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Chapter Thirty

Matters take a strange turn



I was placed upon Jim Craddock’s horse, seated before the saddle, with him behind. My hands were tied before me. Craddock reached around to gather up the reins. In this fashion, we rode through London until we reached Bow Street. Here, Craddock dragged me from the horse towards Number Four - being Sir John Fielding’s house, where the Magistrate’s court sits. 

“You cannot do this. I have done nothing wrong,” I said. My protestation fell on deaf ears. Craddock hauled me over the threshold. 

The room was dismal in its decoration - dark green with brown panelling. A wraith of smoke from Sir John’s pipe lingered in the hazy atmosphere. Craddock deposited me before the man himself. Sir John sat at a bench strewn with papers, none of which he could read, being totally blind - they do say from an accident at sea in his youth. A clerk sat at his right hand and read out loud. After a short while Sir John looked up and, though his eyes were bound with a black cloth, I could swear he cast his unseeing gaze directly on me. He waved his clerk away. He directed that the door be closed and that our privacy be maintained until such time as he indicated otherwise. Only Craddock and I remained in the room with him.

“I hear you are a pretty thing,” Sir John said to me. His voice was melodious. He sniffed the air. I did not think myself so ripe. 

“Thank you sir,” I replied. 

His kindness of manner was unexpected and put me more on my guard than had he been brutish.

“Mr. Craddock here tells me you have intelligence we would best be advised to listen to carefully. Is that not so Mr. Craddock?”

Craddock mumbled ‘yes’.

“Quite,” said Sir John. He cocked his head. “Well Miss Ives, speak up. Tell us of this murder you witnessed. Tell us what became of Elias Monk.”

“Sir, I do not know.” 

I looked from man to man. I was still out of sorts from the ride and not a little confused by the proceedings. I wished to know how they had come by the identity of my corpse, though now I supposed Captain Somerville must have made enquiry with the Runners and that Craddock had made certain assumptions. They had no proof though. No proof of anything.

“No proof,” I said out loud. 

“What is that? Speak up,” said Sir John.

They could not hold me against my will. They had no proof save Craddock’s word, and why would he speak out thus? It would not bode well if Sir John knew Craddock had withheld information. Also, by the way in which Sir John addressed me, calling me ‘Miss Ives’, instead of Mrs. Craddock, I assumed he did not know of our marriage. That being the case…

Craddock nudged me in the back. “You have a chance here to make good. Do not let me down,” he said. 

I glowered at him. 

Sir John sighed. “Miss Ives, I am given to understand that you are a fallen woman. I am in a position to offer you the means to your redemption.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “You are not going to charge me with murder?”

Sir John gave out a little laugh. “Not yet. Mr. Craddock tells me you found a dead man in your bed - Elias Monk. He tells me also that you have made certain investigations. He assures me you had no hand in the matter, but that you were merely the dupe of implicit faith in your bawd’s choice of cully. In short, the man could have died in any woman’s bed and you are not given to acts of violence.”

I gasped. Sir John certainly had a grasp of rhetoric, if not of womanhood.

“Furthermore, you have indicated to Mr. Craddock, with whom, I believe, you have long had a close relationship, that you know who the murderer is, but you have no proof. What say you?”

“Sir. I am quite overwhelmed. May I be seated?” I indicated a chair close by. He nodded his head in assent. I blinked a look at Craddock. His brows were knitted. I could not make out his thoughts. 

“Please,” said Sir John, “allow me to understand what happened.You will not find me ungracious.”

I gave out a long breath. I was caught and there was no way out other than to tell what I knew, but where to start? 

“‘Tis true. I found a man dead in my bed and I feared being charged with a crime I did not commit. Mother Shadbolt… my bawd… She arranged for the disappearance of the corpse. I would not impeach her thus, in any way. She did all to save me and, of course, the good name of our house.”

“Of course. Whether she is guilty of a crime is something we will come to later, but pray, continue,” said Sir John.

“The strange thing is, our corpse… my cully… he gave me to understand his name was William Westman.” 

At this name, Sir John drew in a sharp breath. I flashed a look at Craddock. He nodded for me to continue. 

“But it was not.” 

“How did you come by this knowledge?” said Sir John.

I explained how I had made enquiries and that Mr. Boswell had pointed out Westman at the theatre. “From that moment, I knew myself to be in danger from this man.”

“How so?”

“He warned me. I have made his acquaintance on more than one occasion.” 

I did not dare say that in the first instance, it was I that had followed him and, in doing so, had set off a chain of events, which had led to this very moment.

“And yet, you pursued Lord Appleby did you not?” said Sir John.

He knew of Lord Appleby’s interest in me? But of course he did. Sir John Fielding’s reputation for uncovering secrets was renowned. 

“I would not say that pursued is the right word.” I said. “I made myself available, but then that is my right to do so. I had already met him at the theatre.”

“On the same evening I believe, that you realised Mr. Westman was not the corpse found in your bed.”

“Yes… but…” 

“The point is Miss Ives, you have inveigled your way into Lord Appleby’s heart and now you are at the very centre of intrigue, you are in a position to uncover the proof for which we all search.”

“Do you say that Lord Appleby is the murderer? I cannot believe it. It is true he is in some conspiracy with Mr. Westman… the real Mr. Westman, that is. But I do not know what.”

“Quite,” said Sir John. “You must find out.”

“I cannot.”

He shrugged. “Do you trust Lord Appleby?”

“Not entirely, yet he has assured me I will suffer no harm.” 

“There is a cell waiting for you,” said Sir John.

“Sir,” I exclaimed. 

“I mean simply that you expect Lord Appleby to rush to your defence. When he arrives, he best find you in the cell, or he will be suspicious.”

“But what would you have me do?” I could not fathom it. 

“Miss Ives, I would have you spy for the Crown. Will you do that, to save your pretty neck from the hangman’s noose?”

My hand went to my throat. He was as sweet and polite a gent as any, but he upheld the law and I best not forget that.

“She’ll do it,” said Craddock. His scowl told me to do as I was told.

“Very well,” said Sir John. He beckoned Craddock forth. “Take her to the lock-up. Tell the guard that he is to accept the bribe he is offered by Lord Appleby and release the woman into his hands. Tell him to say she is to appear before the bench, but that, as he is a Peer of the Realm, his Lordship is on his honour to bring her forth when requested.”

“Sir.”

“And Mr. Craddock? Make sure she keeps to the bargain, or she will swing.”

“Yes sir.”

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