Chapter Thirty-Six

Of the new equipment and Lord Appleby’s son

The following morning I sent Lucius back to the lock-up to have the girl released into my care. When he returned empty-handed, with a story that the jailor had sent her away at dawn, I reprimanded him in so foul a manner that he hung his head in shame and begged to be allowed to prove himself to me in another way. I could think of nothing I would have him do, save answer my commands rather than Lord Appleby’s. Sadly, he told me he must decline, as he was indebted to Lord Appleby for allowing him to remain in England when his former master had returned to America. Instantly, I felt ashamed of myself for upbraiding him so.

“You were a slave?” I whispered. 

We were in the dining room. I had just sent to the kitchen for coffee. I sensed he was somewhat reticent to talk about it.

“You may speak freely with me,” I said. “We are friends now, aren’t we?”

“We are friends. Very well, I will tell you some of it. I was with the Lambert family,” he said. “They came to London four years ago. After a while, Mr. Lambert wished to return me to America, so I ran away. He set the slave-takers on me. Lord Appleby said he would vouch for me and so I entered his employment. I am indebted to him for his kindness, for he taught me to read and write and I am happy here.” 

So, Lord Appleby had proved himself a good man, at least in this matter. I did not ask any further questions, but his words caused me to wonder on the proclivities of men who are able to do good deeds and yet are also capable of perpetrating great crimes. Lucius had suffered much in his life. Could he really be happy here in London, rather than in his homeland? I did not dare ask what age he was when first he was taken from his family. Instead, I found another line of questions.

“Lucius,” I said, “did you ever meet Lady Appleby?” 

I wanted to know if she had run away with her dance instructor, as Lord Appleby had told me. Or perhaps he had put her from him. There was much to ponder.

 “No,” he replied.

“That is a shame, but what do you know of her?”

“Lady Caroline was a very beautiful, but she was a difficult woman.” 

I wondered from whom he had heard this information. Was it Selina or Lord Appleby? Or perhaps the other servants?

“And what of the dance instructor? Do you know his name?”

Lucius appeared to struggle with this question. 

“You need not tell me,” I said. “I just wondered where Lady Appleby was now.”

“Italy, I believe.” replied Lucius. “She travels with a troop of entertainers.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“She does?”

“I am told she has a beautiful voice, but cannot sing in London for fear she would be branded a…”

“A whore?” I said.

“Indeed,” said Lucius.


Lucius had given me much to think about. Italy was a long way from London. Certainly, I was not about to travel there to make enquiries. Perhaps I would have more luck with Selina. I vowed to seek her out and ask her about both her mother and brother, for I wished now to confirm, one way or another, that the body in the Church was that of Oliver Westman. That being the case, I would then direct Lord Appleby to the Surgeon and make the requisite application to have the poor boy’s body released for a Christian burial. 

Whilst I did not wish to disturb the young girl any more than was necessary, I had a feeling that Selina could more than cope with the information that her brother had been murdered. Indeed, I believed her to be a very precocious young woman. Had she not been of aristocratic breeding, I would have recruited her to my stable. That her mother had taken up with a troop of ‘entertainers’ and now sang for her living begged the question, were the Westmans as aristocratic as they claimed? 

I dismissed Lucius and finished my tea in silence. Lord Appleby’s carriage announced his arrival shortly after and all fell about in a fluster and confusion. At once, Mother Shadbolt delivered herself as the very model of propriety, though she was nothing of the sort. I spied Priss watching me through the banisters. She wore a look of complete hatred. She had barely said two words to me since my return. No matter; I would not trouble myself with the likes of her. Instead, I welcomed Lord Appleby with kisses and curtsies. He was delighted to see me and lavished praise on my complexion and dress, though it had only been a matter of hours since I had seen him last. 

He asked that a basement room made available to him. We had only the scullery, adjacent to our kitchen. Neither scullery nor kitchen was in the basement, these being occupied by John Bradley’s still, but it was deemed sufficient for Lord Appleby’s needs. I trailed him as he went from room-to-room, and then down into the scullery. Eventually, he announced that all was well and that he would return on the morrow with certain equipment.

“Equipment?” I enquired. 

We stood in the dimly lit scullery. 

“Yes, equipment. Electrical equipment,” he said.

I could not fathom it. What did he want with our scullery? It was a damp place, filled with pans and washing. I ran after him.

“What do you mean to do with the electrical equipment?” I asked.

He turned then and looked down at me, as if for the first time.

“Take me to your room and I will explain.”

“Explain yourself here,” I said, boldly. 

I would not be treated as if I was a mere filly, though I suppose, to him, I was. The pans hanging above me rattled as he pushed me against the dresser. 

“You ask a great many questions,” he said. “You will find out in the fullness of time.” He took me about the waist. I licked my lips, but he did not kiss me. He simply held me tight.

“You must give yourself to me and me alone. Is that clear? I will have no more of this parading of your charms with all and sundry,” he said. “And do not think you can cavort behind my back. Nothing will escape my knowledge.”

“I have told you, I cannot survive without I earn a living and you have offered me nothing save a roof over my head. Must the other girls work to keep me? They will not like that. Priss would see me dead rather than give me succour.”

He picked at the pins holding my bodice to the stays.

“You must be patient my pretty.” 

He bent to my neck and kissed it.

“I may starve before you regain your fortune,” I said. 

I knew that if I wanted to find out more about his plans for both our house and the East India Company, I must remain on good terms with him, yet I was frustrated by his change in character. It is true; there are men who feign charm and charity, only to turn into a jealously possessive bore when they believe they have captured a woman’s heart. Well, my heart was not for capturing that easily. I would settle for an income and trust that love would come in time. If not, then I would take me a lover. It was as simple as that. 

Lord Appleby threw up his arms in exasperation. 

“You are a whore. No more. No less. I came to you as a man obsessed with your beauty and love and you have tested me and continue to do so. I have made you my mistress. What more do you want?” 

I made to speak, but he covered my mouth with one hand, whilst lifting my petticoats with the other. I glanced down and saw the swell beneath his breeches. My dear Lord, but must it always be this lascivious fumbling? Can it not be a more sensuous event?  He raised me up onto the dresser and spread my legs. He did not require much provocation, for he gazed on himself in some pleasure, before he concentrated his vision on my vermillion sex. 

His touch soon sent me into a paroxysm of desire. He stroked himself without ceasing his gaze until I would have agreed to anything only to feel him inside me.

“Imagine,” he hissed, his mouth hot now over mine. “Imagine if you could have this sensation delivered to you without having to resort to human intervention.”

I was not sure what he meant and I said as much. I could very well do this for myself. Indeed we had purchased a number of mother’s comforters. True, ‘twas not the same: a man’s hands, his presence, his voice and heat - all are one in such a circumstance. It is all the better if that man is one you love like no other. Oh, but I had no one I loved in this way. No one.

“My Lord, please,” I moaned. 

Lord Appleby did no more than plunge deep into my recess and empty himself therein with a great shudder. I clung to him as the pots and pans rattled and clanged, though it did me no good, for he had failed to wait until I was at the edge of my precipice and thus, I was left wanting. ‘Tis often the way of it. We women are no more than empty vessels, which must, at all costs, be filled with the offerings of men.

He withdrew, wiped himself on his shirttails and tucked all into his breeches. I was left without satisfaction. In that moment I knew I must take me a lover… not a cully, no, not a man who paid me, but a man who loved me for myself alone and whom I could love in equal measure. Oh, though I wished for the security money would bring, I had never found money and love to be compatible.

“Adjust your dress,” he said to me. I tumbled to the floor, my legs like jelly.

“You would leave a lady thus?” I said to him. 

He considered, but did nothing. 

“Clear this room,” he said. “The equipment will be delivered this afternoon. I will then need complete privacy.”

He made to go up the stairs, but I touched his arm and uttered, “Sir, I would speak with you further.” 

He turned back to me. “My love, do not think me harsh,” he said. “I have much on my mind.”

“It is not that. My needs are of no consequence. It is just that I have . . . I have a confession to make.” 

Oh, that we should be in a scullery and I tell him of his son’s death.  I ushered him up the stairs and into the parlour. Lucius hung in the door. I loathed talking of such a difficult thing while he remained in our presence. Lord Appleby intuited thus, and sent Lucius out to wait by the carriage.

“Well then, what is it? Not more talk of money I hope,” said Lord Appleby.

 I hung at the window and gazed out on Lucius. Yes, he was a handsome fellow. Surely he was eager to taste the fruits of freedom? I could not believe that he led such an unblemished life, given over to his master and to Christ. Oh, but Lucius had no money of his own and I could not keep him. I would find my way to happiness. I would.

“No. Not that,” I muttered. I turned back into the room. “It is of a personal nature and I am worried about how to broach the subject.”

Lord Appleby frowned. Clearly, he did not understand what I meant.

“Some little time ago I was called as a witness to the coroner’s court,” I said. “I did not tell you because, at the time, I barely knew you and I did not think it of any consequence to you. A man died in unfortunate circumstances in our Church. I was at the service when this happened. I would estimate it was some three or four weeks ago. I have not kept a note of the exact date. In any event, he has now been identified to me as… as Oliver Westman, whom I believe is… is your son.”

Lord Appleby gave out a gasp. I ran to him swiftly. He sank into a chair.

“Are you sure?” he said.

“Not entirely,” I said. “The person who told me is unreliable.” 

I twitched. I chewed at my inner cheeks. I did not know where to look, other than on his growing discomfort. 

“You cannot tell a man his son is dead and not be able to confirm it,” he shouted.

 Mother Shadbolt appeared at the door. I waved her away and dropped to my knees at Lord Appleby’s side. I took his hands in my own and kissed them.

“Sir, I tell you because… because I cannot bear to think of your poor dear son lying dead and no one to claim him.” 

I could not say that I had told him so I might also judge his reaction. That said, he looked so shocked, I was sure he had not known of it. 

“No one to claim him? Where is he?” 

He looked down on me and I saw tears in his eyes. I wiped them gently away.

“Doubtless buried in a pauper’s grave.” Oh, but even as I said this, I wished I had not.

“A pauper’s grave? But how… how could this be?” 

He pushed me aside then and stood up, his hand to his forehead. He shook his head and railed against the news. When he looked at me again, there was such a pleading in his eyes that I took him in my arms and held onto him. He was as distraught as any I have seen. Eventually, he pushed me away and brought himself back to normality.

“I do not understand why you should be the one to bring me this news. I do not understand from whom you’ve had this information, nor why you think I would want to claim a body that may yet still be someone other than Oliver.”

“Sir, we can go this very afternoon. We can ask for him to be exhumed. I do not know where he is interred, but we can find out.”

“No. No, I will not go. I do not believe you. Oliver is alive and well, probably with his whore of a mother.” He gave me a quick glance. I did not react.

“Then allow me. I will make the arrangements on your behalf,” I said. 

He looked astounded that I would do such a thing.

 “You may give me a letter to take to the Surgeon who attended him and I will make the requisite enquiry as to his whereabouts.”

Lord Appleby considered for a moment before nodding, violently.

“Yes, yes. That’s the thing. Take Lucius with you. He knows Oliver. He will identify him. Yes… and then, if it is he... If it is Oliver, I will arrange a funeral, but I tell you - it is not him.”

I attempted a smile and patted his hand as a mother might a small child. A flicker of gratitude shadowed his face and then it was gone, replaced by an altogether harder look. I gathered up pen and paper, ink and blotter and waited dutifully whilst he wrote his epistle to the surgeon.

 “It was William who told you of Oliver’s death. Was it not?” he said, as he signed the letter.

I said nothing, but nodded. Lord Appleby echoed my confirmation.

“I will speak with him,” he said.

He blotted the letter and handed it to me.

“It is not Oliver,” He said. “It is not.”


This is a web preview of the "The Finish: The Progress of a Murder Uncovered" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App