Grantville, November 1634

Tom Quiney rested his elbows on the balustrade of the concrete bridge that was such a landmark feature in downtown Grantville. Their goal, a white-painted storefront office, was just in sight.

“Should we?” his brother Dick asked.

“The bill was good.”

“I guess he was sick. He died. So someone in the company in London probably called a doctor.” Dick shook his head. “But you don't have to be sick first to die. Not in Grandpa's business. Think of Kit Marlowe. Think of . . . .”

“He was sick. Somehow, the bill didn't get paid. The doctor's been annoyed about it ever since.”

“It's a lot of money. Especially with fifteen-plus years of interest.”

“Aunt Sue sent the money with Marmion when he came, along with the manuscripts and stuff, especially to pay it off.”

“Uncle Hall sent it with Marmion, if you ask me.”

“Yes, but they're married,” Tom protested. “”˜The two shall become as one flesh,' and all that.”

“In this case, ”˜with all my worldly goods I thee endow' comes closer. I still say that it's a lot of money.”

“My dear brother . . . ”

Dick made a face. “Oh, all right.”

****

Leslie Snider looked up from the desk at the medical offices of Adams, Nichols, and Abrabanel. The two boys looked harmless enough–maybe fifteen and sixteen. Shouldn't they be in school in the middle of a weekday? Still . . . “Yes?”

“We're here about an overdue bill.”

“Just let me pull the records. Your names?”

“Umm,” the taller boy said. “It wasn't for us.”

“It wasn't here, either,” the shorter one chimed in.

“It wasn't there either–I mean that it wasn't up-timer.”

“It was actually quite a while ago.”

“Some time back, if I do say so myself.”

The volleys from one boy to the other made her blink.

Finally, the older one–the taller one, at least–said, “We need to see Dr. Abrabanel.”

“It's an old bill.”

“Real old. Nearly superannuated.”

“If only it were obsolete.” The shorter one sighed. “I can think of a lot of other things to do with the money.”

“If it's that old,” Leslie said, “Dr. Abrabanel may not remember.”

“Oh, he remembers all right.”

“Is he in?” the taller one asked.

“May we see him?”

Leslie sighed. “He should be resting after lunch, but let me check.”

After she let them into his office, she remembered that she never had gotten their names.

****

“I can't say,” Balthasar said, “that I ever expected to see this money.”

“Somehow, we guessed that.”

“Aunt Sue married well,” Dick said to the ceiling.

“Her husband is a physician, too . . . sensitive about these things,” Tom commented to the radiator.

”˜Happy now?” Dick sounded hopeful. “Ready to stop dissing Grandpa just because his executors didn't pay his medical bills?”

Balthasar assumed a mildly quizzical expression.

“Don't give me that look,” Dick said. “We're actors. We live for body language.”

“What he means,” Tom specified, “is the ”˜Earl of Oxford' business that you gave to Prime Minister Stearns.”

“It's gotten around.”

“We feel that a little correction is in order.”

“Maybe even a big correction.”

“A mention at a fancy diplomatic reception with dozens of important people standing around, for instance.”

“Or a lecture in the high school auditorium.”

“With reporters present.”

“That's it. Something in the papers.”

“Or?” Balthasar asked. “Did I hear an ”˜or'? I never really expected the joke to go so far or be taken so seriously.”

Tom smiled. “Well, we're writing skits now.”

“They're not just openers for Master Massinger any more,” Dick added.

“VOA has bought some of them for the variety hour.”

“They're short, so they make nice space fillers.”

“We'll be doing a couple for the Christmas program at the high school, too. We'll go on while the stage hands change scenes behind the curtains.”

“So you can tell Prime Minister Stearns the truth about Grandpa's plays.”

“Or you can have a starring role in our skits,” Dick said. “Honestly, Dr. Abrabanel, it's entirely up to you.”

****