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Chapter Thirty-Two

I am released



I waited in that dark, dank place until the night had quite progressed. Clear reason was somewhat obscured by my craving a medicine I had never, until now, put any store by. I distracted myself by thinking about the events that had brought me to this sad end. 

On the one hand, there was the dead man in my bed - Elias Monk. At least, I had cause to believe it was he from the description given me by Captain Somerville and by my finding the tobacco pouch in Sprue’s hole. Others knew of him now, so it must be him. Elias Monk was an American and worked for the East India Company as a writer. This, so I am latterly told, meant he took notes, attended meetings, wrote letters and undertook sundry other useful tasks. It was not a very high-ranking job, but he may have been party to certain information. Perhaps he was a gambler, but I had no real proof of that. Where Elias Monk had lived, I did not know. It was unlikely that a relative would pursue a perpetrator, at least in the short term, due to the distance between American and England.

William Westman formerly occupied the room at Mrs. Trencher’s. He, most definitely, was a gambling man, by virtue of my finding his trunk with receipts and information on form and such like. 

The body in the Church, was that of Lord Appleby’s son, Oliver. He had also been a gambler, as proved by the evidence found on his body, and by what I had learned of him from his father and now from his uncle. What I could not understand, and what I should have asked Westman, was that if he knew this to be his nephew, why had he not come forward and identified him at the time? If he had nothing to hide, then he would not be accused of the murder. 

As I thought on it, I realised he was also something of a hypocrite. He had spoken in desultory terms of his brother’s lack of funds to invest in experimentation, and that this was due, in part, to Oliver’s gambling habit. Yet, Westman, himself, was a gambler. Indeed, they were a nest of vipers and no mistake.

Then again, Lord Appleby gave no outward sign of bereavement. What person loses a child and does not mourn? Had he put Oliver from his mind so thoroughly as to feel nothing? Or was it that Lord Appleby had killed his son and felt well rid? 

I paced the cell. The girl had been silent for a long time. I checked her breathing. She was still alive, but she was cold and I feared not long for this world. There was nothing I could do for her until Lord Appleby came to release me. Then I would have him bribe the jailor and take her from this place. 

I continued my ruminations. Why had I been drawn into this madness? Possibly, it had something to do with Mr. Mendoza. Lord Appleby wanted the ship to trade in opium and tea, as he had told me. He needed to regain his fortune. That being the case, why had he not bought a ship, as any other businessman might? I had heard consortia of gentlemen often purchase ships and lease them to the East India Company. Could Lord Appleby not have done this, or at the very least, have borrowed the money against his good name? Or was it that he was so broken a man, he had not the wherewithal to complete a transaction legally, and must use blackmail to get what he wanted? Then, why our house? Had it simply been a means to an end? And if so, what end? What purpose did it serve, and what, if anything, had his son’s death and that of poor Elias Monk got to do with it?

I considered. 

A great many men come into my life. Some are as bees around a hive. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some seek only solace in the arms of an anonymous girl who will not scold them, or ask for any more than they are able to give. Some are pathetic creatures… no, wait. They are all pathetic creatures. 

My hands shook and my skin crawled. I had to have the tincture. I had to have it. I could not think straight. I did not hate men. I loved men. I loved them.

God, how much longer would I have to wait?

Jim Craddock was an evil man. He did not love me. I knew that. But he needed me. He mistreated me and may yet cause my death, but he protected me also. As to Lord Appleby, he did not appear to have any emotions. Not deep-seated ones at any rate. He wore a mask of affectation, which is often the way with the aristocracy. He professed love of Polly, yet she had been cast aside. Now I was the object of his affection, but I could not make out what he really felt. Surely, he would not murder his own son? What man would do that?

William Westman… Truly, I thought him evil, but I was attracted to him like no other. I had no doubt that in the past, he had killed. Whether he had killed my corpse… my Elias… and Oliver…well, I simply did not know.

My lips were dry. I did not think I could wait much longer. I drifted. A troubled sleep took me.  I lay on a bed of feathers. Faces loomed. They were all unknown. Hands reached out to me, caressed and prodded. Voices called out my name. Harsh voices. Soft voices. I was transported to a place where pain and ecstasy were one and the same thing.

I jolted awake at the sound of Lord Appleby’s voice. I pulled myself up and pressed my face to the bars. As before, the jailor held his torch aloft, but whereas it had given off little light when William Westman had paid me a visit, it now cast long shadows that danced over the old stones like wraiths come to a forest glade in the dead of night. The jailor tipped a nod in my direction.

“Not sure I can let her go,” he said. He pushed his tricorn to the back of his head and scratched his bald pate. “Orders is orders.” Oh, but he was making a meal of his part.

“I have an instruction from the Clerk at Bow Street. She is to be released into my custody,” said Lord Appleby.  He handed the jailor a letter. “You can trust my word.”

“That’s as may be, but it will take more than a note and the word of a nob,” said the jailor. 

He turned the letter over and inspected the seal. He did not bother to break it and inspect the contents. Instead, he looked up expectantly.

“Ah… you wish for recompense.” Lord Appleby reached inside a pocket and pulled forth a small purse. “Will this suffice?”

The jailor took the purse, looked inside, and then winked at Lord Appleby.

“Very nice my Lord. Very nice. She’s all yours. Mind you fetch her back to court when she is summonsed.”

I stepped back from the door. The light was dim but enough that I must have seemed in a poorly state, though I was mindful my saviour had seen me looking worse.

“Kitty. I am so sorry you had to suffer this ignominy,” said Lord Appleby. 

I fell into his arms, though not so much from want of seeing him, but from want of the tincture.

“Do you have it?” I said. 

“What?”

“The tincture. Did you bring it?”

“No. We must get out of here,” he said. “Do they believe you’re guilty?” 

“I do not know. I fear they have no one else on whom to pin the blame.” 

My tongue was thick in my mouth. If not the tincture then a drink. Gin or even ale.

“But you had your own suspicions. You thought Will… Mr. Westman had perpetrated the deed.”

“And you gave me cause to consider otherwise. I know he is your brother.” 

 “Ah.”

“What good did you think it would do to keep it a secret from me?”

“He has drawn me into a scheme and I am powerless to say no.”

“A scheme? What kind of scheme?” I said.

“Come. Let’s away from this place,” he said.

“What kind of scheme?” I repeated.

He sighed. “I cannot say.”

“Is it to do with the East India Company?”

“Yes, but you must say nothing of this. Come. We must go,” he said.

“The girl.” I reached back into the cell. “I cannot leave her here.”

“What girl?” said Lord Appleby. 

“A bit of a girl that comes by sometimes. I gives her shelter,” said the jailor. 

I looked up imploringly at Lord Appleby. He shook his head.

“She’s at death’s door,” I said.

“She is like as not diseased,” said the jailor. “I only gives her space because she… well… she don’t charge me anything. Not like you lot.” He sniffed at me.

Lord Appleby reached into his pocket and tossed the jailor a coin.

“Get her whatever she needs.”

The jailor grinned. I slumped against Lord Appleby. Like as not the girl would starve and the jailor get drunk. It was not as I had intended. If she was still here by the morning I would come and get her myself. 

Lord Appleby helped me out of that place and into the fresher night air of Covent Garden. Lucius stood by the carriage. The buttons on his livery glistened in the moonlight and, for a moment, I thought myself lucky indeed to be waited on by such a handsome young man. He gave me a knowing look and I thought in that moment that if ever I needed someone I could truly rely on, it would be him.

“Can you walk? It is only a short distance to your home,” said Lord Appleby.

“I am to return? Now?” 

I could not think that I would be truly welcomed by Mother Shadbolt. I was not sure she knew of the new arrangement. The matter had only been discussed that morning.

“Rest assured, all is well. Your ‘Mother’ is contrite.” Here Lord Appleby dipped his head to me. “And happy to be rid of that rogue Mendoza.” He glanced up. “Here, Lucius will help you.” He beckoned Lucius forth. “Take her to the house on the corner of Russell Street. I have business across town. Remain with her until I arrive.” 

“The tincture?” I said.

“You must do without. I need you clear-headed.”

 “But you promised.”

“No my dear. I did nothing of the sort. Lucius? Do not let her out of your sight.”

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