Lockhart, Katie, and Boston had the horses that evening. They found the inn had a groom, which was a nice addition to the normal service a typical inn of that age provided. It took them a while to strip the horses and brush them down from a long day of traveling. They even had stalls for them all, and room for Ghost, the mule. Hoffen had the other three horses in the party that night, but he let the groom do most of the work.
Inside, Lincoln, Alexis, Decker and Nanette saw to their accommodations. Decker had to ask.
“How come this place is empty? I would have guessed every place would be full of soldiers.”
Engelbroad smiled when he answered. “My friend, Theobald saw what was happening and quickly rented the whole inn for the month. Tomorrow is May first, so we have to pay for our rooms, but this way there are rooms. My friend did not know how many we would be bringing. Anyway, I suppose the innkeeper does not mind, as long as he gets paid.”
“He probably likes getting money and not having to worry about guests complaining, or soldiers trashing the place,” Lincoln suggested.
“I am sure,” Engelbroad agreed.
“Your friend sounds like a nice man,” Alexis said.
“And rich,” Nanette interrupted.
“I would like to meet him,” Alexis finished.
“Yes,” Engelbroad said. “He is over there, talking to your companions.”
Everyone looked at the man who talked with Elder Stow and Sukki. They had gone to sit at a table so Elder Stow could work on his scanner. He did not look like he appreciated the interruption, but Sukki smiled.
The man turned suddenly, and Lincoln and Alexis got a good look before they both turned quickly to face the innkeeper.
“Is that?” Alexis said.
“Yes,” Lincoln confirmed and got the innkeeper’s attention. “We would like to see the rooms if you don’t mind.”
“Up the stairs. The rooms are all well marked.”
“Thank you,” Alexis said, and whispered, “Nanette, come and bring Decker.”
Nanette did not argue or ask what was up. She simply grabbed Decker’s hand and dragged him up the stairs behind the others. Once up in the room, Lincoln closed the door.
“Doctor Theobald is Doctor Theopholus from Chalcedon and Constantinople,” Lincoln said.
“In that day, he was planning on infecting the whole city with the plague,” Alexis said. “I wonder what he is doing here.”
“Killing Charlemagne would be my guess,” Lincoln said.
“Are you sure?” Nanette asked, and sat on the bed beside Alexis, who nodded and explained.
“He looks almost exactly the same, though younger than he was. I imagine the genetic code needs to be nearly exact in order for the Masters to connect the lives.”
“The Kairos is not exactly the same,” Decker said. “Sometimes there are definite differences, like black and white.”
“Not to mention male and female,” Nanette added, and placed a hand gently on Decker’s arm.
“It might not have to be perfectly exact. Maybe ninety-nine percent,” Lincoln suggested.
Alexis shrugged. “The genetic code carries more information than a supercomputer. One set of information makes a person, but the Kairos started with two complete sets so there can be a lot of mix and match.”
“But what can we do?” Nanette asked.
“Kill this doctor again,” Decker gave the quick answer.
“Find out what his plans are first,” Alexis said.
“Then kill him,” Lincoln said.
“Nanette,” Decker interrupted. “You need to stop Lockhart and the Major from stumbling in.”
“No, you,” Nanette said. “I can get Sukki and whisper to Elder Stow without arousing suspicion, and Lockhart and Katie will listen to you.”
Decker did not argue.
“We need to stay up here, out of sight,” Alexis also agreed with Nanette.
“Ask Elder Stow if he has any of those invisibility discs,” Lincoln suggested.
“I better go,” Decker said, and hustled downstairs and out the door.
Nanette arrived downstairs and wandered over to Sukki and Elder Stow. She tried to look casual, like she had no cares in the world, but imagined she did not do a very good job of it. Doctor Theobald and Engelbroad were both at the table, asking questions. Engelbroad appeared especially interested in Elder Stow’s scanner, and Elder Stow did not mind answering the questions even if he would rather be left alone to work on the device.
Nanette was able to pull Sukki aside. They stepped to the porch, just outside the front door, and Nanette explained about who Doctor Theobald really was. When she finished, they heard Boston’s voice.
“So, we have to presume Engelbroad, Hoffen, and Budman are in on whatever the plan may be.”
“Boston?” Sukki asked, her voice a bit loud.
Boston became visible beside them and said, “Right here. Decker is going to stick to Hoffen. Lockhart and Katie will stay in the barn for now. Where is Budman?” Sukki and Nanette shrugged.
“Look out,” Nanette said. Hoffen came from the barn and hurried. Boston let out her best fake laugh, which made Sukki actually laugh. Hoffen ignored them as he hurried inside. Decker came quickly to the porch. Boston went invisible, and the travelers pushed into the inn.
Hoffen went straight to the table and asked Doctor Theobald and Engelbroad to see him in the kitchen. They looked curious. They followed him while Elder Stow went straight back to work on his scanner in that moment of peace. Boston also followed, invisible. She heard Decker give the signal over his wristwatch communicator, and Boston turned hers off so she would not be interrupted. Katie and Lockhart would rush to the inn and get upstairs where they would stay hidden with Lincoln and Alexis. Boston saw Nanette and Sukki sit down with Elder Stow to explain, but then she had to scoot into the kitchen before the door closed.
“Innkeeper,” Hoffen grabbed the man from the back room so he could be part of the private meeting.
“What is it?” Engelbroad asked. Hoffen explained when all were present.
“I finally got a look under the tarp, and it is as I suspected. These pilgrims are the Travelers from Avalon.”
“Yes,” Doctor Theobald thought that might be the case. “I saw those two at the counter when they first came in and felt sure they looked familiar.”
“The old man’s scanner confirms it,” Engelbroad said. “That is a piece of equipment not from this time period. I did not get a good look at it. I don’t know how capable it might be, but I would guess just basic scanner technology supplied so the travelers don’t get surprised by something in the immediate area.” He paused to pull a strange looking device from an inner pocket. “Backup,” he called it, but Boston saw it as a weapon, what Lockhart would call a ray gun.
“This can still work,” Hoffen said. “Doctor?”
“The castor beans got crushed to powder. I left plenty of evidence. It didn’t take long to poison the wedding toast. The ricin is just the right ingredient. It dissolved in the wine and poisoned the whole keg. Even if some steward decides to sample the wine, it takes three or four hours for symptoms to begin to show. But once the ricin is ingested, there is no cure.”
“Are you sure?” Engelbroad asked.
“You are the physicist,” Doctor Theobald poked Engelbroad in the chest. “Stick to your specialty. I know my job.”
“Enough,” Hoffen said. “Innkeeper?”
“Gruber and I will deliver the wine for the toast on schedule, and by the time they come looking for us, we will be in Bavaria.”
“And live very well, I imagine, with all that money,” Engelbroad turned from the Doctor
The innkeeper smiled. “I might even open an inn.”
“By the time they come looking is the key,” Doctor Theobald said.
“Budman and I picked up what we needed in Rheinfelden,” Hoffen said. “The evidence will be planted to make the travelers look like Vascon and Muslim assassins. Once the authorities have the people that they believe are guilty, they won’t look any further. We will be long gone, and the fact that they will execute the Travelers from Avalon will ensure the future comes out the way the Masters want. Killing Charlemagne and his chief officers, the Kairos, and the travelers will be fantastic. I imagine we may even be rewarded.”
“Our future lives, maybe,” Engelbroad said, but then shrugged.
“Where is Budman?” Doctor Theobald asked.
“Getting information from the Benedictines,” Hoffen answered. “He should be here shortly.”
The innkeeper interrupted. “I need to get supper started. You need to take your meeting into another room.”
“Say nothing,” Hoffen said.
“Be pleasant,” Engelbroad added.
They exited the kitchen, and Boston followed them before she ran up the stairs to tell Lockhart, Katie, Alexis, and Lincoln what was up.