Authors: Laura Landon
The Men of the Bedford Street Brigade
and the Women who stole their hearts
The Bedford Street Brigade Begins
In 1749, Henry Fielding founded London’s first professional police force. This force consisted of only eight men who worked out of Henry Fielding’s office at No. 4 Bow Street. Hence, they were known as the Bow Street Runners. London breathed easier with the Runners protecting its citizens, and as time progressed, they provided the principles for the development of police procedures over the next eighty years.
But, in 1839, the Bow Street Runners disbanded, and were replaced by London’s new Scotland Yard.
Mack Wallace grew up listening to the heroic tales of the men who were part of the legendary group known as The Bow Street Runners. Influenced by their valor and professionalism, he joined the investigators at Scotland Yard and worked under their system for several years. Eventually, he saw several advantages to striking out on his own to provide private services for anyone who needed his help.
And the Bedford Street Brigade was born.
Case after case won him notice by a city with too many unsolved crimes, but it was when Mack agreed to guard the famed Koh-i-Noor Diamond during The Great Exhibition of 1851 that he sealed his destiny as a force to protect and defend his beloved city.
Still, in his determination to fulfill his mission for the Exhibition, he hardly expected to have to deal with a murder.
All had gone perfectly. His strategy for securing the exhibit had run without a hitch. And then, just days before the exhibit was scheduled to close, Her Majesty’s British Home Undersecretary lay dead at the foot of the display, felled by an assassin’s bullet on Mack’s watch. And the assassin escaped.
The beautiful Cora, sole eyewitness to the shooting, held the key to solving the case. And when the lovely auburn-haired woman appeared at his door that evening, Mack felt the first desire to risk everything to keep her safe. Immediately, he found himself falling for the compassionate, gifted woman he’d sworn to protect. But he dared not draw her heart into his dangerous world.
Here, on the pages that follow, are the stories of the men who carried his mission from the darkest back alleys of London, to the most elegant and aristocratic halls of betrayal. These are the men of the Bedford Street Brigade…and the women who loved them.
Quinn Walker left the modest boarding house on the corner of Brownlow and Endell Street where he’d lived for the last eight years, and walked toward Covent Garden. When he reached Hart Street, he turned right. As he neared the corner of James Street he breathed in the heavenly aroma that engulfed the area and prepared himself for
his favorite stop of the day— Fletcher’s Bakery.
Daisy Fletcher made the most delectable pastries in all of London. But Daisy’s delicious pastries weren’t what brought him to the bakery every morning. Truth be told, an even bigger draw was Nellie
Sutton. She’d been behind the counter on the first day he’d entered the bakery eight years earlier. Sharing a few words with her each morning started his day out sweeter than the powdered sugar that covered her expressive hands.
If he had to describe her, he’d have a very difficult time. She was
the most unique woman he’d ever met. Her hair was a radiant auburn, and even the white cap she wore at work couldn’t hide the streaks of crimson and gold. Her midnight blue eyes glimmered with intelligence, and a smile always lit her face.
She was keen on any number of issues, and they always found something to talk about when he entered the bakery. Sometimes it was nothing in particular. Other times their topics were weighty issues a female usually didn’t know anything about. She never ceased to amaze him.
The best mornings were when the bakery was empty of customers and he could spend a few extra moments talking to her. He’d been infatuated with her since they’d met, and he considered her the most perfect woman on earth.
He was already half in love with her, although he could never act on those feelings. Quinn worked long and often perilous hours with the Bedford Street Brigade, a group of elite crime investigators that took on some of the most dangerous cases in London. No man who did what the Bedford Street investigators did for a living could risk loving anyone. If he needed a reminder of that, he
had only to talk to Hugh Baxter. Like all the Bedford Street fellows, Baxter had thought the back alley risks he took during the day had nothing whatsoever to do with the wife that waited for him at home. And then an assassin’s bullet struck her down, and he lost the woman he loved.
How could anyone who investigated crooks and thieves and murderers every day think of having a wife and family? How could any man who sweet-talked whores and prostitutes and pimps on a daily basis put that ugliness behind him when he went home to a wife at night? It was clear that he’d have to find a different line of work if he ever considered marriage. And giving up investigative work wasn’t something he intended to do. Especially now that he’d joined
his mentor Mack Wallace and his five best friends to form the Bedford Street Brigade. Practically overnight they’d become six of the most sought after bodyguards and crime solvers in London. And he liked that. He liked that a lot.
But, if he could imagine falling in love and settling down, it would be with Nellie
Sutton. Why some other man hadn’t courted her, then married her was a mystery to him. If he were a normal man with a normal job, he would have done so the first time he met her. She’d affected him that strongly.
Quinn put a smile on his face and entered Daisy Fletcher’s bakery. One look behind the counter stole the smile right away.
Nellie clung to Daisy, while tears flowed down her cheeks.
crossed quickly to Nellie’s side. In a glance, he scanned her from head to toe to see if she’d been hurt, but found no evidence of injury. “Nellie? What happened?”
Daisy answered for her. “She’s just got terrible news, poor thing. Her brother-in-law’s been arrested. He’s been accused of stealing.”
“But, he couldn’t have.” Nellie lifted her tear-stained face and shook her head. “Henry would never have done anything so horrible. He’s not that kind of person.”
The bell above the door tinkled and Daisy turned Nellie toward Quinn. “Take her in the back, Mr. Walker,” she whispered “We don’t need everyone seeing how upset the lass is.”
Quinn wrapped his arm around Nellie’s shoulder and led her to the back of the bakery. When they reached a small office, he guided her to a chair, then pulled a second chair up close to her and sat. “Now, tell me what you know. What’s your brother-in-law’s name, and what is he accused of taking?”
Nellie pulled a clean handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her eyes. “Henry. Henry Dunston. He’s married to my sister Eileen. They’ve been married a little more than five years now and they have two small children. There’s a third on the way.”
Nellie trembled and Quinn reached for her hands and held them. The warmth he felt where their flesh connected traveled up his arm and settled in his chest.
“Henry is a secretary at Paxton Import and Export. Have you heard of it? ”
“Yes, Baron Paxton’s family has owned it for generations, as far as I know.”
“Yes. Henry’s been there since before he and Eileen married.”
“Tell me what happened.” Quinn rubbed his thumb against the top of Nellie’s hand.
“Well, I…I usually rise before Henry and Eileen in order to get to the bakery early—”
“So you live with your sister?”
“Yes. I have since I moved to London right after Eileen and Henry married. Henry’s wages at
the Paxton yards don’t amount to enough that they could afford to buy a house without an added income, so they offered to rent me a room. It was a godsend for me.” Nellie’s smile quivered. “Truly a godsend. I pay the same as I would if I lived in a boarding house, but it’s so much better being with Henry and Eileen, and the extra rent helps them out.”
When she paused, Quinn said, “Go on.”
“This morning, I was nearly ready to leave the house when the authorities came to the door. They demanded to see Henry. They had a warrant to search the house.”
“What were they searching for?”
“They were searching for money. For a portion of the cargo receipts from one of Baron Paxton’s ships.”
“Did they find it?”
Nellie sobbed again and Quinn leaned toward her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “What did they find?”
“They found an envelope hidden in a drawer in Henry’s desk. If you had seen Henry’s face you would have known that he was as surprised as anyone that it was there. He denied knowing anything about it, but…”
“The authorities didn’t believe him,” Quinn finished for her.
Nellie’s lips trembled as she dabbed at her tear-stained cheek. “Well
, how could they? It contained the exact amount Baron Paxton said was missing. To the shilling!”
“What happened then?”
“Oh, it was truly awful! They took Henry away! To the Metropolitan Police Headquarters. I ran there before coming to the bakery, but they wouldn’t let me see him. Oh, poor Eileen!”
The bell on the bakery door sounded, indicating the customer left, then Daisy entered the room. “There, there,” she said, pouring tea into two cups and handing one to Nellie and one to him. “You’ve had a terrible shock, Nellie. I’ve sent Jeremy to fetch Katie to come in to work. I want you to go home and be with your sister. She needs you now, and Katie and I can handle things here for the rest of the week.”
“Oh, no, Daisy. I couldn’t.”
“You can, and you will. I don’t want to see your face for one whole week. And more if you need it.”
“Oh, Daisy,” Nellie said through another rush of tears. “How can I ever thank you?”
Pish posh, I say. Go on with ya, now. This nice Mr. Walker here will see you get home safe. Eh?”
“Finish your tea,” Daisy ordered, “and I’ll wrap a few pastries to send home with you. I doubt your sister is in any shape to fix those young ones breakfast.”
Daisy left the room and Nellie lifted the cup to her mouth, but her hands shook so badly that she lowered the cup back to the saucer. “I’m sorry. I’m usually the sturdy one of the family. Eileen wears her heart out where everyone knows when there’s trouble. But she was doing much better than I when I left the house. I’m just so frightened. I don’t know how we can ever prove Henry’s innocence.”
Quinn took the cup and saucer from Nellie as he helped her to her feet. “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”
He knew he had no right, but he couldn’t stop himself from pulling her close and holding her.
The need to comfort her threatened to overwhelm him. He held her until Daisy walked back into the room, then reluctantly separated himself from her.
“Where’s your coat?” he asked.
“On the hook behind the door.”
Quinn got her coat. It was nothing more than a light shawl, which was enough for now, since the sun was up and the day was warming. But he doubted such a thin covering did much to protect her from a chill when she walked to work each morning before dawn.
He helped her on with her wrap, then took the package of pastries from Daisy.
“Don’t think of coming in to work until things have settled. Katie’s here already and said she’ll work until you can return.”
Nellie flew into Daisy’s arms and clung to her for several moments.
“Hush now, lass,” Daisy crooned. “You keep me informed, mind you. I want to know when you find out who played such a wicked trick on Mr. Dunston.”
“Do you think it was a trick, Daisy?” Nellie asked.
“What else could it be? I’ve met your sister’s husband those few times when your sister sent him to bring you home after dark. Wasn’t a nicer man to be found in London.” She turned her head to give Quinn a wink. “’Cept for Mr. Walker, here.”
“You don’t have to flatter me, Daisy. I’m already in love with you.”
Daisy laughed. “No you’re not, lad. You’re in love with my
lemon tea cakes. You can’t fool me.”
Daisy laughed again, then her expression turned serious. “You take care of my girl, here, mind you,” she said.
“I will. Things will be better soon.”
Daisy opened the door that led to an alley behind the bakery, and Quinn found his arm sliding around Nellie’s waist as he led her out.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“On Castle Street. Number 16.”
Quinn walked to the end of the alley, then turned to the left. Neither of them spoke as they approached a small park. And then the regular click of her heels stuttered as she hesitated near a park bench. She turned and put her small gloved hand on his arm. “Would you mind if we talked for a moment?” Nellie inquired. “I need to ask you something.”
“Of course.” Quinn led her to the bench then sat beside her.
Nellie sat in silence for a few moments before turning toward him. “I need your help, Mr. Walker.” Her voice sounded more confident now, as if she’d made up her mind about something she’d been struggling with. “I’ve known for some time now that you’re one of the Brigadesmen. I mean, I can’t believe there are only six of you because you’re all over the place. Really, Mr. Quinn, all of London talks about you. Or rather them. The Bedford Street Brigade, that is.”
“It’s sometimes not wise to believe everything you hear.”
“Except in this case. I know I can.” She paused, then continued. “I also know that you do not work cheaply.”
Quinn reached for her hands. “You don’t have to worry about paying me. I’ve already decided to help you.”
“Oh, thank you,” Nellie cried, then threw herself against him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him. “You don’t know how grateful I am.”
Quinn nestled her close and held her. When she started to pull away, he released her, but wrapped his fingers around her upper arms and looked into her eyes. “I need you to answer a question.”
Nellie looked into his eyes. “Of course. What do you need to know?”
“I want you to think very carefully before you answer because I need your answer to be totally honest.”
Nellie nodded. A tendril of auburn hair slipped to spiral down at the side of her face.
Quinn tucked it behind her ear. “Is there any chance, even the slightest possibility, that your brother-in-law could be guilty?”
When Nellie started to answer immediately, Quinn lifted her hands and held them. “Think carefully, Nellie. This is important.”