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Chapter Twenty-Nine

I am promised a fortune and suffer an indignity



I entered the Library with great stealth. I wished to listen to the conversation and come to a conclusion before I interrupted the men in their discussion of my well-being. I had found this to be far and away the best method to prepare oneself for the unknown. 

The library was not so much filled with books, as with all manner of things, jumbled together in a great clutter. The shutters were open, but very little light penetrated the gloom. I spied a table with scientific instruments and many paintings stacked one on top of another. An array of large glass vases and jars, filled with strange ornaments of copper, of silver and of gold, or so I thought, lay all around. These, I assumed, were the accoutrements of the electrical experiments I had heard about. 

Lord Appleby stood before a great fireplace. Mr. Mendoza paced restlessly, and continually wrung his hands, as was his nature. I hung back in the shadows. As I did so, my eyes alighted on a tobacco pouch. It lay on a writing desk, as if abandoned in the act of smoking. It reminded me that I had lost that which I had found in Sprue’s pocket. I opened the flap. I saw the monogram – EM. It was one and the same. They had stolen it from me, as they had the rest of my apparel, though I could see no sign of that hereabouts and believed it to have been destroyed, as I was told.

Both men glanced in my direction, but they did not see me, for they hastened to continue with their discussion. I surmised they had introduced themselves to one another and were coming to the end of their pleasantries. I secreted myself further into the shadows by the bookcase and listened.

“I cannot simply sign the lease over to you,” said Mr. Mendoza. “It’s worth too much. In any case, John Bradley is the lease-holder and I am merely a sub-tenant. You would be wise to direct your inquiry to him.” 

“You misunderstand me. I do not wish to partner myself to a distiller,” said Lord Appleby.

Mr. Mendoza wrung his hands. 

“Partner? Partner? What good would that do? If anything, the place has cost me money. You cannot think that keeping a coven of witches is cheap.”

Lord Appleby tipped his head and made an appearance of considering these words.

“I am not interested in the money I may earn from the place,” he said.

“You’re not interested in the money? But… but… then you must have your eye on one of them. No good will come of it. They are all infected with the pox, or worse.”

“I am interested in you,” said Lord Appleby.

“Me?” exclaimed Mr. Mendoza. 

I drew a sharp intake of breath. The air crackled and I feared being discovered. I need not have worried, for they continued apace.

“Yes. You. I understand that a murder was committed on your premises?”

“Murder? Murder? I think not. I think that would something I would know about,” said Mr. Mendoza. 

I bit my lip. He knew full well of the incident.

Lord Appleby sat down in one of the chairs placed by the fire and indicated to Mr. Mendoza that he should do the same. Mr. Mendoza declined, nervously.

“I am sure we can dispense with the subterfuge,” said Lord Appleby. “A young woman came to me with a most gruesome story and I have no reason to disbelieve her.”

“Which woman? I know a great many women. A great many.”

“Come, come. I am sure you are well aware who it is, are you not?”

From my position, I could see Mr. Mendoza’s face twitch with anger. Lord Appleby ran a thumb across the tips of his fingernails. He was as composed as I had ever seen him.

“You’re going to believe the word of a whore over that of a respectable businessman?” said Mr. Mendoza.

“Not so very respectable,” said Lord Appleby. 

“How dare you sir. I have built a business that spans the world. I have ships in the Far East. I have men in my pay. All who know me say I am an upstanding gentleman.”

Lord Appleby barked out a laugh.

“Very upstanding I must say. You do not ‘span the world’ as you say. You scuttled a ship and claimed the insurance because you were broke.”

“It was not proven and... and I have money a-plenty.”

 “You let a murder go undiscovered and he, a fine gentleman from the East India Company.”

This time I gasped out loud and staggered backwards, almost knocking one of the glass jars over.  I froze, but no one came to discover me. How did Lord Appleby know of the dead man’s identity? There was the pouch with the monogram, but that would give nothing away. Certainly, Lord Appleby did not know where or how I had come by it.

“East India Company? Are you sure?” said Mr. Mendoza.

“I made my own enquiries and I have it on good authority,” said Lord Appleby. “So you see, it would be wise for you to do my bidding.”

“Which is?”

“Sign the lease over to me.”

“I cannot…”

“You will… and you will also allow me the use of your ship Egremont, presently moored in Calcutta.”

“The use of my ship? What is this? You want the bread out of my mouth as well? Is that it? You want to bankrupt me? She is a new vessel. Her maiden voyage was not three months ago.” Mr. Mendoza was aghast. He pulled his tricorn down forcefully atop his head and made for the door. 

“I wish you good morrow,” he said.

In that moment, I feared being found out. There was no escape. I held my breath. 

Lord Appleby took no more than a couple of strides and whirled Mr. Mendoza around. He pressed his quarry against the table, his hand round Mr. Mendoza’s neck. The glass jars rattled. 

“I wish for a ship. That ship. The Covent Garden whore house is of little consequence, save that I would have Kitty Ives as my mistress,” said Lord Appleby. 

He wanted me as his mistress? He had told me he could not, yet here he was, telling another the opposite. I could not believe it.

“If you want a dose of the pox then you are welcome to her, but I will not give you my house or my ship,” said Mr. Mendoza.

Lord Appleby squeezed Mr. Mendoza’s throat until I feared Mr. Mendoza’s eyes would pop out of his head.

“You will. And I do not just want the house. I want the women too, and the custom. Of the ship, I’ll take the men and the cargo. You sign all over to me or I tell of your involvement in the murder.”

“Absolutely not sir. You have no proof. I had nothing to do with it. It was that little madam.”

“It is an easy thing for me to call on Sir John Fielding. He will send his Runners and you will not escape your fate this time.”

“I was not involved,” Mr. Mendoza squeaked. “I was not… and… and I am not the only owner of the ship. We are a consortium. There is a ship’s husband. I cannot sign her over to you without discussing the matter with all concerned.”

“You must wish to find yourself thrown into Newgate, or worse, hanging from the gallows at Tyburn? Did you not hear me? I can make that happen. You would be wise not to trifle with me.”

I could almost taste Mr. Mendoza’s fear, it was so palpable. It is often the way with men who profess to power over the weak. They are themselves as weak as any. It is a thought I would do well to remember myself as my tale progresses. Oh, but when one is caught in the furore of it all, it is hard to be practical.

“I will be a broken man. You know what Egremont carries?”

“I know,” hissed Lord Appleby. “She trades in tea and sundry other items. Some say the East India Company have their eye on running opium from Bengal into China. Now that’s a pretty trade. I will have your ship and put her to my own ends or you will swing and your wife be put out of house and home. I would not like to say what might happen to a Jewess who has fallen on hard times.” 

I could not believe how cruel he sounded and how, in that moment, like William Westman.

“Oh,” moaned Mr. Mendoza, “what am I to do?”

“Very well, you leave me no option.” Lord Appleby shouted out: “Lucius” before he turned back to his captive. “My man will go immediately to Bow Street and bring the Runners back with him. I will stand as witness.”

“You cannot do that,” squeaked Mr. Mendoza.

“I can and I will,” replied Lord Appleby. Once more he shouted “Lucius”.

I shrank back into the shadows as far as I could. If Lucius entered now he would see me before he saw his master. There were footsteps in the hall. The door opened.  Lucius glanced first at me and then at his master. I felt sure Lucius would give me away, but he did no more than stand in readiness for his orders. 

“Go at once to Bow Street,” said Lord Appleby to his servant.

“No. Wait,” cried Mr. Mendoza.

“Tell Sir John I have captured a murderer,” continued Lord Appleby to Lucius.

“No. I’m no murderer,” said Mr. Mendoza. “You have it all wrong.”

“Sir, the solution is in your hands,” replied his Lordship.

“Very well. Very well. The ship is yours. The house and all in it too. Whatever you want, you have it. Only do not call the Runners. Please sir, I beg you.”

Lord Appleby relaxed his grip and Mr. Mendoza fell away from him.

“Lucius here will come to you with the papers. Trust me Mr. Mendoza. If you cross me, you will suffer, one way or another. An accusation of murder is only the beginning of your torment.” 

Lord Appleby waved Lucius away. He gave not a single glance in my direction, but simply closed the door and was gone. Mr. Mendoza too, left us. He scuttled away as if he had been bitten by a rabid dog. 

“You can come out now,” Lord Appleby said. He sat back in his chair and made a steeple of his fingertips. 

I glanced round. Did he speak to me? It seemed so. I stepped into the light.

“How did you know?” I said.

“Really, you are not such a good spy. What did you hear? All of it?”

“I am to return to Covent Garden and you are to gain a ship and a mistress. Though I do not understand why. You told me you could not have that attachment, but now you have changed your mind?” 

My smile was coy. I flirted with him. I hovered over him, touching first my hair, then the skin on my neck, before lasciviously placing a hand over his tarse, hidden inside his breeches.

“You have tasted the ecstasy of opium,” he said. He licked his lips and reached forward for mine. “You know it to be more than a simple cure-all.”

“Mmm,” I muttered. I pulled away and ran my hands over my body in such a way as he would understand my meaning. “The tincture. You gave me opium wine.”

“The very same.”  He groaned and pulled me into his lap.

“And now I am undone,” I said. 

He kissed me passionately and tore at my bodice. I felt his hot breath on my skin.

“In more ways than one,” he said. 

He pulled up my petticoats, pushed me until I straddled him, found that place which I keep hidden.

“I will take you for my mistress, if only to keep you to myself,” he said.

“Ahhh, but that cannot be so. For even as I would be your mistress, I must earn a living and I think we have established… you are broke. You cannot afford to keep me to yourself.”

“But that is where you are wrong, for very soon I will be rich once more and then… then, dear girl, I will willingly share all with you.”

My eyes widened. Was I being promised a fortune? Would I be a rich woman after all? He toyed with my nipples and sucked at each until they were quite sore.

 “What of your accomplice?” I said between groans. 

“I have no accomplice.”

“Not even Mr. Westman?” 

“Ah, him. He will not harm you, if that is what you are worried about. I will not allow it. You are a dove and I am enamoured indeed.” 

Lord Appleby lifted me clear and with tender exclamations, settled me back down such that his shaft ravished inwards. I gave out a groan and began to ride him. We revelled in that moment. What an agony of delight; an intensity of emotion, of sensation, of brilliant and irrevocable torment. 

The door was flung open and Jim Craddock and two of his men strode in. 

 “I could not stop them,” said Lucius, who followed close behind.

I disengaged hurriedly. Lord Appleby struggled to straighten his attire.

“Can a man not enjoy the privacy of his own home without being interrupted so disgracefully?” he said. “You are a Runner are you not? How did you get here so soon? I did not call for you.” 

I was reminded of the threat he had made to Mr. Mendoza. Surely Lucius could not have worked that quickly? He had only just left us. It was impossible. 

Sword in hand, Craddock strode forth like a snake attacking its prey. The tip of his hanger nicked the skin on Lord Appleby’s cheek. I recoiled at the blood, which dripped along the blade, one glistening vermillion droplet after another.

“Cover yourself woman,” Craddock shouted.

“What are you doing here?” I said. I struggled with my torn clothes.

“Rescuing you from the clutches of a rake,” he said, the blade still pressed to Lord Appleby’s cheek.

“You know this man?” said Lord Appleby. 

 I sighed. “Our paths have crossed.”

Lord Appleby made to push the hanger away with the back of his hand, but Craddock deflected his parry.

“I am here to arrest her on a charge of murder,” said Craddock. “You sir, are harbouring a felon.”

I dived at Craddock then, but was held back by his men.

“You can’t arrest me, you bastard. I haven’t done anything wrong. You know it,” I shouted.

“You heard her. I think you are mistaken,” said Lord Appleby. 

Craddock clenched his teeth and snorted like a pig.

“I’m rarely mistaken in matters of the law,” he said. He glanced at his men. “Take her from here,” he said.

I attempted to free myself, but could not.

“You can’t do this, Jim Craddock. You know it wasn’t me. Ask him.” I nodded towards Lord Appleby. “He’ll tell you who did it. He knows.” 

I did not mean Mr. Mendoza. I meant William Westman. I threw Lord Appleby an angry look. I had been taken in by his gentle words, by his making me his mistress and by his promise of riches I was a fool to believe he meant me no harm. He knew more of Westman than he had said. 

Lord Appleby wiped the blood from his cheek. 

“I will come for you,” he said to me. “You are bound for Bow Street?” he asked of Craddock.

“We are sir. She will stand before the Magistrate this morning. You would be best advised to stay away unless you can shed light on the murder of one Elias Monk.”

But how... How did he know the dead man’s name? First Lord Appleby and now Craddock? I could not believe it.

“No, I cannot,” said Lord Appleby. “I know nothing of it.”

For a moment the air crackled with unspoken accusation, but then Craddock turned, beckoned his men forth and strode from the room. I was dragged out, past Selina, who stood in the hall, her mouth open in horror, and into the cold, bright, morning. In that moment, I remembered where I had seen her before.

“You were at the theatre,” I shouted, “with Mr. Westman. You were the girl with the feathers in your hair.”

Selina turned away and ran down the hall into her father’s arms. They watched as the horror of my abduction from that house unfolded before them. 

“I will come for you,” said Lord Appleby. “Trust me.”

I kicked. I struggled. I clawed at the men who had me in their grasp, but I could not free myself.

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