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Vir Kwai: the Kings spy (episode two)

The carriage turned left. Adam pushed the curtain aside. The Windsor Castle sign was just ahead. Are we there? Mrs. Burke asked, shifting to the edge of her seat. Adam suppressed a laugh; hed never seen her so excited about anything, and Agnes and Mr. Burke seemed almost as excited. A couple more minutes. Mrs. Burke squealed. Agnes chuckled. Calm down, Mom. I wouldnt want you to wet your dress. Mrs. Burke frowned at her daughter. You cant blame me for being excited, Agnes. Before this trip to London, the most exciting thing Id done all year was to wash your fathers socks. Agnes frowned. Why is washing Dads socks more exciting than washing mine? She just cant get enough of my scent, Mr. Burke said. True, dear, Mrs. Burke said. I love the smell of your clothes so much, I think Ill stop washing them. She turned to Adam. What were the odds that the woman you rescued would work for the queen? Adam shrugged. He didnt like the idea of withholding the truth of what had really happened last night from them. Deception wasnt his favorite pastime, which was one reason he was having serious doubts about becoming a spy. This is your last chance to tell us your secret, Adam, Agnes said. Adam tensed. What secret? Its yours to tell, Agnes said. My guess is they offered you a job. Adam swallowed. What makes you say that? Agnes smiled. I thought so. Will they offer me one, too? Adam didnt know what to say.

Enough, Agnes, Mrs. Burke said. If you pull these tricks of yours when you meet the king, youre liable to meet the headsman, as well. People might think youre using witchcraft, and Henry VIII isnt exactly known for his clemency. Dont worry, Mom; I cant read most people the way I can Adam. Hes an open book. Cmon Adam, whats the job? Adam tried to keep his mind and face blank. It might prove dangerous for the Burkes if Agnes figured everything out. Agnes continued studying him. At least tell me my job, so I can think about it and figure out a good response when they offer it. He had to say something to keep her meat-hook eyes off him. Maybe if he could get her focused on her job, shed forget about his. Think of your dream job and then double it. She grabbed his arm, her eyes widening. Its in London? Adam sighed. Ive already told you more than I was supposed to. Is it as a botanist or a chemist? Adam shrugged. Whos to say? Maybe neither. But what else am I qualified for? Cmon, Adam. Give me a clue. He smiled, hesitating, drawing it out. Not in London. She wrinkled her brow. How could it be my dream job if its not in London? Her face suddenly lit up. Paris? The coach stopped. They were at the door of the castle. Agnes looked ready to explode. Adam, stop being such a tease. Is it Paris? Adam opened the door and stepped out, offering his hand to Agnes. Youre cruel, Agnes said. She took his hand and stepped out. Mrs. Burke followed suit, muttering. Lord knows why my daughter had to become the only girl in England who wants a job. I guess being a wife and mother just isnt good enough. I think weve already established how exciting it is to wash socks, Agnes said. Adam couldnt picture Agnes washing his socks. Mr. Burke followed them out and closed the door of the coach. Adam led them up the walkway to the castle. Craig and Sarah met them at the entranceway, and Adam introduced them to the Burkes.

Were so glad you all could make it, Sarah said. Im sure the dinner wouldnt have been as enjoyable for Adam without old friends to share it with. Were honored to be included, Mr. Burke said. The king had previously planned to dine tonight with the new ambassador to France, Sarah said. Do you mind if the ambassador and his family join you for dinner? Oh, no, Mr. Burke said. By all means, wed love to eat with them. Adam glanced at Agnes, expecting her to react to this obvious clue to the location of her new job, but shed sunk her meat hooks into either Sarah or Craig, or maybe both of them, and her face was expressionless. Excellent, Sarah said. I understand you have estates in southern France and Brittany, so I thought the ambassador might enjoy hearing of your experiences in France. He hasnt spent much time there. Estates might be too grand a word for our properties, Mr. Burke said. But yes, we own homes in both places. We still lounge on the Mediterranean in the winter and spend April in Brittany. Ah, winters on the Mediterranean, Sarah said. You cant know how I envy you. I lived in Paris for a couple years, but Ive never made it to southern France Well, shall we join the king and the ambassador? Im sorry, are they waiting for us? Mr. Burke asked. Oh, no, theyre just having wine, Sarah said. Dinner wont be ready for a half hour or so. Craig and Sarah led them down the hallway. Agnes lay back, motioning Adam. He dropped back to her. Whats up with Craig and Sarah? she whispered. That man is a pit viper, and shes almost as dangerous. Ah, cmon, Agnes. Theyre kitchen servants. And that scar on his cheek came from cutting potatoes? Im telling you, Adam; just look at how they carry themselves; theyre coiled to spring at anything that might appear. And theyre an adept teamshe engaged us, while he studied us with those darting eyes of his. He glanced at everything outside, even overhead and in the bushes, all without making it too obvious. Ive never seen such quick eyes that took in so much. Neither one of them is a servant; that much is for certain. Agnes is the one who should be the spy, not me. Well, maybe theyre the kings secret bodyguards, posing as servants. I was thinking along those lines. But my point is, why would an old pro like Sarah need you to rescue her? And if shes the kings bodyguard, why was she alone in the streets of London, late at night? Nothing adds up. Are they accompanying us to Paris?

Paris? Adam, this is important. If they are, we need to figure out whether we can trust them. I think you should relax, Agnes. Are we going to work as interpreters for the new ambassador? Adam sighed. Was he going to have to spend the rest of his life fighting off her piercing questions? Do you have to ruin every surprise? Youd better act surprised when the ambassador offers the job. You realize of course that most ambassadors and their employees are glorified spies. I think they intend to turn us into spies. And I suppose this dinner is the ambassadors way of getting to know us before he decides whether to hire us. Wed better be on our best behavior. Like maybe not stand huddled together all night, whispering? Adam sped up to catch the others, and Agnes did likewise. The lavatories are on the left, Sarah said. Mr. and Mrs. Burke headed left. Adam managed to steal a moment alone with Craig in the lavatory. Agnes has already figured everything out, Adam whispered. I tried my best to keep it from her, but she reads me like a book. Craig nodded. I felt her eyes on me, and I noticed her whispering to you furiously. I think shes a natural spy, which is rare for a woman. I think she could be an incredible asset to the team. Think shed want to join us? Adam certainly hoped not. Being a spy was no place for a woman. He shrugged. Dont tell her Im interested in her, not until Ive spoken with the king. Adam nodded. Craig and Sarah led them to a room where several people were seated at a long table. Henry VIII was seated at one end and a woman dressed in fineryundoubtedly Queen Catherinesat at the other end. Craig and Sarah went to one knee, and Adam and the Burkes followed suit. No need to stand on ceremony, the king said. Join us, please. Craig led Adam and the Burkes to the table. Your Majesties and Ambassador Boleyn, may I present Dexter and Colette Burke and their daughter, Agnes, as well as Adam Rayne. Craig then introduced them to Ambassador Thomas Boleyn (1st Earl of Wiltshire), his wife (Lady Elizabeth Howard), and their children, Mary, Anne and George. Sarah took Anne, George, Adam and Agnes to a smaller table on the other side of the room, where the four of them sat. I thought youd grow bored by the old folks talk, so I thought youd like your own table, Sarah said, smiling.

Thanks, Agnes said. Sarah returned to the other table and sat beside Mrs. Burke. How did Mary end up at the adult table? George asked. She said shed rather sit at the kings table, Anne said. Actually, from the way Marys looking at the king, I think shed rather sit in his lap, Agnes said. Anne smiled. Youre very observant, Agnes. From the drool on the kings beard, I think he is, too, Agnes said. I bet he has a new lamplighter tonight. Anne laughed, which made her seem quite attractive, though not as attractive as her sister, who was a real beauty. Annes brown hair and long face were rather plain, but she had a certain quality about her that drew Adam, and she seemed intelligent. The four of them chatted amiably for awhile. It turned out that Anne was seventeen and George fourteen, the same ages Adams sister and brother would be if they were still alive. Talking with Anne and George almost made Adam feel he had an older sister and a younger brother again. Agnes, who was only a year younger than Anne, seemed to be getting along fabulously with her. Agnes didnt have any real girlfriends, so Adam was hopeful that she and Anne could hit it off. Maids started appearing, bearing fancy platters laden with food. The food smelled and tasted so divine, Adam stuffed himself until he was ready to burst, and George seemed to eat almost as much. Anne and Agnes seemed too absorbed in conversation to bother overmuch with matters as mundane as food. After dinner, Adam decided he had to stop procrastinating about asking permission to marry Agnes. The Burkes had to leave in a couple days to return home, and Adam had intended to go with them, so Adam would need to give the king his answer tomorrow. And the only excuse Adam could think of for refusing the kings job offer was if he were engaged to Agnes. Adam managed to pull Mr. Burke aside for a private talk. They went to a study and sat on a cushy sofa. Adam cleared his throat. His hands were quivering slightly. He had trouble getting the words out, but finally they came. Mr. Burke, Id like your permission to marry Agnes. Mr. Burke smiled. Adam, youre already like a part of the family, so of course Id love to have you as a son-in-law. But have you ever discussed marriage with Agnes? No, sir. Mr. Burke stroked his beard. Did Agnes ever tell you why we moved to Lancaster? No, sir. She rarely wanted to talk about Brittany, though she often talked about your second house on the Mediterranean.

Did you know she was engaged in Brittany? No, sir. But she was only twelve, then. Is that a marriageable age there? No; the planned wedding date wasnt until just after she turned thirteen. Its common practice in many places to arrange the marriages at twelve, before all the best candidates are taken. Agnes had known the boy for years and was quite fond of him. She was excited about the marriage, but soon after we arranged the engagement, the plague took him. How terrible, sir. I didnt know. She was devastated by the loss, especially after shed already lost two siblings to the plague. Im sorry, sir. I didnt know about that, either. None of us like to talk about it. In any case, after Agnes lost her fiance, she crawled into a shell. My wife desperately tried to arrange another marriage to cheer her up, but lets be frank, Agnes has never been the most attractive of girls, and she doesnt know how to sew, cook or clean, so my wife was unable to find another suitor for her. Agnes fell into a deep depression, so we felt she needed a complete change of scenery. We thought that English boys might consider her to be an exotic foreigner, so we moved to Lancaster, where, as you might know, I was born and raised. A few months after we moved, my wife managed to find a suitor for Agnes, but Agnes refused him, saying marriage wasnt a part of her destiny, whatever that meant. My wife and daughter have engaged in a running battle on this issue ever since, though they get along fine otherwise. My wife thinks Agnes will eventually relent and get married, but I have my doubts. Its almost as though Agnes is on some sort of holy crusade to prove that a woman doesnt have to accept her traditional role as a wife and mother. I hope she comes to her senses before she winds up in prison as a heretic or an anarchist. Weve tried to warn her to keep her revolutionary ideas to herself; have you ever heard her trying to push her ideas onto other girls? No, sir. Except for tonight, I rarely even see her speaking to other girls; they dont seem to accept her very well. That might be for the best, in some ways, but it pains me that she doesnt have other friends. Im so glad she at least has you, Adam. She had no friends in Brittany, and shes seemed so much happier since she met you. I am too, sir. I wasnt accepted all that well when I first moved to Lancaster. So, when Agnes moved there a couple weeks after I did, I guess it was only natural we latch onto each other, since both of us were outsiders. I guess thats why it just seems natural that we get married. Mr. Burke sighed. I just think shed refuse anyone right now, even you. Maybe if you waited awhile to ask her, you might have better luck. Adam didnt answer. This conversation hadnt gone at all as hed hoped it would. He should have realized all this about Agnes; the signs had all been there. Agnes never did wifey things. She was a bookworm and a scholar, not a romantic or a poet.

Adam chided himself for letting himself be deluded by his fantasies instead of facing facts. What would his professors say to that? Would they still consider him an eminent scholar? Im sorry to upset you, Adam. I know youre fond of her. Im not saying you should give up on her. She might one day come to her senses. Come to her senses? Agnes was already the most sensible person Adam had ever met. She had her quirks, yes, but she always thought things through logically. How sensible would it be for her to spend the rest of her life in a role she disliked? But what if Agnes had a maid to do all those wifey things? Would she marry him then? But could they afford a maid? His parents money wouldnt last forever. Adam felt embarrassed that he hadnt thought all this through; hed always just assumed shed marry him and theyd live happily ever after. He hadnt even talked to her about it; hed have to remedy that, and soon. Adam and the Burkes spent the night in the castle. Adam woke early the next morning and looked for Agnes, who was an early riser. He found her in the same study hed talked to her father in the previous night. She was sitting on the sofa, reading, which was probably her favorite pastime. I guess youre harder to read than I thought, she said. Craig just had a little talk with me. About what? Dont pretend, Adam. She lowered her voice. I know about the spying job. It seems Im on the team, at least for awhile. Adam shut the door and sat beside her. Its too dangerous, Agnes. Dangerous? Well officially be working for Ambassador Boleyn, so we wont have any obvious ties to the king; even the ambassador wont know were working for the king. And well have diplomatic immunity, so the French cant harm us, and theyll be legally bound to protect us. Did Craig tell you about the next mission? Agnes shook her head. France is just a training mission, Adam said. The real mission will be dangerous. All Ive agreed to is France. If I dont like the next mission, I wont go on it. But after theyve invested all that time and money on us, they wont let us go easily. Theyll do all they can to rope us into it. Are you saying you havent agreed to France? Adam shrugged. Not really, though they might think so. I havent made up my mind yet.

Well, I have. Ive already agreed to go to Paris. Without even talking about it with me, first? She snorted. Yesterday, I couldnt pry a word out of you about it, and now youre accusing me of not wanting to talk about it? I wasnt allowed to tell you. I figured if Craig told you about it, wed talk about it then. I thought youd already agreed to it. And anyway, Im going to do it, even if you arent. I really like Anne, and Im looking forward to being her interpreter. And Im really excited about going to Paris. Im even thinking I might like being a spy. Adam was ready to pull his hair out. Now he understood Mrs. Burkes frustrations with Agnes; Agnes just didnt live in the real world. Agnes, you were right about Craig being a pit viper. I fought him in the alley, and hes tough as nails. And so is Sarah. Do you want us to end up like them? What do you mean, you fought him in the alley? The whole rescue thing was a setup. They were testing me, and theyll test you. Theyll use us and temper us until were steel in their hands. Is that the life you want to lead? I could use a little tempering, I suppose. Will you get serious, Agnes? Is this really the life you want? For now, it sounds exciting. Im sure Ill learn a lot of skills I couldnt learn otherwise. If I decide I dont like being a spy, Ill quit. I doubt its going to be that easy. Do you like the thought of all that subterfuge and intrigue? Do you want it to become a part of your life? I do, she said. Its right up my alley, and its for my country. And Craig said that, with my background in botany and chemistry, Id be good at making poisons and explosives. Adam gaped at her. So glad to hear youve found your callingas an assassin. Dont be silly. Poisons dont have to kill people. Some are just meant to temporarily incapacitate a man by making him vomit. Or, for a longer term but less serious incapacity, you can use a strong laxative that will keep the man in and out of the latrine for hours. Sleeping potions can also be useful. And explosives can be a great distraction. Craig pointed out a number of scenarios where poisons and explosives can save lives. Adam could hardly believe what he was hearing. Agnes, the new advocate for assassins and spies. Remind me never to eat anything you cook. I dont understand why youre so hesitant to go to France, Adam. Just think of all the things you can learn from Craig. Dont you think it would be useful to learn self-defense, for example? Craig can teach you to fight with your bare hands.

Mr. Burke was right. There was no way that Agnes would agree to get married right now. She was completely out of her mind. All Adam could hope for was that shed eventually wake up to the reality of what she was heading into. Her mind was made up. He sighed. But could he let her go into this thing alone? He opened his mouth to agree to go to France, but then he closed it. No, he wasnt going to let her rope him into this, not without giving it some serious thought. Maybe if he refused, and she had to do it alone, she wouldnt like it as much, and she might come to her senses. But on the other hand, he really didnt want to be without her, and then have to go crawling to her on his knees later. I have to go take a walk and think about this, he said. He left the room. Why cant she be normal, or at least halfway normal? But then again, he was far from normal himself. Maybe it was her idiosyncrasies that had drawn him to her in the first place. Sarah had promised hed be safe in France, and he was sure Sarah would look out for Agnes and keep her safe. And it was true that diplomats and their employees were protected by the host government. Though France was a traditional enemy of England, the two countries were at peace right now. And Sarah had said that King Henry was currently working on a major peace treaty involving all the major European powers, so maybe a time of lasting peace in Europe would come soon. He ran into Anne and a maid in the hallway. Have you seen Agnes? the maid asked him. I wanted to let her know she could eat breakfast now, if she wants. Shes in the study, he said. Do you know the way to the dining room? the maid asked him. Adam nodded. The maid headed toward the study. Can you take me to the dining room? Anne asked. Im afraid Im a little unsure of the way, with all these hallways. Id be glad to, Adam said. He really did like Anne, and Agnes didnt seem to be the jealous type. He started toward the dining room. Is everyone awake already, then? Anne shook her head. My brother always sleeps in, and I havent seen Mary this morning. As for the adults, they all had quite a bit to drink last night, and I think they might sleep quite late. It might be just the three of us to breakfast. Are you hungry? I never have trouble throwing food down, Adam said. She laughed. He really liked her. Maybe if things didnt work out with Agnes

He took Anne to the dining room, where they sat and chatted. Someone came into the room, but he was so lost in conversation that he didnt look to see who it was. But Anne finally did look, and he followed suit. Agnes was standing alone in the doorway, looking white as a sheet. Agnes, whats wrong? he asked. She didnt answer. Her face was blank, and she seemed to be looking at them with glazed eyes. Adam was horrified. Did she think something had happened between Anne and him? He felt guilty now that hed had that fleeting thought about Anne. Had Agnes read that thought, somehow? Agnes always seemed uncanny about that sort of thing. Agnes blinked her eyes a few times and then shook her head as though clearing cobwebs out of it. She turned and left the room. Adam swallowed. Please excuse me, Anne. I have to see whats wrong with her. Please do, Anne said. Adam hurried after Agnes and caught her halfway down the hallway. Whats wrong? She kept walking. Adam followed her to the study. She closed the door behind them. Whats wrong, Agnes? I saw you and Anne. We just met, Agnes. We were just talking. She means nothing to me. Thats not what I saw. Thats all that was happening. You know as well as I do that weve always kept a few secrets from each other. Well, Ill tell you one of them, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. I wont, Agnes. But what is going on? I saw you and Anne in the future. Agnes, youre not making any sense. Ive never made more sense, Adam. What I saw was a true vision. What on earth are you talking about, Agnes? I had a premonition. Ive had them before, and theyve always come true. But this time, the premonition is about something vitally important, something that could determine the fate of England. Shes lost her mind. Shes completely gone bonkers. What exactly did you see?

A fork in the road, for both you and Anne. The fate of England depends upon the two of you. What are we supposed to do? I cant tell you yet. Great. Well just have to wing it, then, and hope the world doesnt collapse. Adam, this is serious. If I tell you, it might alter the choices you make beforehand and ruin everything. You just have to know that when the time comes, you and Anne have to do what I say. How will we know when the time comes? Agnes closed her eyes for a long moment and then opened them. I think its safe to tell you a few things. First, youll need to work for the king, and get into his good graces. Are you just making all of this up to get me to accept this job? She shot him an indignant look. How can you ask such a thing? I tell you, this is the most important thing the two of you will probably ever do. How can we be sure of this? She sighed. Okay, Ill tell you a couple signs, and when they come to pass, you and Anne will know that its time to act. If I havent come to you by then, seek me out, and Ill tell you what you and Anne must do. Adam didnt like the sound of this. Did it mean he and Agnes wouldnt be married in the future? Anne must, first of all, resist becoming the kings mistress. I think the king is doing just fine in that department already. Im not talking about now. This is well into the future. Anne must refuse to become Henry VIIIs mistress, or England will suffer a catastrophe. If she refuses him, the king will ask her to marry him. Then it will be time for me to tell you and Anne what to do to save England. Are you going to tell Anne this, too? Agnes nodded. Id like you to be there when I tell her; otherwise, shell think Im a crazy woman. Perhaps Ill wait until she knows me better. We have to convince her, Adam. The future of England is at stake. Agnes, youre scaring me. Can we talk about this later? Can we please go back to the dining room, before Anne sets the entire palace to look for us? She probably already is doubting your sanity. Im not sure Im not. Adam, this vision was far stronger than any Ive ever had. Theres nothing for us to talk about. Destiny has spoken, and it drowns out our puny voices. Adam walked with her back toward the dining room, wondering how his world had completely turned upside down in the span of two days.

Tune in on March 28th, 2013 for Vir Kwai: The Kings Spy (Episode 3)

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