Chapter Thirty-Five

I unburden myself

I waited until I thought Bozzy had taken himself across Covent Garden in search of a more amenable cat, before I took a look outside and called a link-boy over to our door. 

“Do you know where Half Moon Street is?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Good. Go directly to Number Fourteen and ask for a gentleman there called Captain Somerville. Tell him to meet me in The Finish as soon as he can. Will you remember that?”

I glanced back inside. Lucius waited for me at the top of the stairs. I reached into my pocket, drew out a coin and put it in the boy’s hand. He bit into it.

“’Tis late missus,” said the link boy. 

I held up a second coin. He tried to snatch it from my hand, but I pulled it away.

“You can have this when you return with Captain Somerville.”

I closed the door, hitched up my petticoat and climbed the stairs. Lucius caught me at the top.

“What did you want with the boy?” he said.

“I sent him with a message for a friend,” I said and fluttered my eyes at him. He appeared immune to my charms, so I pushed past him and made for the second flight of stairs.

“What did the message say?”

“Are you my keeper now? Must I report all to you?” I continued up the stairs. 

Lucius followed me. 

“My master has told me not to let you out of my sight.”

“And your master intends you to sleep in my bed also?” I said. 

Lucius was embarrassed by the idea and shook his head fervently.

“Then I suggest you take yourself to the kitchen and find a spot by the fire.” I said. 

“Yes ma’am.” He bowed low. 

I took myself into my room and closed the door. I could only trust that Lucius would do as I said, for I wished to meet with Captain Somerville and did not want to keep him waiting at such an hour.

Some time passed where I listened to the sighs and groans of our house and peered through the shutters at the street below. By now I was desperate for more of the tincture. I knew though that I must not succumb. If I could manage the night and the following day, I might be cured of its power over me. I turned down my bed, poked the fire, and waited in my neckerchief and cloak until I thought it safe to go abroad without detection. Then I took myself down the stairs on tippy-toe, mindful of the creaking boards. I need not have worried, for I reached the Russell Street door in short time. The link-boy waited in the shadows. He pointed to The Finish and told me Captain Somerville waited inside. I duly gave the child his bounty.

I kept close under the Little Piazza until I was level with the door to The Finish. When I was sure I had not been followed, I crossed to the shack, all the while glancing back and upwards to our windows. I saw no one and I entered the dark smoky interior. As ever, it was filled with reprobates and ne’er-do-wells.

“‘Ere. ‘Tis Kitty,” shouted a sad-eyed mort as I searched the revellers. “What you doing ‘ere love?” 

I gave her a glancing smile that told her to mind her own business. 

Captain Somerville was seated at a table in the far corner. He had a tankard of ale before him. I sat across from him and indicated to the barman to bring me a dish of coffee. 

“Thank you for coming at such short notice,” I said in a low voice. My hands were shaking. I clasped them together, tightly.

He frowned and took a long drink. He slammed the empty tankard down on the table. 

“Do you have something for me?” he said.

“I don’t know.”

“Then you have brought me here under false pretences.” He pushed back his chair. I restrained him with a hand to his arm.

“No. I have learned a great many things I do not understand. I hope you are able to enlighten me.” 

I sipped my coffee. It went some way to soothing my shakes. 

“Tell me all,” he said. “Omit nothing.”

“You came to me about this man Elias Monk. All believe it was he that died in our establishment, though we have no actual proof of it,” I said. 

“I thought as much. There is the body,” he said. “Or at least, what is left of it.”

I was surprised. I had reckoned him buried by now. It had been some time and the corpse, which was well rotted when last I saw it in the barrel at Northumberland House, would surely be naught but bones by now. Captain Somerville intuited my thoughts.

“Since last we spoke, I learned of that discovery. Poor Elias has given the dissectors something to ponder,” he said. 

“Yes,” I replied. “But how did you know it was he?” 

“I cannot say for certain of course, but I have made enough enquiries to know that he entered your property on foot and exited it in a barrel your man Sprue procured.”

There was little point in keeping anything from the Captain now. 

“I thought Mr. Westman had done it.”

“Is he not Lord Appleby’s younger brother?”

“You know him?”

“I have had some dealings with him. He likes to occupy the gaming table. Why do you believe him guilty of this crime?” he said.

“I should start at the beginning. It is not an easy thing to fathom.” 

I then took some time to explain all to Captain Somerville. I omitted nothing save the more salacious details, for he had no need to know how my lovers disported themselves, nor did he need to know the conjugal ramifications of my marriage to Craddock. At the end of it, I sat back in my chair. It was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. 

“Let me understand this,” Captain Somerville said. “At first you thought William Westman was the guilty party, based on the fact that Elias gave Westman’s name when he entered your house.”

“That is true.”

“And this second body. Are you sure it is Oliver Westman?”

“Yes. At least... I am told so,” I said, though now I was not sure. I could trust neither Lord Appleby nor his brother.

“And you must report all to Sir John Fielding and his Runners or face the gallows?”


“Then why come to me?”

“Captain Somerville. Julius. May I call you that? I have known you longer than any of the parties involved in this matter. Though you sold me… Yes. I say ‘sold’… to your sister, and she was something of a harridan, you were kind to me and have never done me direct harm. I am pulled this way and that. Lord Appleby promises me riches, and his brother tells me I must take care and asks me to report to him; a man I feared. Now I do not know what to think of him, but that I am powerfully attracted to him. Perhaps he is genuine; perhaps not. Then, I am persuaded – blackmail is too strong a word – that the Crown would have me spy for them. Is it more than these murders? 

“Lord Appleby has acquired a ship in a most despicable manner, and he has also acquired me and the house I occupy. It has something to do with the East India Company, for he means to trade in the Far East. Lord Appleby is not the man I thought he was. In fact, no one is.” 

I looked crestfallen. I was caught in the middle of a fantastic web of intrigue and knew no way out of it, save to ask for help from Captain Somerville. For some time, he thought on my words. 

“I am flattered by your confidence in me,” he said. “It is clear that you are well-placed to learn more of the situation and that certain parties know this and would use you thus. Because you are a whore...” 

I made to protest, but he stayed my words. 

“Hear me out. Because you follow the trade you do, you are party to a great many confidences and secrets. Men divulge things when they are… shall we say… amorously involved. Something is afoot and I would know what it is. The East India Company do not take kindly to being duped.”

“I suppose not,” I said, though I understood little of the way in which the great company worked. 

“Like as not, Lord Appleby and his brother wish to form a consortium. If so, then I will find out more at the Jerusalem Coffee House. It is the very place where traders meet. Stock has been rising in price for some time. It cannot maintain its upward trend for much longer. I do not understand though what Appleby thinks he can do with one ship, unless he intends it to be the start of a trading empire. In which case, I would expect to find him buying ships from others. That said, it is not an easy thing to infiltrate the Company. Ships are replaced only when they come to the end of their lives and then they are commissioned on the bottom.”

“On the bottom?”

“It is a term used when ships reach the end of their days and another is put in its place.”


“He probably intends to set up a rival trade in commodities. If this is so then, as I said before, one ship will do little to dent the Company’s trade. He would be better advised to lease it to the East India Company and have done with it.” 

 “What do you want me to do?” I said. 

Captain Somerville was an intelligent man, and not without some influence. I was not sure exactly how rich he was, but I knew he had property in the West Country. It was possible he owned ships himself. It seemed the thing to be:  a ship’s owner and Captain.

“Continue to do what you have been doing,” he said. “Listen and learn.”

“But what if I am pressed for the information I glean?”

“You must use your better judgment and take care not to tell too much to any one individual. Sir John is good man, but he will sacrifice you and not think twice on it. Your Mr. Westman may be dangerous, it is true. He sometimes speaks in riddles. It has served him well in the past and there are plenty who dislike and mistrust him. I am concerned that you are attracted to him.”

He gave me a pointed look, but I ignored it.

“He will not reciprocate any feelings you have. Be sure of that. You must continue to take care. As to Lord Appleby; he is in love with you. I am sure. This being the case, he may well take you further into his confidence.” Captain Somerville paused here, leaned in close and took my hands in his own.

“You must hold your nerve. If you can ride out the storm that will surely come as we unravel this mystery, then all will eventually be well, but it is not without much danger. Can you do this thing?”

 “I have already ridden a storm that would kill others. I will bear my ills and, with God’s grace, will come to a place of peace and understanding. But I would rather not do this alone.”

“I am at your service. You only have to send a message to me and I will come to your assistance.”

He kissed my hands and looked up into my eyes. Did I discern more than lust? Was he also in love with me? No, not he. Surely not? I heard a commotion behind us. We turned to gaze through the crowd. Lucius was in a tussle with a drunkard at the door. 

“I must not be found with you,” I said. “If I create a diversion, can you slip out unseen?”

“Yes,” he replied. 

Lucius pinned the drunk against a table in a most menacing way. I threw off my cloak, picked up the empty tankard and pushed through the crowd towards him. I shoved the tankard under his nose and reeled a little.

“Got the price of an ale?” I said. I slurred my words for good effect. 

Lucius shoved the tankard away before he realised it was me. The man lying against the table had his eyes closed and his face screwed up as if waiting for the blows to rain down on him. I tried again. Lucius grabbed the tankard off me. His eyes widened. He released the man, who scurried away like a scared mouse.

“I thought you had gone to your room,” he said. 

I fell into his arms and he was forced to support my weight. I grinned drunkenly at him and thrust my lips towards his. Behind Lucius’ back, Captain Somerville made his exit. 

“What was all that?” I mumbled. I pointed to his victim.

“Him? I would not take a drink with him,” said Lucius.

“No? Why not?”

He turned to gaze out over the crowd. Captain Somerville was nowhere to be seen.

“I do not have to tell you that,” he said. 

I shrugged and brushed down my petticoats.

“Let’s go home,” I said. I started for the door. Lucius whirled me round.

“You tricked me. Why did you do that? Who did you meet in here tonight?” 

I did not want to irritate Lucius. He had already proven himself a friend.

“No one. I was thirsty,” I said. 

“I don’t believe you.”

“I meet a great many people and I answer to none,” I replied. 

“You must answer to my master, just as I must,” said Lucius.

I leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Yes, but what your master does not know will not hurt him.” 

I pulled away, gave him a frank look and walked out into the cold night. A whore may go where a whore pleases and answer to no one.


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