Author: Philip Tudball

“You know what the worst part of it all is?” Harper reflected “It’s the codpiece. Definitely the codpiece. I mean the food is rubbish and my health plan is currently non-existent” Harper picked another louse from his hair, just to reinforce the point “but it’s still the codpiece, bloody itchy thing, and never sits straight”.

Marsden shifted uncomfortably, not yet used to Harper’s mutterings. New on the job and on the first assignment, this was not what he had expected. He kept his eyes on a house opposite, trying to keep himself to the shadows, pressing himself into the stone wall of the alleyway behind him.

“See, there are things you can get used to, give the rats a kick and they’ll leave your ankles alone and your nose will just shut down to the effluent eventually, but the codpiece, you see it-“

Harper stopped as a light appeared in the street, a door opened and a figure stepped out, throwing on a cape with an elaborate flourish and patted a bag of scrolls as he began to wander off.

“Hold on” Harper stated, he reached up to tap his earpiece “subject is moving” he whispered. Harper waited for a moment, “copy, following”. He adjusted his codpiece and turned to Marsden, “right, let’s go”.

Moving unseen, Harper and Marsden followed the retreating figure. The road meandered out towards the river. The figure would stop every few hundred paces and mutter, thinking. At one point he pulled out a small pot of ink and a quill, writing furiously on a small sheet of paper. Minutes later, with a grunt, he scrunched up the paper and threw it into a ditch, before moving on towards the river.

“Quick, grab it” Harper gestured towards the parchment “get it, bag it, call it in”. Marsden scrambled down into the ditch, he reached into his leather jerkin, pulling out a plastic bag. He carefully picked up the crumpled piece of paper, smoothing it out and sealing it into the bag before hiding it away again.

With the parchment secured Marsden scrabbled back up, boots sodden from the water. “I mean seriously, why do we do this, for every scrap he drops, it’s disgusting?” he grumbled
“You know the drill, it’s all valuable. Ever since the boys upstairs won the rights we collect it all” Harper sighed “you thought time travel would be a lark but you’re new, so you’re bottom of the barrel, so you’ll do the grunt work until we send you home. Until that time all original materials are to be accounted for and catalogued, so something gets dropped in a sewer you know where you’ll be heading. Get used to it”

This brief interchange had masked their quarry returning. He stopped as he saw them. “Fair evening to you gentlemen,” he said, with a small bow. Harper and Marsden said nothing, so the figure continued “you two fine people would not have seen some scribblings, a play, my thoughts? Cast off in error but only now revealing my true intentions. If one of you would be so kind as to help me down here, you would have my eternal gratitude.”

Harper nodded “Of course, my colleague would be obliged to help”. As the figure made his way to the ditch Harper grabbed Marsden by the arm and hissed “Do not show him that piece of paper”. Harper adjusted his codpiece “and, whatever you do, you are not to inform Mr. Shakespeare that all of his work is now the property of Gideon Pryce Conglomerate, in perpetuity, all rights reserved, forever”.