one was never sure how he made his living. Sometimes he played roles at the Globe, but not often enough to account for his lack of other employment or property. He was known to do some buying and selling, but without patent to speak of, and one was never clear about where the goods had originated. The only certainty about Ramsay was that he was by far the best source for Scottish whisky in all of London. Oh, but he was ever so much more fun!

What would happen, then, were she to hide herself in the theatre and away from the river? She had to smile at the thought. Daniel and Ramsay would be very unhappy fellows.

She looked over at her desk, where sat the volume of Aristotle Daniel had given her. It had taken her weeks to plow through it once, and now she was working her way through again to understand it better. Tutelage had been scarce in her youth, and her reading skills were not strong, but her desire to read and understand great works burned nearly as hotly as her instincts in raising her son. She could stay at home tonight and let her maid serve her something to eat, and spend the evening absorbed in ancient Greek philosophy.

There was wine here; she didn’t need to go to the public house for it. There was always wine now, and of higher quality than she’d known even while under the wing of her patron, William. He had been a Puritan riddled with shame for his sin of fornication, and pretended to make up for it by keeping her home free of anything he considered luxury. Her clothing had been black, her food plain, and her wine cheap. There would have been none at all, had she not insisted he allow it. Now, since his death and since Daniel had provided her with the financial means to create The New Globe Players, she wore brightly colored silks and soft linens. Even a little jewelry, though she still could only afford plain silver without stones.

She turned back to the armoire and considered dressing to go out. Then she turned to her desk where Aristotle awaited. Then back to the armoire.

Should she avoid the Thames? What might she miss if she stayed in? Should she resume her reading tonight and possibly be a better person for having studied? Daniel had said she would enjoy Aristotle, and he’d been right. Nearly every page contained something she’d heard said but had never before known who’d first said it. Now her reading was a bit like putting together a puzzle, where the pieces became a whole that made sense. She liked puzzles. Solving them made her feel intelligent, as her father had always given her to believe she was not.

The actor, Ramsay, wanted to marry her, where Daniel did not. Could not, for he was married to someone else. Daniel’s commitment to his son and herself had never been strong enough for him to even acknowledge Piers. His wife didn’t know about him, and Daniel liked it that way.

Ramsay, however, had made his desire for commitment clear. Had he been a steadier sort, she might have married him by now. But he was not, and his comings and goings were irregular in the extreme. Since he was not in any of the plays currently being staged or rehearsed, she’d not seen him all week, and that didn’t reflect well on his dependability.

However, she missed them both and wanted to spend the evening among friends. Again she looked to the armoire, and this time her hand of its own volition reached for a delicately and expensively embroidered shirt and silk breeches. A man’s costume that pleased her for its comfort and practicality, with just enough of the feminine about it to avoid confusion.

Sometimes she wore dresses when in public, for a different sort of practicality. Though Londoners took pride in being surprised by nothing since the return of the king from the eternally blasé Continent, dressing in unquestionably feminine attire cut down on social friction when she was among strangers. Wearing a dress while out among people who didn’t know her saved on having to explain herself. However, during evenings at the Goat and Boar, and at the Globe while not onstage, she enjoyed the comfort and the attention she received dressed in doublet, breeches, tights, and flowing linen shirt.

And Daniel’s Cavalier’s hat. Recently, in a playful moment on New Year’s Day, she’d appropriated a hat belonging to Daniel. As the Earl of Throckmorton and one of the King’s Cavaliers, he’d returned from exile with the king nearly two years ago and had worn this hat in the triumphal parade through London. Wide of brim and flat topped, it bore a feather so long it now tickled the backs of her legs when it swayed with her movements. One of the many things she liked about this costume was that in men’s clothing she was able to dress herself and not have to call for Sheila’s help.

Ready for the Goat and Boar, she called for Sheila to have her fur-collared cloak and matching leather gloves for her, and then was on her way to the public house and maybe some fun among her favorite people. Never mind the old woman’s premonition. There was no telling what that was about in any case, and she tried to forget it.

The Goat and Boar lay in an alley off Bank Side, from which there was no access or egress but from that street. There was no entrance to the public house except by walking along the embankment just west of the bridge. Tonight Suzanne, in spite of herself, walked as close to the buildings away from the bank wall as she could. Braving the Bank Side was tempting fate, but not too much. Probably. She stared over at the water’s edge, and slowed.

It was just a river. Even were she to fall in, she wouldn’t necessarily drown. She knew how to swim, having learned as a child in a pond on her uncle’s farm. Tonight she wasn’t even wearing skirts that might pull her under. If she fell in, it would be a simple matter to swim to a quay, or even float downstream to one, and climb out. The river was filthy, not deadly.

She stopped walking, and stared some more. Why should she fear something told to her by someone she didn’t know and hadn’t asked? The woman knew the king, but she shouldn’t be taken as a prophet of any kind. After all, Daniel also knew the king and she certainly never took his word as gospel. Not anymore, in any case. It was silly to avoid the river when it couldn’t hurt her. She took some steps toward it.

As she crossed the street, evening traffic passed around her, this way and that. Street vendors cried their wares to her, but she ignored them. A carriage approached and its driver shouted at her to clear the way, so she hurried a few steps closer to the brink. Clopping horses and rattling wheels passed harmlessly behind her, and she gazed some more at the river.

Braziers here and there flickered up and down along the stone riverbank. There weren’t many boats on the water this time of day and this time of year, but a few showed torchlight and bobbed like water candles in the current. The dank smell didn’t seem so bad to her; she was used to it. Here in Southwark, all her life the water of the Thames had helped weave the fabric of her days and nights. Her early childhood had been spent in this very street, living and working in the brothel. Maddie was dead now, and her house had been made tenements still occupied by whores and thieves who now paid rent instead of working for it. Her days there had been nearly half a lifetime ago, but since then she’d never strayed far, and the smell of the river still spoke to her of home.

“Whatever has got you so enraptured?”

Suzanne jumped. Daniel’s voice spoke so close to her ear it seemed to come from inside her head. He laughed and she turned to slap his arm. Up the street she saw his carriage standing near a brazier, and realized it was the one that had nearly run her down.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. You were staring so intently at the river, I thought you might have seen something particularly interesting you could share with me.” His smile was wide and handsome, with teeth only slightly discolored by age. He was nearly forty, slightly older than herself, and few men his age could boast a full complement. She saw him as the youth who had once been her lover, who still touched a small, dim place in her heart.

Those days when she’d been a young, stupid girl had been the time of magic, when anything she wanted had seemed possible and nothing mattered more than their love. Even then he’d been married, for a man of his station must marry for political and financial advantage and she’d offered neither. But that had never been large in her thoughts. She’d given him everything, and he’d squandered it. This bank had been their meeting place.

“I was only taking in the beauty of the river.”

That brought a short bark of a laugh. “If you say so, though I can’t imagine anyone thinking that stinking runnel a thing of beauty.”

Suzanne only shrugged and declined to argue. She thought the river at night was a lovely sight, so deep in the darkness, and torchlit barges moving silently along it. She didn’t care what he thought. “Come,” she said, and took his arm though it hadn’t been offered. “Let us go to the Goat and Boar. I’m thirsty for a glass of wine.”

“An expensive one, I’ll wager.”

“Of course. Anything less would not be worth the swallowing, much like most men I’ve known.”

Daniel let out a long guffaw.

The Goat and Boar was lively that night. When Suzanne and Daniel arrived they were hard-pressed to find a seat in the throng. An extra table had been brought to seat patrons, and even so, every chair in the room was occupied. Several men stood by the hearth where a mutton joint that dropped fragrant grease into the fire was nearing edibility. They were holding cups and tankards as they argued amiably about bears and bulls that fought dogs in the arenas near the bridge. Some tarts loitered here and there, young girls Suzanne didn’t know. The faces of the whores changed far more often than those of the men in this place, and keeping up with the comings and goings of the girls on Bank Side was near impossible.

Suzanne looked around to see if any of her Players were there, and her heart lifted to find an entire table of them. The small one at the back was surrounded by actors and musicians from the Globe. Matthew, Liza, Louis, Big Willie, whose physique belied his name, and Horatio, whose wig just would not stay straight on his entirely bald head. It canted to one side, though he was forever straightening it with an absent shove.

And Ramsay. Diarmid was there, wearing his bright red kilt and a clean, white linen shirt with the drawstring at its neck untied and hanging loose over his chest. His Highland bonnet of blue wool sat on the table before him, next to his cup of whisky. At the moment he was laughing at something someone had just said, but when he looked up and saw Suzanne on Daniel’s arm his smile died.

Then he resurrected it, for Ramsay was not one to let himself appear defeated. Or even damaged. He leapt to his feet and gestured to his chair that Suzanne should sit instead of himself. Suzanne sat, gladly, for she didn’t care to stand and had not come with Daniel. She didn’t mind letting Ramsay play the gentleman in front of the actual gentleman.

Now Ramsay and Daniel stood, Ramsay with his whisky and Daniel looking around for somewhere to sit. Louis, knowing his place as the least man present, hopped to his feet so the earl could take his chair. But Daniel, though he gazed at it for a moment to consider sitting, smiled and shook his head. His glance at Ramsay told Suzanne that though his rank entitled him to the chair, he would stand as long as Ramsay did. Daniel was a veteran of the civil war, and he liked to remind everyone that Ramsay was nothing but a soft actor. He gestured to Young Dent, the proprietor, for a whisky for himself and wine in a clean glass for Suzanne. Expensive wine.

Matthew said, loudly over the roar of voices in the close room, “I’m surprised, Suzanne, to see you so near the river tonight.”

She laughed. “It takes more than dark mutterings from an old witch to keep me away from the Goat and Boar.”

“What dark mutterings do you mean, Suze?” Ramsay asked. His far northern brogue had smoothed out some during his months in London, but his speech was still quite crisp with rolling Rs and slender vowels.

She waved away the subject as if it were nothing, though she didn’t really feel it was. “Oh, just an old woman who told me to stay away from the water for some weeks.”

“Said she was going to drown, she did,” said Louis.

“Did not. She only said my life would change and death was involved.”

“Sounds a great deal like drowning to me.”

She shrugged and laughed. “In any case, I can hardly stay away from the Thames for so long. Most weeks I cross it more than once. I’d hate to be utterly trapped in Southwark.” She tossed an insouciant grin to Ramsay and Daniel, and found them staring hard at each other, their postures with chests out and chins up, like roosters in a fighting ring. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. Men had fought over her before, but only when very drunk, and the contest had always been over the money she cost rather than her affections. To see Daniel and Ramsay like this was not just a surprise, but a pleasant one.

One of the tarts moving through the room in search of a patron for the evening sidled up to Daniel, clearly the more affluent of the men at that table. The girl was uncommon-pretty. Her cheeks glowed with natural, ruddy health beneath porcelain skin. Her lips were full and soft, and when she smiled they showed dimples at the corners that seemed in turn to light up her eyes. Her high spirits and quick laugh made her eminently likeable, and Suzanne found her fascinating. There was something about this girl that simply lit up the room with joie de vivre. Suzanne couldn’t help smiling with her.

She pressed her bosom to Daniel, batted her eyes, and vowed she was so thirsty she could just blow away on the slightest breeze. The way her mouth caressed the word “blow” with O-shaped lips, it was plain what she would give in return for a drink.

Daniel replied, “Nonsense. You’re as full of piss and vinegar as any girl I’ve ever seen.” Suzanne knew he would buy the girl an ale, but he’d give her a hard time about it first. He might even expect her to take him upstairs immediately and save the drinking for after, but she thought probably not tonight. He wouldn’t care to leave herself and Ramsay in the same room.

The tart’s bosom wasn’t as ample, and therefore not as revealed, as those of other girls in the room, but her lips were very soft and plump. They were painted a bold crimson that stood out in her very pale face like a winter rose on snow. When she smiled her teeth were large and quite white. Surely she must have been younger than she at first appeared. Tall for her age, and therefore no more than twelve or thirteen. Hardly old enough to have a bosom at all, never mind an ample one. During Suzanne’s day as a tart, she’d seen so many young girls such as this, she came to realize that at seventeen she’d entered the profession very late. She’d been nearly a hag when she’d started at Maddie’s, where other girls had arrived so young many couldn’t remember any other life.

The girl wore a wig of nearly white blonde, and a dress of blue satin adorned with a profusion of cream-colored lace at wrist and breast, where it somewhat mitigated her lack of mature curves. Her waist was miniscule, so narrow Suzanne might have spanned it with her own rather small hands. Daniel’s one hand rested at the small of her back, and was barely hidden by it. The girl held a fan she waved before her face in tiny, precise movements while she eyed Daniel like a large cat sizing a doe for a kill, with an energy and mischief that mesmerized. Suzanne watched with an amused smile, as if enjoying a well-acted play.

Then she realized what she was seeing was a true act. More than the usual feigned interest of a prostitute for a client, Suzanne sensed this was a put-on from the very bottom of it. The veins on the girl’s hands stood out in bulging blue ridges. When her fan dropped a little too low, in her throat could be seen a distinct Adam’s apple. A small one, to be sure, but it was there. She began to notice other things. The girl’s posture was just a tiny bit too feminine. Like a caricature of a female rather than a girl who has been one her entire life. The voice was too soft. Too . . . practiced. Suzanne realized what she was looking at was a boy in a dress. A boy just beginning his entry to manhood.

A smile of mischief spread across her face as she watched Daniel flirt with the boy. Did he know, or would he soon learn a handful of what awaited beneath those skirts was more than he’d bargained for? Suzanne in the past had sometimes passed herself off as a boy, for men of that persuasion rarely cared for the boy bits and she could often service such a client without even disrobing much. She knew there was a demand for boys in dresses, but she’d never come across one. The laws against sodomy being what they were, those who practiced it kept to themselves for the most part. So far as she knew, this was the first male tart she’d ever seen.

Daniel’s expression never betrayed a knowledge he was about to go upstairs with a boy. Furthermore, as his conversation with the young sodomite progressed, it became plain Daniel did intend to take him upstairs. His hand went into the slit at the side of the boy’s dress, as the boy pretended coyness and stepped away from the earl. He snapped his fan closed and wagged it side-to-side in a no-no gesture. Daniel laughed as if the boy were joking, and pulled him by the waist to press himself against his belly. Suzanne watched closely to see whether Daniel would sense something beneath the copious skirts, but he seemed not to notice anything amiss. His grin was wide as the boy smiled behind his fan and looked up at him with dewy eyes and dimpled cheeks. Daniel looked as if he might steal a kiss.

It was definitely time to put a stop to this lest he embarrass himself. “Daniel!” she cried, and put a hand on his arm. “Daniel, you must taste this wine! ’Tis the finest Young Dent has ever served here!”

Daniel was awfully taken with the boy in his arms, if not smitten. It took another pull at his arm to get him to even look at her. She grabbed his collar and yanked him hard enough to bend him at the waist so she could speak directly into his ear. “Daniel! Stop that now!”

He laughed, ready to ignore her as if she were only jealous of the prostitute, and that surely was the reason for this display. But she held tight to his collar and continued, “That is a boy you’re about to bed!”

He laughed again, certain she must be having him on.

“Heed me, Throckmorton! Look at him!” She shook his arm in an attempt to bring him to his senses.

Daniel saw her eyes, and the smile left his face. A frown put a crease between his eyes, puzzled, and he looked at the boy. For his part, the boy maintained his femininity though he knew he’d been revealed. He graced Daniel with the softest, most adoring eyes and pursed lips Suzanne had ever seen, even in a skilled prostitute.

But Daniel finally saw through the ruse. He straightened and reddened. Then he looked around to see who else had seen, and found the entire table of Players watching, some grinning and others unsure where to look from embarrassment. There was no saving the moment. So, with all the social grace bred into him by generations of noble ancestry, he took the boy’s free hand and quite formally bent and kissed the back of it in the Continental manner. Then he straightened and said in the warmest tones he could manage at the moment, “I must apologize, mistress. I fear I’ve just remembered a commitment I’ve made elsewhere. I hope you will forgive me, for I must cut short our conversation.”

The boy said, “Another time, then?”

There was a snort of laughter from someone at the table. Suzanne looked to see who it was, but couldn’t tell by their faces. They all listened intently for Daniel’s response.

He replied, “I doubt our paths will cross again.”

The boy’s eyes betrayed disappointment, but he curtsied with utter grace and said, “As you wish. I should have liked to make your acquaintance, but one must accept what one cannot change.”


There was another snort, and this time Suzanne caught Louis laughing into his cup. She threw him a sharp look, and he looked away, struggling not to giggle.

The boy tart tapped the end of his fan against Daniel’s chin, then ran it down his chest as he turned away from his would-be client and the rest of the table, immediately off on his quest for someone with interest as well as money. He disappeared into the press in an instant, and Suzanne looked to Daniel for his reaction.

The red cloud of embarrassment hovered over him as if he were smoking that tobacco plant from the New World. Suzanne could almost see it rising from the top of his head, in waves of heat.

Ramsay said, “That boy is one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen in my entire time here in London. ’Tis a pity he lacks the one grace I find indispensible.”

“Quim?” asked Louis.

“Bosom. I like a nice cushion for my face.” He gestured to his chin with a mannered flourish of his fingers in wicked satire of the upper classes, and his accent was for the moment straight from Puritan Parliament. The table roared with laughter.

“Polite little fellow,” remarked Matthew. “He didn’t even seem studied.”

Suzanne agreed. There was a difference between those who studied manners and those who had been born to them, and that boy had appeared utterly natural.

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Praise for the Restoration Mysteries

“The world of Restoration London and its theaters leaps off the page.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author of India Black and the Gentleman Thief

Anne Rutherford brings the world of Restoration England to vivid life.”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author of Murder in Murray Hill

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