From my robes I drew my pistol and pointed it across the street. I saw Connor’s mouth drop open out of the corner of my eye as I took aim at the unruly group of redcoats near the cart, picked one who, even now, was making an obscene suggestion to a woman, who walked past with swishing skirts and her head bowed, blushing beneath her bonnet. And pulled the trigger.
The report of my gun cracked open the day and the redcoat staggered back, a penny-sized hole between his eyes, already beginning to leak dark red blood as his musket dropped and he fell heavily back into a cart and lay still.
For a moment the other redcoats were too shocked to do anything, their heads swinging this way and that as they tried to locate the source of the gunshot while pulling their rifles from their shoulders.
I began to make my way across the street.
“What are you doing?” called Connor after me.
“Kill enough, and the Jaegers will appear,” I told him. “They’ll lead us right back to those in charge”—and as one of the redcoats turned to me and went to jab with his bayonet, I swept the blade across his front, slicing through his white crisscrossed belts, his tunic and his stomach. I laid into the next one straight away, while another, who tried to retreat and find space to raise his weapon and fire, backed straight into Connor and in the next instant was sliding off his blade.
The battle was over, and the street, busy before, was suddenly empty. At the same time I heard bells, and winked. “The Jaegers are out, just as I said they’d be.”
It was a matter of trapping one, a task I was happy to leave to Connor, and he didn’t let me down. In less than an hour we had a letter, and as groups of Jaegers and redcoats ran shouting up and down the streets, angrily searching for the two Assassins—“Assassins, I tell you. They used the blade of the Hashashin”—who had so mercilessly cut down one of their patrols, we took to the roofs, where we sat and read it.
“The letter’s encrypted,” said Connor.
“Not to worry,” I said. “I know the cypher. After all, it’s a Templar invention.”
I read it then explained. “The British command is in disarray. The Howe brothers have resigned and Cornwallis and Clinton have left the city. The leadership that remains has called a meeting at the ruins of Trinity Church. It’s there we should go.”
The Trinity Church was at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. Or, I should say, what was left of the Trinity Church was at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. It had been badly burned in the great fire of September ’76, so badly burned, in fact, that the British hadn’t bothered to try to convert it to use as barracks, or to imprison patriots. Instead they’d constructed a fence and used it for occasions such as this—the meeting of commanders that Connor and I fully intended to join as uninvited guests.
Wall Street and Broadway were both dark. The lamplighters didn’t come here because there were no lamps to light, none in working order anyway. Like everything else within about a mile’s radius of the church, they were blackened and soot-covered, their windows smashed. And what would they illuminate anyway? The greyed-out, broken windows of the surrounding buildings? Empty stone-and-wooden carcasses fit only for habitation by stray dogs and vermin.
Above it all towered the spire of Trinity, and it was there we headed, scaling one of the remaining walls of the church in order to take up position. As we climbed I realized that what the building reminded me of was an enlarged version of my home at Queen Anne’s Square, how it had looked after the fire. And as we crouched in the shadowy alcoves awaiting the arrival of the redcoats, I recalled the day I’d gone back to the house with Reginald and how it had looked. Like the church, its roof had been taken by fire. Like the church, it was a shell, a shadow of its former self. Above us, the stars twinkled in the sky, and I stared at them for a moment through the open roof, until an elbow in my side roused me from my reverie and Connor was indicating down to where officers and redcoats were making their way along the deserted rubble of Wall Street towards the church. As they approached, two men ahead of the squad were pulling a cart and hanging lanterns in the black and brittle branches of the trees, lighting the way. They reached the church and we cast our eyes downwards as they hung more lanterns below. They moved quickly among the truncated columns of the church, where weeds, moss and grass had begun to grow, nature claiming the ruins for herself, and placed lanterns on the font and lectern, then stood to one side as the delegates strode in: three commanders and a squad of soldiers.
Next we were both straining to hear the conversation and having no luck. Instead I counted the guards, twelve of them, but I didn’t think it too many.
“They’re talking in circles,” I hissed to Connor. “We’ll learn nothing, watching as we are.”
“What do you propose?” he replied. “That we get down there and demand answers?”
I looked at him. Grinned. “Well, yes,” I said.
And in the next instant I was climbing down until I was close enough, and jumped down, surprising two of the guards at the rear, who died, their mouths making an O shape.
“Ambush!” went the cry as I piled into two more of the redcoats. From above I heard Connor curse as he leapt from his perch to join me.
I was right. There weren’t too many. The redcoats, as ever, were too reliant on muskets and bayonets. Effective on the battlefield, perhaps, but useless at close-quarters combat, which was where Connor and I excelled. We were fighting well together by now, almost a partnership. Before long, the moss-covered figurines of the burnt-out church sparkled with fresh redcoat blood, the twelve guards were dead and just the three terrified commanders remained, cowering, lips moving in prayer as they prepared to die.
I had something else in mind—a trip to Fort George, to be precise.
In southernmost Manhattan was Fort George. Over 150 years old, from the sea it presented a vast skyline of spires, watchtowers and long barracks buildings that seemed to run across the entire length of the promontory, while inside the towering battlements were expanses of drill square surrounding the tall dormitories and administrative buildings, all of it heavily defended and fortified. A perfect place for the Templars to make their base. A perfect place for us to take the three loyalist commanders.
“What are the British planning?” I asked the first one, after lashing him to a chair in an interrogation room deep in the bowels of the North End building, where the smell of damp was all-pervasive and where, if you listened carefully, you could just hear the scratching and gnawing of the rats.