My target was Miko.
I left Reginald in his seat and made my way along the corridors of the opera house, along the back of the seats, past the opera’s patrons, until I found myself at the stalls. At the box where Miko sat I let myself in silently then tapped him gently on the shoulder.
I was ready for him, if he tried anything, but though his body tensed and I heard him give a sharp intake of breath, he made no move to defend himself. It was almost as though he expected it when I reached and took the amulet from his neck—and did I sense a feeling of . . . relief? As though he were grateful to relinquish the responsibility, pleased no longer to be its custodian?
“You should have come to me”—he sighed—“we would have found another way . . .”
“Yes. But then you would have known,” I replied.
There was a click as I engaged the blade, and I saw him smile, knowing it was the one I had taken from him in Corsica.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” I told him.
“As am I,” he said, and I killed him.
Some hours later, I attended the meeting at the house on Fleet and Bride, standing around a table with others, our attention focused on Reginald, as well as the book on the table before us. It was open, and I could see the symbol of the Assassins on the page.
“Gentlemen,” said Reginald. His eyes were shining, as though he were close to tears. “I hold in my hand a key. And if this book is to be believed, it will open the doors of a storehouse built by Those Who Came Before.”
I contained myself. “Ah, our dear friends who ruled, ruined and then vanished from the world,” I said. “Do you know what it is we’ll find within?”
If Reginald picked up on my sarcasm, then he made no sign. Instead, he reached for the amulet, held it up and basked in the hush from those assembled as it began to glow in his hand. It was impressive, even I had to admit, and Reginald looked over at me.
“It could contain knowledge,” he replied. “Perhaps a weapon, or something as of yet unknown, unfathomable in its construction and purpose. It could be any of these things. Or none of them. They are still an enigma, these precursors. But of one thing I am certain—whatever waits behind those doors shall prove a great boon to us.”
“Or our enemies,” I said, “should they find it first.”
He smiled. Was I beginning to believe, at last?
“They won’t. You’ve seen to that.”
Miko had died wanting to find another way. What had he meant? An accord of Assassin and Templar? My thoughts went to my father.
“I assume you know where this storehouse is?” I said, after a pause.
“Mr. Harrison?” said Reginald, and John stepped forward with a map, unfurling it.
“How fare your calculations?” said Reginald, as John circled an area of the map which, leaning closer, I saw contained New York and Massachusetts.
“I believe the site lies somewhere within this region,” he said.
“That’s a lot of ground to cover.” I frowned.
“My apologies. Would that I could be more accurate . . .”
“That’s all right,” said Reginald. “It suffices for a start. And this is why we’ve called you here, Master Kenway. We’d like for you to travel to America, locate the storehouse, and take possession of its contents.”
“I am yours to command,” I said. To myself, I cursed him and his folly and wished I could be left alone to continue my own investigations, then added, “Although a job of this magnitude will require more than just myself.”
“Of course,” said Reginald, and handed me a piece of paper. “Here are the names of five men sympathetic to our cause. Each is also uniquely suited to aid you in your endeavour. With them at your side, you’ll want for nothing.”
“Well then, I’d best be on my way,” I said.
“I knew our faith in you was not misplaced. We’ve booked you a passage to Boston. Your ship leaves at dawn. Go forth, Haytham—and bring honour to us all.”
8 JULY 1754
Boston twinkled in the sun as squawking gulls circled overhead, water slapped noisily at the harbour wall and the gang-board banged like a drum as we disembarked from the Providence, weary and disorientated by over a month at sea but weak with happiness at finally reaching land. I stopped in my tracks as sailors from a neighbouring frigate rolled barrels across my path with a sound like distant thunder, and my gaze went from the glittering emerald ocean, where the masts of Royal Navy warships, yachts and frigates rocked gently from side to side, to the dock, the wide stone steps that led from the piers and jetties to the harbour thronging with redcoats, traders and sailors, then up past the harbour to the city of Boston itself, the church spires and distinctive red brick buildings seemingly resisting any attempts at arrangement, as though flung by some godly hand on to the side of the hill. And, everywhere, Union Flags that fluttered gently in the breeze, just to remind visitors—in case they had any doubts—that the British were here.
The passage from England to America had been eventful, to say the least. I had made friends and discovered enemies, surviving an attempt on my life—by Assassins, no doubt—who wanted to take revenge for the killing at the opera house and to recover the amulet.
To the other passengers and crew of the ship I was a mystery. Some thought I was a scholar. I told my new acquaintance, James Fairweather, that I “solved problems,” and that I was travelling to America to see what life was like there; what had been retained from the empire and what had been discarded; what changes British rule had wrought.
Which were fibs, of course. But not outright lies. For though I came on specific Templar business, I was curious, too, to see this land I had heard so much about, which was apparently so vast, its people infused with a pioneering, indomitable spirit.
There were those who said that spirit might one day be used against us, and that our subjects, if they harnessed that determination, would be a formidable foe. And there were others who said America was simply too big to be governed by us; that it was a tinderbox, ready to go off; that its people would grow tired of the taxes imposed upon them so that a country thousands of miles away could fight wars with other countries thousands of miles away; and that when it did go off we might not have the resources to protect our interests. All of this I hoped to be able to judge for myself.
But only as an adjunct to my main mission, though, which . . . well, I think it’s fair to say that, for me, the mission has changed en route. I’d stepped on the Providence holding a particular set of beliefs and stepped off having had them first challenged, then shaken and, finally, changed, and all because of the book.