(Thomas Kyd is suspected of hiding the Marlowe-Shakespeare lost play and is interviewed by Richard Topcliffe, a ruthless agent of the Queen.)

“That, and all else you have forwarded to me is fabrication at its worst. Mark what I say. You aided and conspired with Marlowe, a known atheist and plotter against the government. Richard Baines has also told us of your heresy.”

“A man of your intelligence believes Richard Baines, a Catholic priest of ill repute, a hedge-priest and confirmed liar who will concoct any convenient yarn? Please.”

“Did you know that I told the Queen of a problem that I suffered?” Topcliffe smiled, adjusted his lace sleeve and sighed. “The Tower is at an inconvenient distance from my home. How could I be expected to dash thither and yon to question miscreants like you? They surely would not move The Tower for me. The Queen proved understanding of my dilemma and provided the funds for a proper chamber to be built in the cellars beneath my house. Just think, Thomas, you will be in two infamous cellars in the span of two days. Do you wish to spare yourself this unpleasant business and confess to me? . . . No?” Topcliffe reached for a long, wooden staff and twice rapped it against the wood floor. Two men appeared, took Kyd by the arms and led him away followed by Topcliffe’s long, stooped and wiry frame. On the way, Topcliffe paused to arrange flowers in a vase and take one for his buttonhole.

When they reached the grim chamber, Kyd saw the instruments of torture waiting for him. He said in a strangled voice, “Richard, do what you must, but since I do not know where Norreys put the papers, torturing me will reveal nothing. You would do well to interview Marlowe. You say he is in Deptford with Poley.” The escorts removed their shirts and dutifully prepared the tools of their trade.

“Alas, I had forgotten, Marlowe is dead, dispatched over a reckoning I have learned.” Topcliffe smiled. “The news has left me grief-shot.”

Kyd thought: He surely was killed over the missing play, and sadly I will suffer the same fate.

(This vignette was excerpted from a longer scene in Discovering Will’s Lost Years and the Marlowe-Shakespeare Lost Play: Uncovering 16th and 21st-Century Mystery, Treachery and Obsession.)


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