Chapter Thirty-One

Of my time in the lock-up

I was taken to the Covent Garden lock-up, next to our Church of St. Paul’s.  It is a mean place with a barred window high in the wall and an iron door. I was to remain there until such time as Lord Appleby came for me. I could only trust that he would act on his word and repair forthwith to Covent Garden. Truly, I did not wish to stay there all night, for the drunks and vagabonds also occupy this place, not to mention the queer doxies who ply their trade upon the very pavements of our fair city.

The door was bolted fast and I peered through the iron grill at my jailor as he discussed the situation with Craddock. When they had finished, Craddock came to the door and offered his thoughts on the matter.

“It is best I do not tell you too much of what we have already gleaned, save there is a terrible plot afoot to defraud the East India Company. It is for this reason you are being sent back into that nest of vipers.”

“Ah…” The conversation with Mr. Mendoza began to make sense. “The ship.”

“What ship?”

“Lord Appleby has procured a ship. I… I cannot remember the name. Um… Egremont. That is it. You will not leave me here, will you? If he does not come for me? You will not leave me here?”

Craddock’s face twitched. “He will come, and when he does, you must pretend all is well. Tell me about this ship.”

“What if I find out nothing? What then?”

“He is half in love with you. He will give himself away and then we will have him. Tell me about the ship,” he said.

“But what if he is innocent and it is all Westman’s doing?” Which in all honesty, was what I believed, though I was confused as to Lord Appleby’s involvement with such a man and wanted an explanation. I promised I would satisfy myself with the truth as soon as I could, whether by interrogating Lord Appleby, or by listening in to his conversations.

“Tell me about the ship.”

“He blackmailed Mr. Mendoza. He has taken our house too.”

Craddock fell silent for a moment, then uttered, “report only to me. If you do not then I will assume you are involved in the plot, and it will be the worse for you.”

“I have nothing to do with it.”

Craddock turned away from the door.

“Honestly.” I reached out through the bars. “I am innocent.” 

The jailor opened the outer door for Craddock. 

“Jim,” I cried. 

He glanced over his shoulder. What was I involved in? My heart beat hard and fast in my chest. I sank to my knees in that rude place and allowed my tears to flow for all that had happened since I came to London. 

I cannot say how many hours I remained on the stone floor, but that I was hollow from lack of food and dry from crying and thirst both when eventually, the bolts were thrown on the door. A fusty luggs of a girl was thrust forward. The door was closed and bolted once more. The creature took up occupation of the far corner, though it was not so far as to remove her smell from my nostrils. Oh, how much longer must I wait? 

Much time passed and it grew so dark inside the lock-up I could no longer see my hands when I raised them to my face. I called out through the bars for the jailor, but he had departed his post.

“He’s gone to the tavern, he ’as,” said the girl. Her voice was like cracked ice. “He always goes this time o’ night.”

“You visit this place often I assume,” I said.

“Some,” she said. “‘Tis better sleeping ‘ere than the street,” she said.

I hugged myself. That I should be brought to this. 

“There’s usually Billy Coggs and that kinchin cove Jerome here too.”

“Who are they?” I said.

“Just a couple o’ brisk fellows, that’s all.”

Drunkards, I thought.  Covent Garden was full of them. I felt her sidle up to me.

“You is warm,” she said. “Can I rest awhile next to you?”

Though I could barely cope with her smell, I allowed her to rest her head on my shoulder. I even put my arm about her. She was as frail a child as ever I have had cause to meet.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Probably, I will die soon. So I must be very old, mustn’t I?”

“It is possible,” I replied. 

“You ‘aven’t got a nip o’ Madam Geneva abouts you, ‘ave you?” she said. Would that I had a bottle of gin, I would down it myself and be rid of this night’s torment.

“No,” I said. 

I felt her body go limp against me. She had fallen asleep or worse still, died, just as she supposed she would. I lifted her away and leant her body against the wall. For myself, I curled up in a corner and allowed my mind to review the intelligence I had so far gathered. When I thought on it though, I tied myself in so many knots, I could not decipher the whys or wherefores. Lord Appleby played a dangerous game, and his involvement was obvious, particularly as I had both seen and heard him discuss matters with Westman. 

But then… 

I had been drugged and even now I felt in need of such medication to lift my spirits. If I had to wait the night out then surely, I would suffer from the shakes, inherent with this manner of intoxication. Damn them for feeding me the opium wine. Ordinarily, it could be taken in moderation with no particular ill effect. They must therefore have increased the dosage to such an extent that I must now rely on it for my continued health.

I heard the creak of the outer door and low voices. I pulled myself up to the bars and peered through. The jailor held his torch high, but the man who had entered had his back to me and I could not see if it was Lord Appleby or another. The jailor approached my door. 

“You got half an hour, but no more,” he said. He pulled back the bolts. I held my breath. My visitor stepped inside, but said nothing. It was not Lord Appleby. Who then? Who had paid the jailor to enter my cell? The door closed and was bolted once more and we sank into complete darkness.

“Sir,” I said, boldly. “Make yourself known to me.” 

I heard him breathing, and I smelled a slight aroma of tobacco and sweat, but nothing more. 

“Sir. What is your reason for being here, for you are surely not a prisoner?”

“No Kitty, I’m not.” I knew that voice. It was Westman. I shrank as far away as I could. The wall was cold to my touch. I dug my nails into its hard surface in bitter anguish.

“Why are you here?” I said.

His hand stroked my face and tightened around my neck. He kissed me with moist lips and breathed in my very being.

“I am here to give you advice,” he whispered. 

“And if I do not want it?” I said. 

He continued to press himself close.

“Oh, but you will heed what I say, for if you do not, you will not survive.”

“You threaten me?” I hissed. I was terrified, but I would not show it.

“No. I am here to save you.” 

He released his grip and I felt him move away. Oh, but I wanted him out of this cell and far away from me.

“You have killed two men. How can you now say you will save me?”

“Me? Kill? No pretty lady. I have done nothing of the sort, but I would not trust that brother of mine.”

“Brother? Of whom do you speak?” 

“I believe you know him as Lord Appleby.” He must have heard me gasp, for he continued, “I cannot fathom why you did ask his birth name. Appleby is a title, no more. He is George Westman, Lord of Appleby Parva, though I doubt he has visited that small place in some time.”

“Your brother?” I was astounded. I knew they had some connection, and I supposed they could be relatives, but brothers? No.

“Half-brother, if you wish to be pedantic about it. We have the same father, but a different mother. I am the younger. So, you see, that means I am heir to nothing.”

“I don’t understand. What do you want?”

“The same as you - to find the person who killed my nephew.”

“Your nephew? But who?” 

I knew of two bodies: one in my bed, the other in the Church. Elias Monk had already been identified. He was an American. He worked for the East India Company. The nephew of whom Westman spoke must therefore be the young man in the Church.

I sensed he was close to me once more and put out my hand to stay his approach. I touched his jacket and he took my hand in his own and pressed close to me. Miraculously, my fear dissolved.

“I am guilty of many things, but I am no murderer,” he said. “I could not enter the Church because of the service. I thought I might stop any violence, but I was too late.”

“You were too late? What do you mean?”

His lips once more brushed my face. He caressed my hair, and drew me so close I felt the strength of him. 

“He is in love with you,” he said.

“Who?” Surely, not the now dead nephew? 

“My brother. He will do anything for you, but he is dangerous.”

“I thought you sir, were the dangerous one,” I said. 

I wondered how I could be both repulsed and entranced by him, at one and the same time. He drew back.

“Listen to me,” he said. “His son Oliver was a rake. He gambled the family’s fortune away and my brother was powerless to stop him. For all that he was a good-for-nothing, the boy did not deserve to die.”

“And you think Lord Appleby… your brother, killed him?” 

“I do not know. I dare not say anything about it. I do not wish to jeopardise our new company’s future.”

“Such that it is based on a stolen ship and a brothel,” I said.

He returned smartly to me, thumping me against the wall. For a moment I felt sure I saw his eyes flash red, but how, when we were in darkness?

“My brother may have killed his son, but I do not wish to alienate him by bringing a charge of murder. Can you understand that?”

“Are you saying that your nephew squandered everything away? 

“That, and George has a penchant for experimentation. He will keep fiddling with his damned electrical machines. Oliver’s gambling habit prevented my brother from spending more.”

I struggled to understand what any of this had to do with me. 

“The man who died… not your nephew, the other man… Surely, he had no part in… your brother’s troubles?” Save, I remembered a man with a scarred face had delivered him to our door. I reached out and touched Westman’s cheek. My fingertips felt along the scar I found there.

“You brought him to us and he used your name,” I said.

“But I did not kill him,” he said.

The air grew colder still. I was not sure I believed him.

“Sir, I am threatened with the gallows. I do not know what you want from me.” 

 “My brother comes for you, does he not? And you have made a deal with that thief-taker Craddock and the Magistrate too.”

“Yes, but how do you know this?” I wondered what more he knew of me.

“I am forced to live off my wits. As, I understand, are you. I do not deal in lies. Work for me and you will eventually know the truth. We would make a good couple, would we not?” 

He kissed the palm of my hand and I felt him move away from me such that I was no longer in the orbit of his aura. 

“William,” I whispered. 

Could it be that simple? A man I hated? A man I feared? A man I believed a murderer? I was swallowed in confusion.

“Jailor,” he called.

I had faced the Devil, but was none the wiser, save now I was under his thrall.

“He will come for you soon. Keep him close. If he did indeed kill poor Oliver, he will give himself away. I am sure the Runner has told you what to do. You must provide evidence of wrongdoing. That, or a confession.”

“But to whom do I report? You, or the Magistrate?”

“If you know what’s good for you, then you will speak with me first. Is that clear?”

I said nothing.

“Is that clear?” he repeated.

“Yes,” I mumbled.

The door opened. A blast of icy air entered. I shivered, but it was not entirely due to the cold.

“This conversation never happened,” he said. 

“Wait,” I said, “did you bring any of the tincture?” I did not wish to admit it, but I had such a craving.

He threw something back into the cell. Glass shattered.

“No,” I cried, and fell to the floor. Frantically, I searched with my hands, but found only shards of glass that cut my fingers. I licked them, desperate for the opium. The door closed. I heard Westman’s footsteps on the flagstone floor outside and his low voice as he spoke with the jailor. Then he was gone and I descended into hell.


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