The Lost Boys of London : Book 5
In the twilight years of Henry VIII’s reign, alchemist’s daughter Bianca Goddard uses her skills to aid the living, and help seek justice for the dead . . .
While her husband fights the Scots on behalf of King Henry VIII, Bianca Goddard earns her coin by concocting medicines that offer relief to London’s sick. Some unfortunates, however, are beyond any remedies she can provide—like the young boy discovered hanging from a church dripstone. Examining the body, Bianca finds a rosary twisted around the child’s neck. A week later, another boy is found dead at a different church. When Fisk, the impish little son of Bianca’s acquaintance, goes missing, she fears he may become the third victim . . .
There are many villains who would prey on wayward, penniless boys. But Bianca suspects the killings are not brutal acts of impulse, but something far more calculated. In her room of Medicinals and Physickes she examines the sole piece of evidence: a sweet-smelling, dark-stained cloth. If Bianca can unravel its secret, reputations and lives will be saved. But the expected hour of the next murder is approaching, and a single misstep may mean another boy is lost forever . . .
The twists and turns of an inconstant king are as serpentine as the lanes and alleys of London’s Castle Baynard ward . At one end squatted massive St. Paul’s Cathedral. Licking the ward’s toes at the other ebbed the greasy, gray Thames. In between were four parishes and enough bread shops to adequately keep the inhabitants’ heads filled with guilt and their stomachs filled with gluten.
This warren of tightly packed residences, ordinaries, mercers, stationers, chandlers, and cordwainers sat in unremitting penitence near the ominous cathedral, and never was their compunction more intensely felt than during the bleak days of this midwinter. The incremental gain of daylight was not enough to cheer the citizens. They didn’t notice they did not have to light their tallows quite so early, nor did the lengthening days remind them that spring would soon . . . spring. Nay, the winter felt interminable, as did its dark, shivering days.
For England was at war.
Harry had lightened his coffers by hiring German and Spanish mercenaries to aid his British soldiers in subjugating the Scots to the north and the French across the sea. He’d spent his money on fortifications along his southern coast and on growing his fleet of warships. Such is the price of hubris.
Though King Harry grew in girth and petulance, he ignored signs of his diminishing health. His leg wound ulcerated, emitting a foul odor while his physicians scurried about trying different poultice wrappings, even cauterization, in an effort to offer the king some relief. Short of amputation (for who would dare mention, much less attempt it?) little could be done.
So, Harry continued to plant apple trees in his orchard in Kent and busied himself with the politics of war. And the citizens of London, indeed of the entire realm, continued to labor and abide by the whims of their peevish king.
To a boy with three younger siblings and a mother struggling to feed them, a king’s impulsive policies didn’t matter a spit. All he knew was that his father had gone away to fight, and he was the eldest son, and as such he understood he should tend to the welfare of his family.
While his mother embroidered a stomacher for a lady of wealth’s fine dress and fended off a two-year-old’s attempt to pull the thread, Fisk edged out the door of their tenement off Ivy Lane. He scampered down the dreary side street, threw a stick for a dog in the opposite direction, leapt over a steaming turd almost before it was too late, and headed toward Westcheap Market.