League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1766

Chapter 5

Redmond Barry laid down on a rooftop overlooking the main street in Gevaudan, his spyglass handy. This observation post was crude and uncomfortable, but how else could Wagner be spotted? The Irishman had enquired locals about any Germans in the area but time and time again the townsfolk answered Baron Munchausen and his retainers; so if Wagner was to be found it would have to be through observation and this was the best place.

Fritz and Karl had occupied this post in shifts during the day, the night shift was Redmond's. The spot was discreet; not in line of sight of any window and you would have to stand up to be seen from the street. Any pedestrian could be viewed secretly so Wagner should be spotted eventually if this post is maintained, once that happens, the mark should be followed to his address then the others informed.

Doing this duty in the night was problematic, Redmond could see the pedestrians and get a close look at their faces with the spyglass, but the dark made it difficult to make out an individual. The facial observation necessary could only be achieved when a person would raise a lantern to their own face or when lighting a cigar, pipe or cigarette. Fritz and Karl were aware of this difficulty but told Redmond to do the best he can.

There were not many people on the street tonight. The terror of the Beast of Gevaudan seemed to keep people indoors at night even though it never attacked anyone within the town itself. Crowds were expected in a few nights; the theatre was soon to open with a new show by Cagliostro and the observation post was right next to it.

In a few nights, the spy reckoned, he would be able to recognise each drunk, whore, beggar and peddler on the street; not a pleasing thought, Wagner had better show up soon so this detail can end.

Redmond began to munch on his biscuits when a coach drove up the street and pulled over at the theatre. The first person out was Baron Munchausen. Redmond had met the Baron in Berlin while the debonair aristocrat was inspecting the espionage service that the Irishman served. The second person out was offered the Baron's hand, she was a beautiful young woman who took the hand for balance then began to stretch out her arms in a rather teasing manner. Next came a rather morbid looking young man who seemed to be taking in the sights of the town while nothing much could be seen in the dark. Finally the last two stepped onto the footpath; Redmond recognised the trappers ambushed in Lyons; Hawkeye and Chingachook, the Baron must have brought them here to hunt the Beast, the spy reckoned.

After watching the coach drive off and the Baron's group entered the theatre, Redmond continued with his biscuits and hoped the coffee he had before starting this shift would sustain him through the night. A group of men bearing packs and muskets began to gather in the side street where the theatre side door was. These men clearly preferred to move in darkness but preparation of their muskets and other weapons required lanterns; this allowed Redmond to make out several faces; he recognised two as ambushers from the Throttled Hog Inn at Lyons. It was clear that this group were going to have another go at Hawkeye and Chingachook, probably Munchausen as well; this time there were more of them. The spy could not count all of them but there must have been around forty.

A knock on the theatre door had all but one man stand aside out of sight, when the door opened the knocker rushed the doorman, smothering his screams with a hand over his mouth and stabbing the unfortunate servant in the chest. The group was made up of whispering Frenchmen, but a command for donning uniforms was said in a German accent. Redmond tried to make out the leader as apparel was taken out of the packs and put on; what each man donned was a wolfskin with with the head, placed over the wearer's cranium and the lupine upper jaw resting on the bridge of his nose.

It was during this vesting that Redmond spotted the face of the leader; startled, he just recognised Fernand Wagner, the very man he was sent here to find. The spy had a pistol and could have killed the fugitive from his hiding place, but that would be suicide, the other wolfmen would certainly catch and kill him.

Redmond Barry considered his options: fetch Fritz and Karl, but that would take half an hour, Wagner would be long gone and his nasty business done; yell out a warning to the Baron, that would give them virtually no time to understand their peril and it will bring the wolfmens' attention to his presence; sit back and let Wagner do his foul work then follow him home, that would forsake Munchausen's entourage and shadowing forty men home, even in the dark, is bound to be noticed.

Being a spy was not the Irishman's chosen vocation, he wanted to be let loose to make his fortune, so there was usually great reluctance to risk his life in the line of duty, but this was different, he had an opportunity to gain the Baron's favour. Redmond knew that in Prussian society; if you wanted to get promotions, decorations, titles or social acceptance, brace for a scandal or even desert your military duty; it would be best to have the favour of Baron Munchausen, who the nation had taken to heart, to turn popular and relevant thought in your favour. This espionage operative was going to desert one day, the Baron's favour would be handy.

The wolfmen moved into the theatre, their muskets ready. The Irishman climbed down from his observation post when last wolfman entered, still lacking a plan to intervene he ducked into a dark corner when an extra man with a musket showed up. The straggler tried clumsily to adorn his wolfskin while drinking from a bottle of spirits. Redmond darted out of his hiding place, wrapped his arm around the straggler's throat and squeezed the tender windpipe till the figure went limp. Infiltration seemed to be the best available plan, after dumping the straggler's body in a nearby coal bin the spy took the wolfskin which fitted well and the musket was much like the one he used during the war, he readied it and entered the theatre stepping over the doorman's corpse.

Noises and footsteps revealed that a few wolfmen were in the ground floor auditorium while the bulk of the intruders were upstairs. The ex-soldier knew the value of high ground and crept up the steps; what he saw was a series of curtains along a walkway. A wolfman appeared out of a curtain and pointed to Redmond.

"You" he said. "You're in there. Go on."

Realising that the wolfman did not pick up that he was an impostor, the Irish Rogue entered the designated curtain. The organiser went down the walkway to his post elsewhere, not getting a good look at who he just ordered. Redmond found himself in a balcony overlooking the stage; a wolfman was there, his musket ready to shoot anyone on the stage; other balconies were similarly manned.

When the spy took his position at the edge, the incumbent sniper gave a quick glance at his new partner; Redmond tried to look part of the team, but a return glance from the wolfman told him he failed. A swift movement of his musket sent the butt slamming into the scrutineer's head, knocking him out; Redmond placed the limp figure in the balcony seat, leaning him on the parapet with his musket looking ready for use.

It appears nobody saw the spy in action; those in the other balconies were focused on the stage and the ghostly looking head manifesting itself in the blazing firebowl. Baron Munchausen and his entourage were on the stage listening to the apparition, the showman with them had to be Cagliostro.

When the spectral talker uttered his goodbye and vanished, a brief silence filled the theatre. The targeted people on the stage observed the many guns above them and a few on their level aimed at them; the silence suddenly broke when a voice from the latter yelled out the dreaded order.

"Kill them."

Baron Munchausen executed a quick flick of his wrist which sent his drawn short-sword spinning into the air; with superbly calculated accuracy it severed a taut rope near the ceiling. Instantly all the balcony drop curtains fell, the muskets were protruding from their designated battlements and virtually all fired the second after the falling curtains pressed them down, sending each shot to a useless nowhere.

Redmond Barry had not fired his musket, adding the firearm of his unconscious partner to his personal arsenal he entered the next balcony to find the two posted wolfmen leaning over the parapet to see what's going on, their muskets had been fired, a strong goose sent one over the edge to a neck breaking fall; the other needed more effort; a push was met with a grapple, then the two wrestled. Redmond had the advantage of having his feet on the floor, the wolfman was sitting precariously on the parapet, soon the Irishman gained a free hand, sweeping his antagonist's legs over the edge. The plummet was accompanied by a scream and desperate efforts to grab the curtain and break his fall.

Some wolfmen were running down the stairs to engage the targets in melee combat, others were climbing down the curtains to do likewise. When Redmond entered the next balcony he faced two wolfmen reloading their muskets.

"Quick." One wolfman said. "Give me one of those muskets."

The unfortunate gunman discontinued his reloading and reached out for the obviously unused firearm. Redmond leveled the musket at his chest and fired; the target died almost instantly. The other wolfman dropped his musket and pressed himself into the corner, covering his body with arms and legs; that left one open target zone; the impostor pointed the second musket at the panicked man's head and fired.

The Irishman noticed the two occupants of the next balcony were climbing down the curtain to the stage to murder the Baron's entourage who were, by the sound of it, fighting for their lives. There was little more he could do up in the balconies; grabbing a half reloaded musket, he speedily completed readying it before slinging the gun over his back then tearing off his wolfskin; he stood on the parapet. Lifting up a stretch of drop curtain from below, Redmond firmly seized a scrunched portion then propelled himself outward; the first half of his downward arc ended when the curtain attained full stretch, the jerk was strong but his grip held, now he was swinging towards the wall, his feet absorbed the impact. He was now within jumping distance from the stage, so with a calculated bound from the wall the spy landed on top of the two wolfmen who had climbed down and reached the stage. The shock totally took all fight out of them, Redmond promptly got to his feet and taking a stunned wolfman's head with each hand, smashed them together, knocking both out.

A look up found the Irish rogue staring at a musket muzzle, but a smile of friendly recognition from a surprised Hawkeye assuaged his fear.

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