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Chapter Forty-Two

To catch a mad man



It was late in the afternoon by the time we reached our destination. The sky was leaden and threatened rain. A rat hugged the wall and disappeared into a hole between the cobbles. Lucius and I left the horse tied to the railings outside Number Four Bow Street. I threw a coin to a link-boy and told him to remain until either I or Lucius returned to take charge of our ride. It was my intention to set the Bow Street Runners on Westman, and be done with this nonsense once and for all.

A man blocked our way, but I smiled sweetly, pinched his cheek between thumb and forefinger, and he stood aside. I strode into Sir John’s office. His clerk scraped his chair on the floorboards and commented about the ‘damned interruption’, but I ignored him.

“Sir, I have news of the killer and it will not wait.” 

I removed my gloves and flung them on the desktop. Sir John waved his clerk and the attending Runner away.

“Who is it that comes with you?” asked the blind Sir John. He was perfectly calm, almost as if he was about to nod off to sleep, and yet I knew him to be as alert as any.

“My servant, Lucius. A good man, whom I trust with my life.” 

It was the truth. I knew I could depend on Lucius. He had stayed with me instead of attending his dying master. I thought that a noble thing, though others would probably cite it a dereliction of duty. He knew there was little he could do for Lord Appleby, and his orders had always been to remain by my side and take care of me as if I were a sister, or his own wife. I had won him over and he would not desert me now.

“Very well. What news do you have of the suspect?” said Sir John.

“Lord Appleby’s carriage was attacked on the road to Tottenham. He was shot and lies mortally wounded at Bruce Castle. His daughter is with him, and is safe for now. The man you seek is William Westman. I will stand in court and give testimony to the fact that he has murdered two men and now his own brother. Whether he will make another attempt on the life of his niece, I do not know, but I think it highly likely.”

“Another attempt?”

“Yes. The shot was wild. She bears a scratch, no more.”

“Indeed?” said Sir John. 

I heard a commotion behind me. Jim Craddock strode into the room. Lucius bristled, but I put my hand on his arm to still his anxiety.

“What’s this?” said Craddock. He was brutish and uncultured, but he was my husband and I was glad, in a way, to see him.

“She’s found our man,” said Sir John, “and will testify in court against him. You say you can identify him? You saw his face?”

“I… I saw him.” I had not seen the face of our attacker, but it could be no other.”

“It may not be enough,” said Sir John. “A confession would swing it our way.”

“Westman is it? He was never missing. I could have had him at any time. It’s the evidence we lack, not the man,” said Craddock. 

“That may be so, but I will provide eye witness testimony that he stood before us on the road to Tottenham, and shot his brother in cold blood,” I said. “I could not do so before, but surely now, that is enough?”

“Where is he now?” asked Sir John.

“He took off south. I assume he returned to the city. He thinks he is untouchable.” I turned to Lucius.  “Would he go to the house in Cavendish Square?” I asked.

“No,” said Lucius. “He lodges in Covent Garden now.” 

I wondered if Lucius inferred that Westman had spent the night in my bed. Craddock interjected with a theory of his own.

“If you mean the Wild Street address, he left those lodgings some time ago. There is a report of him at Harrington’s gambling den. I hear tell he has a part ownership.”

“The note we found in Oliver Westman’s pocket placed him at Harrington’s,” I said. “Lord Appleby promised to take me there, but in the end, we did not go.”

“Well?” said Sir John. “Can he be found in this place or not?”

“He has moved on,” said Lucius. He gave me a pointed look. “Not three nights ago he won the lease to a property in the Great Piazza.”

I gave out a sigh of relief. Lucius would not give me away. 

“Won it?” I said.

“In a game of faro,” replied Lucius.

“Why did you not tell me this before?”

“You did not ask, and…”

“And you still think him innocent?” I was incredulous.

“Is this true?” bawled Craddock. 

“I am not sure he could kill his own nephew and brother… and certainly not Lady Selina,” said Lucius. 

“But you saw him,” I said. “On the road. He pointed a pistol at you.” 

Lucius was conflicted, his loyalty in question, his intuition doubted by me, his friend.

“We waste time,” said Sir John. “Take this Blackamore with you and go to the property in Covent Garden. I assume you are a Blackamore, sir?”

Lucius muttered ‘yes’.

“Very well. Point the house out to Mr. Craddock here and our men. Bring Mr. Westman to the Brown Bear. You know what to do Mr. Craddock.  Interview him and take care not to do him too much damage.”

“Sir,” said Craddock.

We took ourselves then to Covent Garden. I had spent most of the day travelling, first this way and then that, and could have done with a meal and something of a rest, but it was not to be. It was gone six o’clock. Trade had turned from market wares to theatre-goers and profligate ne’er-do-wells, bent on enjoying an evening’s entertainment. I hurried after the men, aware of the stares I received from those who liked to prattle on street corners.

“This is the one,” Lucius said. 

He stopped in front of one of the houses to the east of James Street, quite close to the Shakespeare’s Head and the Bedford Tavern. 

I knew it to have been first in the ownership of an aristocrat who has requested I keep his name out of this report. It then fell into the hands of a bawd who had, in turn, bartered it away to a portrait painter turned gambler by the name of Fenton Lee. Lucius explained that this Mr. Lee had seen himself beaten at faro by our own William Westman. The men had argued because Mr. Lee did not have the means to cover his debts to the club. 

“Mr. Westman declared that Mr. Lee owned this very fine property and that if he could not find the cash by the morning then he would take the keys to this house instead. As Mr. Lee had little more than a silver sixpence to his name, he duly relinquished ownership of the property.” 

“You know a lot about this for a man who has watched my every move for the last few days,” I said. 

Lucius shrugged. “There are women too. They remained from the property’s earlier incarnation as a house of ill repute.”

“So, not content with gambling, opium and murder, our quarry has now become a pimp,” I said. 

I was intrigued to see what lay inside. Certainly, if there were girls, I would take them for our house and put them to good use.

The ground floor was given over to a wigmaker by the name of Mr. Harnam. He was a weasel of a man who protested his innocence by barricading himself in his shop. A door led off the entrance hall to stairs. Craddock ordered me to remain below with Lucius, but after he and his men had begun their ascent, we followed them. 

The Runners could not have made more noise if they tried. Craddock shouted out, “Westman, show yourself”. I thought if ever a man would run from the law, this was the time to do it. All then burst into a comfortably decorated parlour, pistols in hand, ready to blow Westman’s head clean off his shoulders if necessary. It was not to be so however, for there, seated in the window surrounded by a trio of fancy morts, was our perpetrator. He made no attempt to remove himself. He lounged in his chair, a pipe in his mouth, his feet on a damask-covered stool. Craddock flourished his pistol and ordered him to stand. Westman ignored him. Instead, he sent out plumes of smoke from his pipe. His eyes rested on mine. 

Oh, but we have you now, I thought. I would have shouted out and branded him a liar there and then, but Craddock spoke first.

“You sir, are under arrest for the murders of Elias Monk and Oliver Westman. Also the attempted murder of your brother, Lord Appleby.” 

I swear that with Craddock’s words, the smoke curling from Westman’s pipe froze. But for that, he was as cool a character as ever. Craddock gave but a slight indication and the Runners lunged at Westman, picked him from his seat and flattened him on the floor. The three sisters squealed and attempted to disperse, but Craddock caught one by the arm, and Lucius the other two. They wriggled and struggled, but could not break free of the big man’s grip.

“You’re a pretty little thing,” said Craddock to his girl. 

I gave him a look as if to say ‘hands off the merchandise’ and he released his catch into my arms. She was quite afraid and hid her face in my neck, but I thought this subterfuge on her part. She was no ordinary doxy. She was very young and dressed in the finest silks. I wondered why I had not met her on the street, or in one of the many inns about Covent Garden.

“What is your name, child?”

“Lucy Mead,” she said.

“Well then Lucy, you’ve seen a man taken by the Runners before. Be quiet and I will make sure you have a home when all of this is over,” I said. 

The Runners pulled Westman to his feet. He did not struggle. 

“You are wrong,” he spat out. “I would not kill my brother. I would not kill anyone.” 

I thought then I saw the true hatred in him, and I would have turned away from his stare, but for the fact that he made so compelling an argument, it was hard not to watch his every reaction. Aside from that, I could not forget how he had held me in such a tender embrace and made love to me. 

“Your bravado is nothing short of amazing,” I shouted, but I did not say more, for I did not wish to incriminate myself. I did not feel guilty for having shared my bed and body with him (after all, that is what I do), but I did not wish to anger Craddock, by throwing this knowledge in his face. He would learn of it soon enough.

Westman said nothing. The Runners pushed him forward and were soon gone from our sight. The sisters protested much, and implored me to be kind to their pimp and protector.

“He could not have done this,” said Lucy. 

“Hush,” I said. 

If Westman did not confess easily, then the Runners would beat a confession out of him. Perhaps too late, I realised that the faith I placed in the good Sir John was all for naught. 

“Stay here. Take care of these girls,” I said to Lucius. “Get them some food and rest awhile. Tomorrow morning you will return with Mr. Townsend’s horse and bring me news of Lord Appleby and Selina.”

“Yes Madam,” said Lucius.

 “Mistress… he did not do it,” said Lucy again. The other two girls nodded in unison and fell at my feet. Their clamours for mercy on Westman’s behalf made my head ache.

“Still your cries,” I said. “It is not up to me what happens to that man.” 

“But you are Mistress Kitty are you not?” said Lucy. 

“I am.”

“William told us you would come.”

Indeed, they called him by his Christian name, though there was nothing particularly Christian about him.

“He did?”

“Yes.” She nodded eagerly. I wondered if she was not simply trying to save her own skin.

“What else did he say?” I asked.

“To tell you the truth at all times,” she replied.

“And what is the truth of this matter?” 

I was intrigued by her forthright manner. She would make a good addition to our stable. Of the other two, I could not yet tell, but they were the least of my problems.

“He was with us all day,” she said. 

So this was how he would get away with it. I barked out a laugh, but it was hollow. I feared she told me the truth, and if that was the case, then I had made a mistake of enormous proportions in accusing him of murder.

“He holds you in great esteem,” she continued. “He said to be honest with you and you would take care of us. He returned to us early this morning and we knew he had been with you. He said as much. We breakfasted, the three of us, and he slept until the afternoon. Then he sent out to the cook shop for food. I took it to him myself. You have been deceived. He did not do this thing, whatever it is.” 

I walked to the window. The Runners, with Westman in close arrest, crossed the North East corner of the Garden and turned into Russell Street. My heart leapt. I turned my back on them. Could I really take an oath on the Bible that Westman was the man I had seen this very morning upon the road? And, if I did, would I ever find peace if he went to the gallows and yet was innocent of all charges?  

“Do you swear on everything you hold dear, that you tell me the truth?” I said.

Lucy nodded violently. Could I trust her? I had to.

“What time did he arrive?”

“Nine or thereabouts. He said the carriage had just come to take you to with his brother,” said Lucy. She grabbed my arm. “He is a rogue, but he was here with us.”

“And you are sure he did not slip away while you were otherwise engaged?” I asked.

“No. No. Not at all.” 

I had been a fool. Westman was in my mind from the very start. I had followed him, nay, hunted him, because he scared me - because I was infatuated - because… 

I was surprised and wounded by my own foolishness. 

“I must try and save him if I can,” I said. 

The girls fell into chatter and I had to shout to be heard.

“Quiet. Please. Remain here until I come for you. Lucius will watch over you.”

Lucy let out a nervous laugh. 

“You will not let him hang? You promise?”

“I will do my best.” 

I left them then, and hurried to the Brown Bear.

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