Dirk Dynamo liked English summers. They were milder than the ones back home, making for a more relaxing time. And there was so much history to see in this country. Their guest house in York was older than the state he’d grown up in. The city was full of grand old buildings. Proud as he was to live in the age of the steam train and the telegraph, he still loved to see such sights.
“What ho, Dirk!” Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms, Dirk’s long-standing friend and companion in adventure, settled into a seat across the breakfast table. “How’s the tea?”
“Good, I guess.” Dirk had decided that, if he was going to make the most of his English holiday, he should drink tea instead of coffee. But so far he was finding it a bit watery for his tastes. “What you got there?”
Blaze-Simms waved a sheet of expensive writing paper.
“Letter from the mayor! He heard that there were members of the Epiphany Club in town and he has a mystery he wants us to solve.”
“No thanks.” Dirk shook his head. This was the downside of joining a club for scholarly adventurers – people expected you to be ready for action all the time. “I just want to relax, drink some tea, catch a play. They’re doing Richard III at the playhouse and you can’t go wrong with Shakespeare.”
“Did you know that he had strong ties to York?” Blaze-Simms asked, setting aside the letter and buttering some toast. “Popular man around these parts.”
“Hope they don’t mind seeing him as a villain.” Dirk peered at his tea. Was this really how it was meant to taste?
A round man in a pinstripe suit approached their table.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said. “Would you be Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms and Mister Dirk Dynamo?”
“That’s us,” Dirk admitted reluctantly. He had a feeling he knew where this was going. “How can we help?”
“I’m Mayor Arkwright,” the man said. “I wrote to you about the shaking in the centre of town. Some of the older buildings are threatening to collapse and we have no idea what’s behind it. People are terribly put out. We were hoping you could-”
“I’m here on holiday, Mister Mayor,” Dirk said. “Reckon you can find someone else to deal with this.”
“Our local scholars haven’t had any luck,” the Mayor said. “Couldn’t you just-”
“No!” Dirk blushed. He hadn’t meant to be so loud, and now the other diners were staring. He lowered his voice. “I just want a holiday.”
Across the table, Blaze-Simms was scribbling in his ever-present notebook.
“You want to do this, don’t you?” Dirk asked.
“Then you do it by yourself. I’m off out to see the sights.”
Dirk set aside his teacup, got to his feet, and headed out.
For some reason, York’s medieval gates were called bars. Dirk would have to ask Blaze-Simms why later. For now, he was content to stare up at Micklegate Bar, with its crenellated towers and ancient stones.
“Magnificent, isn’t it?” said a woman standing next to Dirk. She had a pencil in her hand and a bundle of sketching paper protruding from a canvas bag. A broach in the shape of a silver crown sparkled in the sunlight.
“Yes, ma’am,” Dirk said. “And amazing it’s still standing.”
“Did you know that they used to display the heads of traitors there?” she asked. “Left them out to rot.”
“Makes me glad we live in civilised times,” Dirk said, turning to her with a smile. “Though it’s good to hear about what came before. Are you a historian?”
“I dabble,” the woman said, smiling at him. “Mostly in the medieval side of-”
The ground shook, almost throwing them from their feet. The woman grabbed Dirk’s arm for support. An ominous grinding sound came from overhead.
On instinct, Dirk jerked away from the ancient gate, pulling the woman with him.
With an almighty thud, a block of stone hit the street where they’d stood a moment before.
At last, the shaking stopped.
“Are you alright?” Dirk asked.
“Yes, thank you,” the woman said. She looked up at the gate, a crenellation now missing from the battlements, and then down at the pencil in her trembling hand. “I think I need a cup of tea.”
“Want some company?” Dirk asked.
“No, no,” she said hastily. “I have some things to, um, to work on.”
Dirk almost laughed out loud. That distracted expression was one he was used to seeing on Blaze-Simms.
“Alright then,” he said. “You take care. I’m off to get theatre tickets.”
As he arrived at the playhouse, a man was pinning notices over the posters for Richard III. “Postponed For Your Safety”, the signs said.
“What’s the problem?” Dirk asked, frowning.
“Earthquakes,” the man said. “Plaster’s coming off the roof. Can’t risk it falling on the audience.”
“How long until the play’s on?”
“How long do earthquakes last?” the man asked with a shrug.
Dirk let out a frustrated sigh. He’d seen a similar sign outside the town museum. So much for his holiday plans.
All he had left was drinking more damn tea.
Blaze-Simms and the Mayor were still at the breakfast table. It was scattered with maps and diagrams, piles of stale toast and cups of cold tea.
Dirk flung himself back into his seat.
“Alright,” he said. “Your damn earthquakes are ruining my holiday anyway. I might as well investigate them.”
“Huzzah!” Blaze-Simms exclaimed.
“But if my holiday’s cancelled…” Dirk waved a waitress over. “I’ll have a coffee please, ma’am.”
* * *
What’s this, an Epiphany Club story? It’s almost as if I wanted to remind you that the latest Epiphany Club novella, Sieges and Silverwear, is about to come out…
In the face of war and betrayal, adventurer Dirk Dynamo is still looking for the clues that will take him to the lost Great Library of Alexandria. Arriving at an isolated German castle, he finds his life threatened not just by the enemies prowling its corridors but by an army laying siege outside the walls. Surrounded by traitors, monsters and falling artillery shells, can Dirk escape with his life and with the artefacts he needs, or will he be one more casualty of a nation being born in iron and blood?
The fourth story in the Epiphany Club series, Sieges and Silverware sees Dirk face the consequences of events in Paris and the betrayal he suffered there. No longer just looking for treasure, he must also find a way to mend a broken heart.
And come back next week to see where Dirk’s investigation in York takes him.