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Chapter Forty-Three

I am close to the end of my tale



I had spent but half an hour in that house in Covent Garden, yet evening had come upon us. A flock of birds, bathing in a puddle, rose as one before me, and a maid emptied a pot out of a second story window onto the heads of the people in the street below. I threw a look towards my home and thought of Daisy and how I had recently broken from the daily routine of satisfying our cullies to become something more than a mere whore. For a while, I was a mistress. I hoped, nay prayed, that Lord Appleby survived, but I thought it unlikely. Even if he lived through the night, his wound had been deep and was sure to suppurate and poison him. 

For a moment, I felt badly that I had left him thus, but I shook the thought off, picked up my petticoats and hurried on. Lord Appleby was a strange man, but not as strange as his half-brother. Yes, I was in love with a rascal, a rogue, a rake, an evil man within whom the Devil had found a home. If what that fancy mort, Lucy, had said was true, then someone else had attacked us on the road to Tottenham, and there was no justification in blaming Westman. None whatsoever. I had to face my demons… my Devil… or my soul would be doomed.

I reached the Brown Bear and calmed myself some before I entered that den of iniquity. It made me laugh to think of the crimes perpetrated there, right under the noses of the Runners, who occupied it as if it was a home away from home. Inside, the noise from merrymakers and vagabonds alike was insufferable, and the air thick with smoke and the aroma of the unwashed.  I set my sights on the door to the back room. A Runner stepped out as I put my hand to the wood. It was Charles Jealous.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I was you,” he said. He shoved his big frame in front of me. He was not a man to cross.

“An innocent man’s life is in danger.” I said.

“Orders is orders.”

“But Jim is expecting me,” I said.

“He’s talking to a suspect. I can’t let you go interrupting him.”

“But that suspect is innocent.”

Jealous shrugged. “Can’t do it. Not even for you Miss Kitty.”

“I can be ever so accommodating, if you know what I mean,” I said, and began to unbutton my riding habit.

“Well…No. No. Can’t do it. I know you and Jim got history. I can’t take advantage of his woman. Wouldn’t be right,” he said. 

He was charmed all the same. I could tell.

I shrugged. “Your loss,” and turned away from him. I walked some way back through the crowd before I turned provocatively, and let out an obvious sigh of longing.

“Wait,” he said. “If I let you in…”

“Yes,” I said. 

He licked his lips and I made haste to return to his side. Here, I pressed myself against him. It was no hardship. Charles Jealous was a well-made man, dark of hair and face and not without the kind of charm that oft-times draws me to a man. He had a wife and child, but I also knew he never went home and that he had a great many liaisons with other women. The only danger I faced with him was whether I would catch a dose of the pox. Well, I thought it easily remedied. I would tease him until he thought it a forgone conclusion, and then use Craddock to see him off. 

“When we are finished here, I will find a place we can be alone,” he said. “You won’t say anything to Jim, will you?”

“What do you take me for?” I said, and kissed him on the lips. He looked somewhat abashed.

Charles Jealous moved aside, and I opened the door to the chamber that held both my husband and my most recent lover. Only one candle burned, but it was not yet fully dark outside and a grey light impressed itself on the interior of the room. Westman sat on the only chair (the rest being benches), his arms bound behind his back, his face already bloodied and battered. Two men stood either side of him. Craddock paced back and forth, muttering under his breath. He turned to me with abject hatred on his face.

“Get out,” he bellowed.

“No,” I said, standing my ground. “He did not shoot his brother.”

Westman looked up at me through eyes half-closed by bruising. He attempted a smile.

“What? Who told you this?” said Craddock.

“The nuns we found him with.”

“Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” Craddock spat at me. “He shares his bed with them.”

“I believe them,” I said. “You believe me and I’m a whore. Why should they be any different? I cannot say for other crimes he has committed, but he did not hold us at gunpoint and shoot Lord Appleby. I made a mistake.” 

“Bugger my eyes. You need to get your story straight,” shouted Craddock. He raised a fist, and would have begun the torture a-fresh, but that I held onto his arm and would not let him. He threw me away from him, angrily.

“Get off me woman. You should not be here.” 

“A man died in my bed… in my arms… and another… well he was killed in the Church. What man but one driven by the Devil, kills in a Church? I cannot say if that man is this one or not. I only know he did not shoot his brother. That is all.” 

I had waged war on Westman, and it was my doing that he sat here now, bloodied and half dead from the battering he had received. It could go on no longer. It had to stop. Westman spat blood onto the bare boards.  Craddock’s face turned red with rage. He was as capable of murder as any man. I was his wife, but it was a good thing I did not live with him, for if I did I might not survive long.

“Sit in the corner and do not move,” he said. “If I hear one word you are gone from here. I don’t care what you say. This bastard will confess all, and he will do it in front of you. Perhaps then you will learn that you cannot use a man and expect a happy ending.” 

He spun back to his victim and punched Westman so hard in the belly he could not draw breath.

“Enough,” I screamed. “Enough. This is not justice.” 

I could not allow this viciousness to continue. To do so would prove only that Craddock was as evil as the man he would beat to a pulp, and that I was his demonic mistress. This time I would not back off. This time I would stand my ground. This time I would be reckoned with – that or I would relinquish my marriage (which would not be such a great loss) and never speak to him again. 

“You. Bitch. Sit,” said Craddock. 

He pushed me aside, but I put myself in his way and refused to budge. Again, he shoved me, and this time so hard, I tripped and fell against the wall. I righted myself and stood in his path once more. 

“You can leave us,” I shouted to the two Runners who flanked Westman. They did not move.

“Go,” I shouted again

“Remain where you are,” shouted Craddock. 

Confused, the Runners did nothing. Craddock howled in anger. He was ever like a small child when he did not get his own way.

“Very well. Go,” he said, and he thumped the wall. Fresh blood mingled with that which had already dried on his knuckles. 

Still, the Runners did not move. Fortunately, the stalemate was interrupted by Charles Jealous, who flung open the door and shouted for us to come, and be quick about it. He ran from us, believing we followed him, yet neither Craddock nor I moved. Jealous returned, annoyed that we had not responded to his urgent call. 

“Wait,” he said, and held up a finger. 

He pushed forward a girl. It was Priss. She fell on me like a daughter to a long lost mother. I was a little taken aback, for we did not like each other, and I could not imagine what it was had brought her to seek my help.

“Kitty, oh Kitty. I couldn’t find you. I looked everywhere. George, at The Finish, told me he’d seen you take after the Runners, and to try the Brown Bear.”

“Where is Lucius?”

“I don’t know.” 

I trusted he was still with the girls at Westman’s new house. 

 “You have to come quick,” Priss said. “We are taken captive and Daisy is attached to the electrical equipment. He won’t let her go. He says he wants you to come to him or she will suffer something terrible. You have to come.” Tears streaked Priss’ powdered face.

“Who has taken her? Who?” I said.

Priss’s legs gave way. I raised her up and held onto her.

“Who Priss? Who are you talking about?” I glanced at Craddock and back at Priss.

He says you have to come. He says we will all suffer if you don’t.”

“Who?” 

Priss was naught but a fearful child. 

“Oh, just show me,” I said, and I pushed her from the torture chamber out into the hall, and thence into the bar. Craddock followed after me and grabbed me by the arm. Priss disappeared into the crowd.

 “I am with you,” Craddock said. 

We caught up with Priss outside, and crossed Bow Street and thence into Russell Street and to our house. Mother Shadbolt ran out, her Bible in hand.

“There’s a mad man on the loose and our new bully is missing,” she said. She glanced nervously at Craddock. 

“I knew he was no good. I said as much to Priss here,” commented Mother Shadbolt.

“Who is no good?” I said.

 “He arrived at tea time,” Priss said, ignoring my question. “I told you, he took Daisy. Mother Shadbolt thought nothing of it.” She threw our Mother an angry look. 

“He paid,” said Mother Shadbolt. “He sent for a bottle of porter. All was well until…” 

“Daisy was bragging about Lord Appleby and his experiments,” interrupted Priss. 

“Damned electricity. It’ll be the death of us all,” said Mother Shadbolt.

“Who?” I repeated.

Priss bit her lip. “He said Lord Appleby was going to turn the place into an electrical hummum. He said he couldn’t let that happen. Daisy took him down there to show him. Next thing we knew, he wouldn’t let her go. Told us to fetch you or she would… would…get what she deserved… what we all deserve. He forced us to sit and watch.” She broke into a volley of sobs.

“Who forced you to sit and watch? For goodness sake, tell me,” I said, in some desperation.

“I would have sent for the Constable only he said if we didn’t get you then… well, I dread to think what might have happened… still might happen,” said Mother Shadbolt. 

She started to mutter the twenty-third Psalm. 

“For God’s sake, tell me who it is,” I insisted. 

I took Priss by the shoulders and attempted to shake the information out of her, but her sobs prevented her from saying anything intelligible. 

“Oh, come on,” I said to Craddock. 

I meant to go down to the scullery and see for myself who it was that held our house to ransom thus. I pushed both Mother Shadbolt and Priss into the parlour. 

“Stay there.” 

I shut the door on them. 

Craddock led the way down. 

“You go in first,” he said. “Distract whoever it is, so I can enter unseen.”

I was to be the bait? I almost shouted at Craddock in my anger, but he shook his head and placed a finger to my lips.

“I’m right behind you.” 

Craddock shrank back into the shadows.

I placed my hand on the doorknob, but had barely turned it, when the door flew open. 

“You came,” said Captain Somerville. 

I looked past him. My sisters sat against the wall, each with their mouths gagged, and their hands tied. Daisy stood on an up-turned box with a rope around her neck, which was wound over a meat hook in the ceiling and down to the wheel that drove the electrical equipment. Metallic threads led from her hands and sides to the wheel. 

So, the Captain knew how to make the electrical equipment work.  He placed a foot on the box and threatened to kick it away, all the time, threatening me with his rapier. I edged away from the door. I had to keep his attention on me, such that Craddock could gain entrance unseen.

“He’s got you under his spell hasn’t he?” said the Captain. His voice was cracked.

“Who? William Westman?”

The Captain flinched at the name, but did not respond in the affirmative. 

“Not him. Who then? Lord Appleby? You knew he wanted me for his mistress. You knew I could never be yours.” 

I stepped towards Somerville whilst trying to indicate the door to my sisters. I meant to alert them to Craddock’s entrance. I do not think they understood me.

“You did not come last night,” Somerville said.

“I could not. I told you that.”

“You said you would meet me in The Finish.”

“No. I did not. I said I would see you when I returned from Tottenham.” 

I stepped aside. The Captain circled his rapier and followed my movement. I drew him away from the door. I could not be sure that the captives understood what I meant.

“Are you in love with him?” he said. 

“We were attacked on the road. He lies mortally wounded at Bruce Castle,” I said. “I am here now. You can let Daisy go, and the others too.” 

 “It would be difficult to do that,” Somerville said. “Her life hangs on a thread.” He gave a hollow laugh at his poor joke.

“This is a misunderstanding, surely?” I said. The point of his rapier nicked my throat and stayed there. I held my nerve and looked him in the eye.

“What do you really want Julius? What?” I said it as quietly as I could. I knew that if I appeared unflustered, it might be enough to calm him. His back was to the door now. I widened my eyes and prayed Craddock would enter soon, so that this nightmare could end.

“You,” Somerville said. “I want you.”

He dropped the rapier to his side and came towards me. I held my nerve. He pressed in close until I could almost smell and taste his anger. I spied Craddock over the Captain’s shoulder. I shook my head very slowly. Please, I thought, do not risk all before I have heard Somerville’s confession.

“Elias Monk was a fool,” said Somerville. “I told him to stay away, but he would not. He loved to gamble, you see. Loved to do the opposite of what he was told. When I heard he was friends with that dog, Westman, I thought the opportunity too good to miss. I had to kill him. I had to, don’t you see?”

 “You did it because he bought my services?” I was both disgusted and afraid.

“You don’t understand. It wasn’t just that. He was stealing intelligence from the East India Company and delivering it to Lord Appleby. I found Monk with Westman in Harrington’s. They were drunk out of their cups. I overheard Westman say he knew where Monk could be ‘transported to heaven’.”

“But Monk concealed his identity. Why would he do that?” 

I had to think quickly. I could not risk Daisy’s life, but equally, I could not risk my own or the lives of my sisters. I wanted to understand this man’s motives, but I feared time was running out for all of us.

“They thought it a good game,” said the Captain. “They were like children. They took each other’s names for a joke. Killing Monk served two purposes. I got rid of an adversary in love and in business both.”

“But you did not go after Westman? You killed the nephew instead? Surely, Julius, you can see that was a mistake?”

“It was a mistake. I meant to kill Westman. I followed him to the Churchyard and stabbed him as he emptied his bladder against the wall. When I saw it was not the uncle, but the nephew, I hid him inside the Church. I had no other choice… but then fortune smiled on me. I came here, and you told me that Westman had killed Monk. What a boon that was! I thought it only a matter of time before you gave him up to that Runner, Craddock.” Somerville smiled in a most disconcerting way.

“She gave him up to me. It is true,” said Craddock. 

The Captain whirled round. I fell on Daisy as the two men locked swords, the sound of metal ringing out. Somerville avoided Craddock’s blade, and grabbed hold of my arm. He placed the long edge of his sword against my neck. Craddock froze.

“I will kill her. I will kill all of them,” he said. 

I willed Craddock to remain calm, but he would not give up now.

“Let her go,” he bellowed. 

“She comes with me,” said Somerville. He edged towards the door. I struggled, but the blade tormented my neck. I dare not twist away from him for fear I would be sliced open.

“My men are outside,” said Craddock. 

Perhaps, they were, or perhaps he was bluffing. Whichever, it was enough to cast doubt into the mind of Captain Somerville. He glanced behind, into the darkened stairwell. I felt his grip on me tighten.

“Release her now, or, when you step outside, my men will run you through,” said Craddock.

I could not see Somerville’s face, but I could tell that he feared for his safety, for he brandished his rapier, in order to keep Craddock away from him, and edged ever backwards.

 “Come with me,” he muttered to me. “We can go away together - to America. We can make a new life.”

“No,” I said, “It cannot be. My life is here.”

“Here? With these whores?” he shouted. 

“Yes, with these whores. They are my sisters. I will not desert them.”

For a moment, I thought he was going to slice me open. He wavered, and then pushed me away and turned to run up the stairs. Craddock chased after him, and once more, they fell into sword play. 

I hurried to release Daisy from her ropes, but I could not untie the knot. Craddock crashed into the table and his hanger flew from his grasp as the Captain pressed home his advantage. I fell against the electrical equipment. The wheel spun. As it did so, a weak charge was emitted along the threads that led to Daisy. I grabbed the wheel and brought it to a standstill. Craddock tried to roll away from the tip of his oppressor’s rapier, but Somerville held him against the table and forced him up.

“Place your hands to the wheel,” Somerville shouted. 

Craddock wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket and refused. Somerville prodded Craddock’s chest with his sword. 

“Do what I say, or I will run you through in front of these women. A man like you would not like that so very much,” he shouted. 

Craddock took up position by the wheel.

“No,” I screamed, as Craddock started to wind the handle.

Somerville threw me aside. Still, he threatened to end Craddock’s life.

The electricity pulsed down the metallic threads and a great buzz, like a hive of angry bees issued forth. Daisy twisted on the box. The charge struck her skin and flashed through her body until she was rigid with pain. Her feet danced on tippy-toe on the box and then…

… the box was gone from under her. Daisy swung by the neck, her body shocking with the force of the electricity coursing through it. I screamed as Daisy’s hair fizzed and burst into flames. I wrestled myself free from Captain Somerville but he only laughed and continued to threaten Craddock, who could do naught but wind the handle such that the electricity surged with ever increasing power. 

I reached out to Daisy.

“No!” shouted the Captain, and he flung himself at me. 

I will never forget the look Daisy gave me as her hair burned. The flames caught the rope and, like the wick of a candle, followed it along its length down to the wheel. Daisy fell to the ground, the rope burned through and the metal threads pulled from her skin. I hurried to beat out the flames that engulfed her, but the Captain dragged me away. At that moment, Craddock, freed from his terrible task, fell on Captain Somerville. My sisters had, by now, managed to untangle their bonds, and together we took hold of Daisy and tried to pull her away from the fire.

Meanwhile Craddock pursued his prey into the stairwell, but Somerville had made it to the top of the stairs and out of our house, and there was no finding him. Though I tried in desperation to save poor, dear Daisy, the flames licked over her and I could do nothing to help.

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