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Chapter Twenty-Four

I learn the dead man’s true name



Dear reader, you will remember my story of Captain Julius Somerville, in whose ship I stowed away until found and ill-used by the crew. You will remember too, how this same man hunted me down, paid for my services, and turned me over to his sister when he had had his fill of me. I considered that Captain Somerville was responsible for my marriage to Craddock, if not in actuality, then in theory.

“Miss Ives,” he said. 

His eyes twitched a vague amusement at the sight of me. For my part, I was somewhat titillated by his presence. I observed him closely. He wore a dark woollen jacket, finely woven and slightly worn at the elbows. His periwig was neat, well powdered and hid, what I knew to be, a shock of blonde hair. His fingernails were well kept, his neckerchief white and crisp. I glanced at his boots. They were not new, but of a good quality leather and highly polished. He had aged since I had seen him last. I touched a scar on his cheek. It reminded me of the scar I had seen on Westman’s face.

“You were injured?” I asked.

He took my hand, smelled it, then kissed it delicately.

“It was nothing. You are fragrant,” he said. “My nose has been quite assaulted by all manner of aromas these past months.” 

 “Sir, I hold you partially responsible for my present situation,” I said.

“I do not know why. It was none of my doing that you indebted yourself to that man. And you were ever a whore.” 

He sat back in his chair. I glanced at Mother Shadbolt. A thought had come to me about the night of the first murder. 

“Have you given her any money yet?” I said.

“Not yet.” He laughed. It was not an unpleasant sound. I remembered he was a gentle soul in the bedroom. 

“Then you will not mind if I ask you to wait for five minutes. I have something I must discuss with Mother.”

“For you, I would wait a lifetime,” he said. 

I found myself flattered by his words. How foolish. Men do not flatter whores and mean it… but then, had Lord Appleby not also flattered me? I rose from my seat and indicated to Mother Shadbolt that I needed to speak with her in private. At first she refused and waved me back to my place, but I insisted and she followed me out into the hallway.

“You’re gone all of last night and now today too,” she said. “You must think highly of yourself if you think you do not have to work like the rest of us. Did you dose yourself?”

“I went to the apothecary, yes, but that’s not why I wish to speak with you.”

“Well what is it girl? You better be quick because I don’t like the look of that Macaroni. He’s eaten a whole plate of cold meats and not parted with any money yet.”

“I dare say. Mother, it was you who told me the dead man’s name, was it not?”

“Hush. I thought I said not to speak of it.”

“Yes.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “But it is true is it not? You knew his name. Did he give it on entry?”

“No.”

“So, how did you know who he was?”

Mother Shadbolt frowned. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because it might be important.”

“Oh… I don’t know. The other man told me.” 

“The other man?” I said. “So there was another with him. Did anyone else see him?”

“No. He delivered his charge and left. Enough of this. Get back inside,” she said. She made for the door, but I prevented her entry.

“Can you remember what he looked like?”

“What? No, not really, no. So many men come and go. I can’t be expected to remember every one of them.” She wrinkled with displeasure. I was sure she was as intrigued as I, by the conundrum.

“Our dead man paid over the odds for my services, did he not?”

“What of it? What are you insinuating?”

“Nothing.” I must tread carefully. “I just want to know how you knew our dead man’s name. Did the other man tell you it?”

Mother Shadbolt was flustered and not a little angry now.

“Tell me,” I said. “Tell me or I go to Mr. Mendoza and tell him you do not pass all of our takings directly to him, but keep some back for yourself.”

Mother Shadbolt snorted. 

“He knows that already,” she said. “Very well. Our ‘dead man’, as you call him, was delivered to our door by a person who was wholly unknown to me, yet he insisted that I remember the name of the man who entered. Yes, he told me the cully was William Westman and I was to make sure he had a good time. Well, that is our business. I am not given to turn a man away unless he does not have the means to pay.” She snapped at me, “is that all right with you?”

“And this other man? What did he look like?” I had the bit between my teeth now. Mother Shadbolt sensed potential for gossip.

“Let me tell you, he was not so much of a gentleman. He had a dirty wig and dishevelled clothes, but his money was good. That was enough for me.”

I frowned. “Did he have a scar on his cheek, perhaps?”

Mother Shadbolt screwed up her face in thought.

“Well did he?”

“I cannot say. Perhaps. I could not see him properly. He left promptly, though I assured him we could cater for his needs also.” 

“Indeed,” I said. “Even though he was badly dressed?”

“Right, well I assume we are done? Only you’ve a gentleman waiting,” Mother Shadbolt said, pointedly. 

“And you know who that man is?” I said, and pointed at the door.

“No. Should I?”

“None other than the one who brought me back to England and tried to indenture me to his sister.”

“Serve him well then,” said Mother Shadbolt. “Now get about your business.”

“I must visit the privy first,” I said.

She pushed open the door and returned to her chair. I lingered in the hall for a moment longer. I had no need for the privy. Could it be that our dead man, whose identity was wrongly given to us, was delivered into our care by his killer? And did not Westman have a scar upon his face? Perhaps he had pretended to leave and yet had somehow remained to perpetrate the evil deed. But I could not fathom what the point might be of allowing another to use his name, unless, of course, he wished others to think him dead. Yet Westman had not hidden himself away so as to complete the deception. In fact, he had done the opposite. Bozzy had pointed him out to me at the theatre. It did not make sense.  I resolved to give the matter more thought. I returned to Captain Somerville.

He pecked at my cheek as I sat down. He smelled of the sea, or perhaps that was just my imagination. How I longed to be away from the city and to stand on the shores of our fair land with the wind in my face and no concerns to age me. 

“You have many admirers, I do not doubt,” he said. 

I pulled away. I did not wish to become involved with the Captain, other than to service him. I had too much on my mind to do otherwise.

“May I speak plainly?” he said.

“Of course.” I was confused. Did he wish me to purchase my time, or not?

“Not here. You have a room?”

Ah, there it was. I indicated Mother Shadbolt. The Captain dropped a purse into her outstretched hand. She removed several coins, tested them between her blackened teeth and smiled on us. 

“If you wish for gin dearie, call down for it,” she said. 

Of course… the gin I drank on that fateful night had been doctored. I could not believe it had been by Mother Shadbolt’s hand. I was worth too much to her. Although perhaps she had enemies and she had wanted rid. No, no, though she was a foul bitch at times, I could not think it of her. 

“Wine,” I said. “Send a bottle up to us.”

“Well, aren’t we putting on airs and graces,” Mother Shadbolt called out.

I led Captain Somerville upstairs. As he followed me, he reached under my petticoats and ran his hand up my leg. I had scarce closed my door before he lifted himself out of his breeches. I made to touch him but he moaned ‘no’ and began to fondle himself in such a way I feared all would be over before I had done my duty.

“Would you have me undress sir?” I asked.

“Hmm,” he moaned. “No, lift your petticoat and bend over, across the bed.” I complied, twisting a little so I might observe his actions. He closed on me and, when I thought he might enter (God, I hoped not the windward passage), he did no more than touch my buttocks and dribble over me. Oh my Lord, but I was a plaything for a man who could not contain himself long enough to do any woman good. I lay silent while he moaned. I was too tired to do much else. 

“Let yourself out,” I muttered.

“I’m sorry. I had not meant it to be this way.”

I waved a hand at him.

“Tis nothing,” I said.

I turned over and watched him button his breeches. 

“My mind is not on the task. We are missing a man,” he said. “He is partial to sport of this nature and to gambling and drink, and all manner of things… but mostly he is a writer, a scribe. He takes notes and has pretensions to greatness. He has not returned these past few weeks and we are concerned for his whereabouts.”

Ah, so he was here on an errand. But wait, a writer? Did he speak of… and who did he mean by ‘we’?

“The East India Company,” he said, as if reading my mind. “I have been retained to keep watch.”

I frowned. I did not know what he meant - to keep watch. I did not want to get into the political ramifications of the East India Company. I knew it only to be a company of very wealthy men who traded with India and various points beyond. That Captain Somerville now worked for them was no surprise. He was of the sea after all.

“And why are you telling me this now? You are a spy? You gained entrance just to ask questions?”

“No… well… it is not important what I am. What is important is whether you have seen this man. Has he visited here? I asked your governess downstairs, but she knew nothing of him,” he said. “Might you have made his acquaintance?”

I was right. He had come here to ask questions about his missing compatriot. His ‘light relief’ was a subterfuge.

“Oh, so many visit us. It would be hard to remember any particular man.” I appeared nonchalant. “Few give names,” But he had given a name, or at least, that who had delivered him to our door had: Westman. Yes, the poor dead man had a killer’s name.  

Captain Somerville readied himself to leave. I jumped off the bed.

“You have asked for him about the bagnios and Hummums? You have been to the Bedford Arms and the Shakespeare’s Head? You have called at the Unicorn and the Red Lion?”

“I have asked everywhere. I have visited a great many…” 

Here, he blushed. I could not believe it, given his previous actions in my presence. I could only think that now he thought better of his actions. 

“No one has seen nor heard of him,” he said.

I wondered. 

“You say he was a gambling man? Sir… it may be…” 

“You know something?” he said. 

“I may, but I need to think on it. Where can I find you?” He had set me to pondering the dead man’s identity once more. I knew the answer would be found in confirming the identity of the man who had brought him to us. That man was the hated and much feared William Westman.

“I have taken rooms at Number Fourteen Half Moon Street.”

“And you say this missing man works for you?”

“He works for the Company, but he is an American.”

An American? I thought back to my conversation with the dead man. I had not detected an accent, but then, it is often difficult to tell the difference between an educated American and an educated Englishman. Young Americans are often schooled in England; their families are colonials, after all. Then again, perhaps I had been too inebriated, or poisoned, to tell.

 “From time-to-time he keeps company with Mr. Franklin.” The Captain bent low to me and hushed his tone. “You will not speak of this, of course?”

“Of course not. I know something of Mr. Franklin,” I said. “Does he not make experiments with electricity?” A whore must keep her ear to the ground if she wishes to survive; all manner of gossip comes to us.

“He does, but it is of no consequence to the matter in hand.”

“I hear Mr. Franklin likes to keep low company.” I had heard nothing of the sort. I merely fished for more information.

“But also that of the great and the good,” said Captain Somerville. 

“Indeed. I know someone who is intrigued by the electrical phenomena.” 

Polly had told me Lord Appleby had a passion for all things electrical. Perhaps luck worked in my favour after all. 

“And the missing man’s name? I would not ask, only…  if I have news.” Even as I spoke, I feared the reply. 

“His name? Oh, of course. His name. It is Elias Monk.” 

I sank back into the pillows. What a relief. For a moment I had thought he was going to say William Westman. That would have truly confused me.

“You promise you will say nothing of this?” said Captain Somerville.

“All you have told me is that a man is missing and his name is Elias Monk. If you wish me to keep this information to myself, well that is an easy thing to do.” 

 “If you hear of anything that may shed light on the situation, I bid you contact me straightway,” he said.

“You will be the first to know.”

“Then I will bid you goodnight, my dear lady.” He bowed.

“You are most welcome,” I said. 

The door closed behind him. Our unknown dead man now had a name. Elias Monk. So… what was Elias Monk’s association with Westman? The Captain said Monk was an American. That being the case, I presumed his family did not live in London, nor in any part of our country, for no one else had turned up at our door asking after him, though it may be they did not know his whereabouts on that fateful night. In many ways, if his family was overseas it made it easier for me to bear the burden of his demise. No mother would come to look for her son. No wife would knock at my door. No children would weep for their father. At least, not here, not in England. 

But thinking on it, Westman was a gambler and Monk too. Perhaps they had conjured up a wager that saw Monk the loser and Westman the winner. I thought then of Harrington’s gambling den. Lord Appleby had promised to take me there. I should keep him to it.

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