Chapter Thirty-Eight

Of the equipment

A chattering of starlings rose into the sky as we crossed Covent Garden, their plumage shining in the spring sunlight. I noted with some joy, the smiling faces of the hawkers and harridans, grizzled gundiguts and swells, gimcracks and rum doxies. Life is always better when the sun shines. I felt my bones ease and my worries lift. All would be well. I would discern the truth of this matter. The murderer was one or the other of the Westmans - either Lord or brother. I favoured the brother, no matter what he might say to the contrary. 

We crossed the end of Russell Street only to see George Carpenter, the proprietor of The Finish, standing in our doorway. He thrust a bunch of spring flowers into my hands and winked.

“Lovely day, Kitty my dear. Lovely day,” he said.

I laughed and buried my nose in the flowers. “Yes George. It is,” I replied. 

He gave Lucius a sideways glance, but rested his eyes on me.

“As pretty as ever,” he said. “Bet you’ve got many an admirer, eh Kitty love?”

George Carpenter was a hulk of a man - broad-shouldered and, in his youth, as strong as an ox. These days he was stricken with ill health - his nose cherry red and bulbous, his complexion, mottled and liverish.

“What can I do for you?” I said.

He glanced at the flowers and tapped the end of his mighty nose.

“Be seeing you,” he said, and was gone.

I shook my head and laughed. 

“Go clean yourself,” I said to Lucius. 

He did as I asked immediately. I knew, from that moment, Lucius would answer to me and me alone, or I would take myself away from this place and let all rot in the stew they had cooked for themselves. In the privacy of my room, I reached inside the flowers and pulled forth the note contained therein. I read it hastily: 

My dearest Kitty, 

I go this afternoon to the Jerusalem Coffee House in order to discern the truth about the ship Egremont. Join me afterwards and I will apprise you of the details. I await your attendance in the Church of St. Mary, Woolnoth.

Your faithful servant,

Captain Julius Somerville

I balled the paper and threw it into the fire. I did not know what time Lord Appleby’s electrical equipment was to be delivered, nor did I know if he would accompany it. I called Lucius to me and shut the door on Priss’s prying eyes. I bade Lucius sit, but he refused.

“You are a good and honest man,” I said. “I am grateful to you for your action this morning against that Runner, but you must be careful. He is dangerous and he has the power to take you into custody. There may come a time when I cannot protect you from him. I know you are loyal to Lord Appleby and I know you trust Mr. Westman.”

Lucius made to speak, but I silenced him. 

“Wait. We are bound in a contract, you and I. As such, we must act in accord.” 

I searched his face. I thought I saw a fleeting glimmer of agreement.

“Doctor Leake said the dead man had a birthmark on his right shoulder,” I said.

“Master Oliver had such a mark,” said Lucius, eagerly. He touched his own shoulder to indicate the place.

“I think we must assume it is his Lordship’s son, Oliver.” I sighed. “You must go to your master and tell him of our discovery. Whether he wishes to arrange a funeral or…” I thought of the Doctor’s yard and, in my mind’s eye, saw men digging at great piles of bones.

“Tell him he must decide if it is in anyone’s best interest to disturb the Doctor’s practice, and ask if he wishes instead to hold a memorial, rather than a funeral.”

“He will not believe me,” said Lucius. 

“I dare say, but he must be made to understand what has happened. It will be even more difficult to explain that Mr. Westman killed the boy.”

Anxiety was writ large on Lucius’ face. 

“He would not do that. He would not kill his own nephew,” he said.

“Oh, but Lucius, I fear he would. He has killed two men. Two. Probably more, for all I know. We must unmask him or I fear Lord Appleby will be next.” 

I had not yet forgotten how William Westman had made me feel during the previous night’s incarceration. I was both attracted and repulsed by him. I must trust to logic and not to emotion.

“I think his actions are an attempt to wrestle the remains of Lord Appleby’s estate away from him,” I said. “If Oliver is dead, Selina will not inherit. Mr. Westman will. Wherever the money leads, that is where the killer resides.”

Lucius sat then on the end of my bed and put his head in his hands. I rested my hand on his shoulder and he turned and kissed my fingertips. I did not recoil. It was the tenderest kiss I have ever experienced. For a moment I thought he would take me in his arms, but instead he strode from the room.

 “Lucius?” I called after him. He turned. “Whatever happens, I will take care of you.”

He smiled sadly, and left me to my thoughts. I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes. I was as spent as if I had used all my energy to make love to the most virile of men. I vowed there and then that as soon as this nightmare was over, I would take myself off to the countryside. I would rest at an inn. I would walk the fields and lanes, and I would empty my mind of all foul deeds and impure thoughts. In this way, I passed several happy hours dreaming of what might be.

I woke to the sound of shouts in the street below. A carriage had drawn up alongside our door, and two men, assisted by Lucius, carried wooden boxes into our house. The electrical equipment had arrived, but of Lord Appleby, there was no sign. I hurried to change my bodice and over petticoat. I tied a kerchief around my neck. The air was chill, and I was still tired from my adventures.

Downstairs, there was much noise and commotion. My sisters could not comprehend why anyone would wish to endow us with such equipment as could be found more usually gracing the quack and nimgimmer’s hovel, and they argued with each other over the nature of the equipment and its use. I must say, I was of the same mind. Nevertheless, I followed the men and their boxes down to the scullery, to make sure that Deaf Tom knew not to interfere with any of it. I ran a finger over the lid of one of the boxes and caught Lucius by the arm. 

“What say Lord Appleby? You went to him? He was not too disturbed?”

Lucius was at once both innocent and yet, all-knowing. I found myself wondering at his emotions. He was so self-contained; so strong of mind and body. 

“He does not know what to think. A part of him hopes still that Master Oliver travels on the continent with his mother, or is caught up in some grand, youthful escapade. I could not bring myself to tell him of your suspicions towards his brother. To do that would be to place myself in jeopardy. I know my place. I must take care.”

I did not know how to answer. I was particularly taken by his tender ministration, but I knew also he would not act on any feelings he might have, though I considered that at some point, he may give himself freely to one of my sisters in order to satiate his lustful needs.

“Very well,” I said. “I will find a way to broach the subject.”

I left Lucius in the scullery, but reached only the bottom tread on the stairs when he spoke again.

“I forgot. His Lordship has requested your company for a trip to the countryside.”

I turned. “Really?”

“He will send the carriage tomorrow morning. We are to go to Tottenham.”

“Tottenham? What on earth is in Tottenham?”

Lucius shrugged. “Lady Selina will accompany him. She has requested your presence. I believe she wishes to have a conversation with you.”

I frowned. “About her brother?”

“It is likely. There is little that escapes her.”

“Indeed. She is an interesting young woman,” and with that, I left Lucius to attend to matters electrical.

How strange that a man so recently appraised of his son’s death would wish to travel to a far-flung village, accompanied by his mistress and his daughter. I wondered if I had been too hasty in dismissing Lord Appleby’s ability to do the foul deed. I felt sure that something other than inheritance and business must lie at the bottom of the mystery. An innocent, such as the first victim, Elias Monk, could not be caught up in a family feud. Not unless perhaps, he had been Selina’s lover. 

I listened for the clock’s chimes and made haste to leave for St. Mary Woolnoth. Perhaps Captain Somerville had discovered something of interest during his investigation at the Jerusalem Coffee House.


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