Richard Plantagenet – Mayor of New York City.
Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.
Katherine Woodville – Harriet Stafford’s partner
William Catesby – Richard’s chief of staff
Frank Lovell – Richard’s aide
Rebecca Ratcliffe – Richard’s aide
Wrong Hath But Wrong
Richard was aware of the article even before he arrived at City Hall that morning. Even before he had left his apartment he had been fending off calls from various reporters and other parties. When he tried to redirect these to his Chief of Staff, Catesby was quick to inform him that this sudden flurry of media attention was quickly becoming too difficult to cope with. And no wonder – inquiries surrounding the death of a prominent politician still in recent memory? The very possibility of intrigue, of a scandal, drew the attention of the press – and the people – like sharks to blood. At present, this was something Richard could not afford.
He knew who was behind this, of course: Harriet. How could it not be? And after he had as good as told her he would have to kill her if she went against him. She was far braver than he had given her credit for – or far more foolish. He would have to get rid of her now; that much was certain. But he couldn’t risk doing it himself… No, he couldn’t risk it at all. He couldn’t kill her. It would be too much of a risk in light of the Hastings investigation… But then, he couldn’t let her live, not with her involvement in his plans… He shook his head. This was a risk, but it was one he had to take. She was far more dangerous alive than dead. But he couldn’t kill her himself – as much as he would wish to, to ensure she suffered. No, that would be an even greater risk.
“Catesby?” Richard was on the phone again, having settled into the backseat of his car and instructed the driver to hurry. “Get Ratcliffe to my office. Immediately.”
Rebecca Ratcliffe was another of Richard’s aides, but she differed her cohorts in one respect. She and Richard had worked together beyond the walls of City Hall, in the field when Richard fought in Afghanistan. The pair of them had remained in contact after the war – and it grew stronger when Ratcliffe entered the political spectrum. Having taken early leave from the army, she had moved immediately into a menial government position, meaning to work her way up to having an influence on the city’s martial policy. As it was, Ratcliffe had originally got no further than a secretarial position, but Richard had used his considerable influence to improve her lot as best he could without arousing suspicion. Now she worked for him – but she remained as outspoken as ever. That didn’t mean to say she would not agree with what Richard had planned, though; she was brutal andblunt almost to a fault.
Although Richard’s demeanour may have been similar at first – he brushed aside the reporters swarming City Hall’s steps with a few curt words – this changed as soon as he got to his office. It was not like him to lose his head, to panic, but this… Harriet had betrayed him. Granted, she had not told the press Hastings was murdered, or on whose orders, but if the investigation had been re-opened it was surely only a matter of time. And who was to say she wouldn’t say anything more? This would just be the beginning…
By the time Rebecca Ratcliffe entered his office, following behind Catesby and looking incredibly stiff and uncomfortable in a suit ever so slightly too small for her stocky physique, Richard’s demeanour had changed for the worse. He had been pacing the office for the best part of twenty minutes, trying to figure out exactly what was best to be done about Harriet. He had even gone so far at one point as to unlock the desk drawer that held his gun, to contemplate its use for a moment before slamming the drawer shut again. He was not in the mood for pleasantries.
“Where the hell have you been, Ratcliffe?”
“I got here as soon as I could, Richard,” Ratcliffe replied. Her strong accent was matched only by her strong handshake, which Richard accepted as briefly as politeness allowed. “What do you need me for?”
“This doesn’t concern you, Catesby,” Richard said, speaking over her and addressing the man who was still hovering, uncertain, in the doorway. “Get out.”
“Charming as ever,” Ratcliffe muttered, but decided it was best to say nothing more as Richard irritably waved her towards a chair. She sat down but Richard continued to pace for a moment or two, finally stopping just in front of his desk, leaning against it in a bowed and broken manner that did not suit him.
“I figured. You got something to hide?”
“Obviously. Do you think I’d be this worried if I didn’t?”
Ratcliffe did not seem fazed – and indeed, she wasn’t. She knew how Richard’s brain worked, how he saw a violent solution as the best solution. This was not true of everyone who left the army, obviously, but it was true enough of the pair of them. She did not really need to ask what it was that Richard was keeping secret, as she was sure she already knew – but, just to be sure…
“He was opposed to your taking the mayor’s seat, right?”
“Yes, but there was also the potential he would have run for the position himself. As next in line it would have made sense. I couldn’t risk that.”
Rebecca Ratcliffe nodded, slowly. “So, why has the investigation been re-opened? They clearly don’t think he actually was—”
“They don’t yet,” Richard replied, curtly. “But I’m sure it won’t be long before they do, since the woman who told them is the one who killed him.”
“It was a test of her loyalty. Loyalty that has proved far more malleable than I would have thought possible.”
There was a moment’s pause as that notion began to truly sink in for Richard. Harriet had betrayed him. Harriet, his co-conspirator, his adviser, who had helped him gain the mayor’s seat…. she had done this. Why? What was in this for her? If he was to fall, he would drag her down with him, she knew that, and he had made it clear. What was to be gained from revealing this now? Was it simply fear, or guilt, that had driven this initial confession? If that was the case, how much more would she reveal if…
“Why didn’t she just tell them that he—”
“I don’t know,” Richard snapped, moving from the front of the desk to behind it again, clenching and unclenching his fists as he tried to get a grasp on his thoughts, rapidly spiraling out of control, his voice becoming more rapid and furious as he moved. “I don’t understand why she would tell them anything, after all we’ve been through, all we’ve done, she’s betrayed me, and for what? Why? Because she feels guilty? Guilty for what? We did what we had to do and—”
He cut himself off. Almost instinctively in his movement behind the desk he had opened that drawer again, which he had neglected to lock having slammed it shut, opened it and found himself looking down at the gun. The drawer, the gun. He kept coming back to them. He knew why. He removed the gun from the drawer, looked it over in his hand.
There was a brief pause. Ratcliffe had remained seated as Richard continued to speak, even as he grew more and more furious, unsure how best to react. But now she stood, almost as if she were expecting instructions.
“I want her dead, Ratcliffe.”
“I don’t care how you go about it, just make sure it’s done. She’s a danger to me now, you understand that? I want her dead, I need her dead—”
Ratcliffe moved over towards Richard then, gently prising the gun from his grip and setting in back in the drawer.
“I understand. But I can’t use that gun, it would implicate you. Plus, you never know when you might need it yourself.”
There was another slight pause. Richard closed the drawer and looked up at his associate. He tried to smile but he couldn’t quite manage it. He settled for a nod, instead.
“Tell me when it’s done.”
There was nothing more that needed to be said. Ratcliffe had her instructions, and Richard knew they would be carried out. The aide turned assassin left the office, but Richard continued to stand behind the desk for a moment or two. Thinking. Waiting.
He would not have to wait long.
This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location – as are other businesses and events I have used – I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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