Authors: Anne Perry
“Possibly,” Narraway conceded. “One thing for certain, I don’t know how he could have been shot through the window, in the back of his head, and fallen like that.”
“He wasn’t moved,” Pitt said with certainty. “If he had been, there’d be blood all over the place. A wound like…”
“I can see that for myself!” Narraway’s voice was suddenly thick, emotion crowding through it. It could have been pity, or even sheer physical revulsion. “Of course he wasn’t moved. Why the hell would they move him? He was shot from inside the room, that’s obvious. The question is why, and by whom? Maybe you’re right, and he was a hostage.
“God Almighty, what a mess! Well, get up off the floor, man! The surgeon will come and get him, and we’ll see if he can tell us anything. We must question these two before the police muddy everything up. I hate using them but I have no choice. That’s the law!” He swung around and strode to the door. “Well, come on! Let’s see what they have at the back!”
Downstairs the sergeant on duty was defiant, as if Narraway accused him of having let the murderer past.
“We didn’t see ’im, sir. Your man came down the stairs, yellin’ after ’im, but ’e din’t go past us! You must ’ave still got ’im somewhere.”
“Which man of mine?” Narraway demanded.
“ ’Ow could we know, sir?” the sergeant asked. “ ’E just came runnin’ down the stairs shoutin’ at us ter stop ’im, but there weren’t no one ter stop!”
“We found two anarchists alive and one dead,” Narraway said grimly. “There were four men in that room, maybe five. That means at least one got away.”
The sergeant’s face set hard, his blue eyes like stone.
“If you say so, sir. But ’e din’t come past us. Maybe ’e doubled back on the ground floor and went out the front, while you was upstairs, sir?” It was said with an insolent edge. Some police did not like being seconded to do Special Branch’s arrest work, but since Special Branch had no power to do it themselves, there was no choice.
“Or went out and straight back into one of the other buildings?” Pitt suggested quickly. “We’d better search them all.”
“Do it,” Narraway said curtly. “And look everywhere, in every room, in beds, if there are any, cupboards, under rubbish or old clothes, if there are lofts, even if it’s only space enough to crawl. And up the chimneys, such as they are.” He turned and strode along the length of the alley, staring up at the other houses, at the rooftops and at every door. Pitt followed on his heels.
Fifteen minutes later they were back at the front door on Long Spoon Lane. The full daylight was cold and gray and there was a sharp edge to the wind down the alley. No anarchist had been found hiding anywhere. No policeman from the front admitted to having seen anyone or having chased them inside the building, and no one had emerged at the front. The sergeant at the back did not change his story by so much as a word.
White-faced and furious, Narraway was forced to accept that whoever else had been in the house where Magnus Landsborough lay dead, he, or they, had escaped.
“Nothing!” the young man with the dark hair replied with contempt. He was in the cell at the police station, sitting on a straight-backed wooden chair, his hands still manacled. The only light came from one small, high window in the outer wall. He had said his name was Welling, but he would give no more. Both Pitt and Narraway had tried to glean from him any information about his colleagues, their aims or allies, where they had obtained the dynamite or the money to purchase it.
The man with the fair skin and red-gold hair had given his name as Carmody, but he too refused to say anything of his fellows. He was in a separate cell; for the moment, alone.
Narraway leaned back against the whitewashed stone wall, his face creased with tiredness.
“No point in asking anymore.” His voice was flat, as if accepting defeat. “They’ll go to the grave without telling us what it’s all about. Either they don’t know the point of it, or there isn’t one. It’s just mindless violence for the sake of it.”
“I know!” Welling said between his teeth.
Narraway looked at him, affecting only the slightest interest. “Really? You will go to your grave, and I shall not know,” he continued. “That’s unusual for an anarchist. Most of you are fighting for something, and a grand gesture like being hanged is rather pointless if no one knows why you go to it like a cow to the abattoir.”
Welling froze, his eyes wide, his lean chest barely rising or falling with his breath. “You can’t hang me. No one was killed. One constable was hit, and you can’t prove that was me, because it wasn’t.”
“Wasn’t it?” Narraway said casually, as if he neither knew nor cared if it were true.
“You bastard!” Welling spat with stinging contempt. Suddenly his pretense of calm was gone, and the anger exploded through him. His face was slicked with sweat, his eyes widened. “You’re just like the police—corrupt to the bone!” His voice shook. “No, it wasn’t me! But you don’t care, do you! Just so long as you have someone to blame, and anyone will do!”
For a moment Pitt was merely aware that Narraway had provoked Welling into response, then he realized what Welling had said about the police. It was not the accusation that stung, but the passion in his voice. He believed what he was saying, enough to face them with it, even now when it could cost him the last hope of mercy.
“There’s a lot of difference between incompetence and corruption,” Pitt said. “Of course there’s the odd bad policeman, just as there is the odd bad doctor, or…” He stopped. The scorn in Welling’s face was so violent that it distorted his features grotesquely, like a white mask under his black hair.
Narraway did not interrupt. He watched Pitt, then Welling, waiting for the next one to speak.
Pitt breathed in and out slowly. The silence prickled.
“Don’t tell me you care!” Welling made it a stinging accusation.
“Neither do you, apparently,” Pitt replied, forcing himself to smile. That was not easy. He had been a policeman all his adult life. He had devoted his time and energy, working long days, enduring emotional exhaustion to seek justice, or at least some resolution of tragedy and crime. To place a slur on both the honesty and the ideals of the men he worked with robbed from him the meaning of a quarter of a century of his past, and his belief in the force that defended the future. Without police of integrity there was no justice but vengeance, and no protection but the violence of the powerful. That truly was anarchy. And this smug young man in front of him would lose as much as anyone. He could survive to plant his bombs only because the rest of society obeyed the laws.
Pitt let his own contempt fill his voice when he answered. “If the police were largely corrupt, you wouldn’t be sitting here being questioned,” he said gratingly. “We’d simply have shot you. It would be easy enough to make an excuse afterward. Any story would do!” He heard how harsh and on the edge of control he sounded. “You sit here to face trial precisely because we keep the law you break. It is you who are a hypocrite, and corrupt. You not only lie to us, you lie to yourself!”
Welling’s anger blazed. “Of course you could shoot us!” he said, leaning forward. “And you probably will! Just like you shot Magnus!”
Pitt stared at him, and realized with rising horror that Welling really was afraid. His words were not bravado; he believed them. He thought he was going to be murdered here.
Pitt turned to Narraway, who addressed the prisoner. “Magnus Landsborough was shot from behind,” he said carefully. “He fell forward, with his head towards the window.”
“He wasn’t shot from outside,” Welling responded. “It was one of your people coming up from the back. As I said, as corrupt as hell itself.”
“You’ve proved nothing,” Pitt countered. “And it’s only just happened, so it could hardly be motive for bombing Myrdle Street. Why Myrdle Street, anyway? What did those people ever do to you? Or doesn’t it matter who it is?”
“Of course I don’t have proof of corruption,” Welling said bitterly, straightening his body again. “You’ll cover it up, just like you do all the rest. And you know why Myrdle Street.”
“All the rest of what?” Narraway asked him. He was standing elegantly, leaning against the wall, his thin body tense. He was not a big man. He was shorter than Pitt and much lighter, but there was a wiry strength in him.
Welling considered before he replied. He seemed to be weighing the risks against the values of talking. When he finally did, he still gave the impression of being in the grasp of anger rather than reason.
“Depends where you are and who you are,” he said. “What crimes you get caught for, and what gets overlooked—if you put a little money the right way.” He looked from one to the other of them. “If you run a string of thieves, give a proportion of your take to the local police station and no one’ll bother you. Have a shop or a business in certain places and you won’t get robbed. Have it somewhere else and you will.” His eyes were hot and angry, his body stiff.
It was a massive charge he was making, hideous in its implications.
“Who told you all this?” Narraway inquired.
“Told me?” Welling snapped back. “The poor devils who are paying, of course. But I didn’t expect you to believe me. You’ve a vested interest in pretending not to. Ask around Smithfield, the Clerkenwell Road, and south to Newgate or Holborn. There are scores of alleys and back streets full of people who’d tell you the same. I’ll not give you their names, or next thing they’ll have to pay twice as much, or have the police all of a sudden find stolen goods in their houses.”
Narraway’s face reflected open disbelief. Pitt did not know if it was real, or a mask put on precisely to provoke Welling to continue talking.
“Go ask Birdie Waters up the Mile End Road!” Welling charged. “But he’s in the Coldbath Prison right now. Doing time for receiving, except he didn’t even know he had the things. Silver, from a robbery in Belgravia.” His voice hurt with rage. “Birdie’s never been to Belgravia in his life.”
“Are you saying the police put it there?” Pitt interrupted whatever Narraway had been going to say.
“That’s only one of a dozen,” Welling retorted. “Good, decent people are being robbed, injured, frightened into giving up their honor and their business, and the police look whichever way suits them best.” He was close to tears with frustration. “The whole government wants throwing out, destroying, before it twists us all so tight we have nothing left to fight with. We need to make a clean sweep, start over.” He jerked his head violently. “Get rid of them all, the greedy, lying, corrupt…” He stopped suddenly, his body sagging as if the spirit had gone out of him. He turned away. “But you’re government—police,” he said helplessly. “Everything you want, your money, your power, it’s all tied up in keeping things as they are. You’re all part of it, whether you know it or not. You can’t afford to escape!” He gave a wild laugh. “Where would you go?” He held his chin high, eyes blazing, but without hope.
Pitt’s mind was racing. Many of the streets Welling had spoken of were within the Bow Street area, policed by his own old station, men he had worked with, commanded. Now it was under Superintendent Wetron, who was of the Metropolitan Police—and the Inner Circle. But Pitt refused to believe that he could have changed things so dreadfully in little more than a year.
Welling was staring at him, understanding of his defeat in his face already. He gave a jerky little laugh, as if to protect his vulnerability from showing. “You don’t dare believe it, do you!” he said wretchedly.
“Why Myrdle Street?” Pitt asked again, going back to the unanswered question. “They’re just ordinary people.”
The sneer twisted Welling’s face again. “Police,” he said the single word with a snarl.
“Police?” Pitt questioned.
“As if you didn’t know!”
“I don’t! I’m Special Branch.”
Welling blinked. “The house in the middle was Grover’s. He’s Simbister’s man! Cannon Street.”
“And that is worthy of a death sentence?” Narraway inquired icily.
Welling was defiant, his eyes filled with hate. “Yes! If you’d watched him, seen him hurt and humiliate people…yes, it is!”
Narraway straightened up away from the wall.
“You are not judge, jury, and executioner, Mr. Welling. You take rights that are not yours.”
“Then you do it!” Welling shouted at him. “Someone has to!”
Narraway ignored him and turned to Pitt. “I shall go to inform Lord Landsborough of his son’s death. It will be necessary for him to identify the body.” His voice was perfectly steady. “You go back to Long Spoon Lane and examine everything again. I should like to know for myself who murdered Magnus Landsborough, and if possible why. It seems peculiarly pointless, but then I suppose anarchy is pointless by definition.”
“You murdered him!” Welling spat, tears on his white face. “Because he was our leader. Can’t you understand that when you cut one of us down, another will rise up to take his place! Over and over as many times as it needs. You can’t kill everybody. After all, who would do the work then? Who would you govern?” His voice shook with passion. “Can’t have a government unless there’s someone to hew the wood and draw the water, someone to take the orders and do as they’re told.”
Narraway did not look at him. “And I should like to demonstrate to Mr. Welling that one of his own people is responsible for the death of his leader,” he added. “We don’t shoot people we need to get rid of. We hang them.” With that he turned and walked out of the room leaving Pitt to follow him. Welling stared after them, his eyes scalding in tears of helplessness.
Narraway had to make several inquiries and it took him until the middle of the afternoon before he walked up the steps of the Atheneum at 107 Pall Mall to speak to Lord Landsborough. Narraway was a member, or of course he could not have entered, Special Branch or not.
“Yes, sir,” the steward said quietly, his voice little more than a whisper. “Shall I inform his lordship you are here?”
“A private room,” Narraway instructed him. “I am afraid I have very bad news for his lordship. You might see that there is a decent brandy and glasses on the table.”