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Authors: Chris Nickson

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BOOK: The Broken Token
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Nottingham sighed. The deaths had all been so futile. “He’s mad. But he’ll hang soon enough.” He poured himself a mug of ale from the jug on the table and produced a
piece of paper from his pocket. “He wouldn’t have hurt Emily. He left a letter for her.”

She took her hands from the bowl and wiped them on an old piece of cloth.

“What does it say?” she asked him.

“That he has to leave her, he’ll never forget her, and he’ll send for her,” he answered with disgust. “All the words to tear a young girl’s heart apart.
It’ll be bad enough when I tell her he’s to die, without her seeing this.”

Mary raised an eyebrow.

“Are you going to give it to her?”

He shook his head quietly.

“I can’t. She might believe him.” He walked over to the fire and tossed the paper into the flame, waiting until it all turned to ash. Emily need never know about
Crandall’s letter, thank God. And she’d learn all about his evil.

“Richard?” she said softly, reaching out her hands. He took them, rubbing his fingers over the skin of her palms. “She’s going to hate you, but give her time, please.
She’s never been in love before and her world’s just been turned upside down.”

He wanted to smile and reassure her, but he couldn’t. Instead he gently kissed the backs of her hands and said, “I need to sleep.”


Crandall was committed to the Quarter Sessions. Nottingham gave his evidence, then sat at the front of the court. He watched the curate’s pale, almost lifeless face
throughout, and supervised as he was led away to the secure jail under the Moot Hall. There was no doubt as to the end; Crandall was already a dead man in everything but fact.

On his way back he stopped to see Meg, to tell her that justice had been done, and repeat what he’d heard in Chapel Allerton. It was cold comfort, he knew, but at least now she could begin
to understand. As much as anyone could understand lunacy. The logic of it was like dew, Nottingham thought; it evaporated in the light.

Sir Robert Bartlett had sent a note filled with apologies. Such a long time had passed since Pamela left, and although he knew the curate had gone to Leeds, he’d never suspected a man of
the cloth of murder. He felt a fool. But he was no more a fool than anyone else, thought the Constable.

After a few days, life began to fall into its old patterns. Crime continued; cutpurses and pickpockets struck, men fought after drinking. It was all simple stuff, nothing his
men couldn’t handle. After finishing his work, Nottingham began going next door to the White Swan for a couple of mugs of ale before walking home. His house had become a tense place. Emily,
the bruise on her cheek just beginning to fade, wouldn’t speak to him. He wanted to talk to her, but Mary kept counselling him to be patient.

He was ruminating, sipping idly from the cup, when Sedgwick sat down heavily across the table, wearing his first smile in a week.

“Good news?”

“I’ve got James back,” Sedgwick beamed. “Turns out Annie was happy to give him up. Got hersen a soldier and she’s off with him.”

“You’ll see he’s brought up right.” Nottingham raised the mug in a toast.

“Aye, boss, I will.”

“Who’s going to look after him, though?” he wondered. As far as he knew, Sedgwick had no family to call on.

“There’s a lass I know. She’s going to move in.” A faint blush of embarrassment crossed his cheeks.

“Good luck to you.” He felt genuinely happy for the deputy.

“She’s a prostitute,” Sedgwick admitted.

“As long as she’s not one of Worthy’s girls,” Nottingham warned him with a wink.

Sedgwick smiled, glancing around the inn, then brought his head closer to the Constable’s, speaking in a quiet, secretive voice.

“I was wondering, boss…” he began, then drew a breath and continued. “You said I’d need to learn to read and write to get on.”

“You do.”

“And now it’s me and James – ”

“ – and your new girl,” the Constable added, smiling.

“Her, too,” he agreed readily. “Well, would you teach me? You were right, I’ve seen that.”

Nottingham leaned back. For the first time since this business had begun, his heart felt lighter.

“I’d be glad to, John.”

He left Sedgwick to drink to a happier future. Instead of walking over Timble Bridge back to Marsh Lane, he headed down Briggate, past the bellowing laughter and voices from
the taverns and the whores touting for business. On Swine Gate he walked into Worthy’s house. The woman sat sleeping in the front room, a glass of gin on the table beside her, but the
children had gone.

The pimp was holding court in the kitchen, perched on a high stool close to the blazing fire. Two girls and three of his men stood in the room, off guard until Nottingham entered, when the men
began to reach for knives and cudgels. Worthy waved them back casually as he turned to the Constable with a wintery smile.

“I’ll give you this, laddie – you’ve got balls showing yourself here.” He dismissed the others with terse words: “You useless lot have work to do, so
you’d better get doing it,” and waited until the room was empty.

“Sit down,” Worthy said, indicating a battered wooden chair across the small, overheated room. “So you think it’s polite to welsh on a deal to give me the curate and
still walk into my house, Constable?”

“From what he told me, you had him and he escaped again,” Nottingham answered mildly, watching the other man. “You knew I could never keep the bargain, Amos.”

Worthy gave a curt nod.

“I wanted to know how desperate you were, Mr Nottingham.”

“And you found out.” The Constable sat back.

“That’s not why you’re here, though,” the pimp told him.

“Isn’t it?” Nottingham asked.

Worthy’s face relaxed into a rictus grin.

“Of course not, laddie. You have things you need to ask me.”

Nottingham let the statement hang between them. Finally he said, “Since you seem to know the answers, why don’t you save me the trouble of questions?”

“But it’s your job to ask questions, Mr Nottingham,” the pimp smirked. “I wouldn’t deprive you of that.”

Sod it, Nottingham thought. He wasn’t in the mood to play these games this evening. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to think about why he hadn’t shot Worthy on
the river-bank. But the pimp was right, he had questions that needed answers.

“The token, Amos,” he started. “You knew what it meant when you saw Emily wearing it. How? How did you know?”

“Straight to the crux, laddie?” Worthy taunted.

Nottingham nodded. It was the real question, one he’d gone over so many times since Crandall’s arrest. How could Worthy have known about the token?

“And tell me the truth.”

The pimp appraised him warily and raised an eyebrow.

“If you’re sure that’s what you want.”

“I am,” the Constable said decisively.

Worthy shrugged, then gathered his thoughts for a moment. Finally he reached into his deep waistcoat pocket, feeling around before drawing something out and tossing it on the table between

“Look at it,” he commanded.

It took Nottingham a few seconds to realise exactly what he was seeing. At first he thought it was the token, that somehow Worthy had picked his pocket. His hand went to his breeches… and
then he understood. It was the other half, the metal rubbed shiny by the years, a hole neatly drilled through the metal. When he was younger he’d dreamed of this time. Now the moment left him
defenceless. In shock he raised his eyes to Worthy.

“Does that explain anything to you?” the pimp asked coldly.

He didn’t know how to answer. A chill filled him. He stared at the other half of the token again.

“No,” he replied thickly. He reached out, picked it up and polished it with his fingers before putting it back on the table. Like this it explained nothing at all.

“Now, are you sure still want the whole truth?”

Nottingham nodded.

“Please,” he said, knowing he was begging and not caring. He had to hear the tale.

Worthy raised a thick eyebrow. “Right, then. You remember what happened when you were a lad?” he asked, searching for confirmation in Nottingham’s eyes. “You know your
mother took a lover? Well, that lover was me. I don’t suppose it matters any more how it happened, save that we didn’t meet until after you were born – you were three, in fact.
But your father found out eventually, and convinced himself that you couldn’t be his son. So he turned the pair of you out, never mind that the house was a place she’d inherited from
her father.” Worthy coughed, picked up a glass of gin from the table and swallowed it in one swoop. “You remember leaving?”

The Constable nodded. He’d tried to put it from his mind, but he’d never been able to completely.

“She turned to me. I’d have helped her if I could. But your father had decided to destroy me, too.” For a minute he appeared lost in his reflections, but Nottingham stayed
silent, scarcely breathing. “He was a powerful man in this city, was your father. I was in trade, not a merchant, not that class, although they were my main customers. Your father made sure
they all knew who was responsible for the downfall of his wife. Within two months I didn’t have a business any more. He’d succeeded.”

“What about my mother?” Nottingham’s voice was dry, his throat suddenly parched.

A wan smile crossed Worthy’s face.

“I had no money left to support her, lad. I had no reputation, I had nothing. I tried thieving for a while, but I wasn’t any good at it. I wanted my revenge on them all, though. Your
mother had been forced to whore, just to make ends meet.” His words tailed off. “She hated it, you know,” he said, looking at Nottingham. “There just wasn’t anything
else she could do, she had no skills, no one would take her as a servant with a child, especially a fallen woman. So she did the only thing she could. When I started running girls just to get by
she started to despise me. I was making money, but she wouldn’t take any when I tried to give it to her. Then she refused to take any comfort in me.” He shrugged. “So finally I
stopped coming around where I wasn’t wanted any more. She wouldn’t even let me near.”

When he finished, the only sounds were muffled, only half-heard from other parts of the house.

“The token?” Nottingham prompted him.

“I made it when she was still with your father. Cut the coin and drilled the holes myself. It was our secret, our bond.” He began to cough again, then spat phlegm on the flagstone
floor before nodding at the coin. “Take it.”

The Constable hesitated.

“Take it, laddie. I’ve told you the story now.”

Abruptly, Worthy turned and left the room.

Nottingham stood slowly. The muscles in his back ached and he took time to stretch. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to hear when he arrived, but it hadn’t been this. He
reached out and closed his fingers around the token, weighing it lightly, looking at the way time had eroded the design. Worthy had carried it around all the time. His mind felt as if it was
tumbling around him, bringing to light things he’d locked away for years. Then he slipped it into his pocket, where it could finally join its mate after so long. He made his way down the
hall. Worthy was in the front room, standing over the old woman in the chair.

“Think on, lad. The past is past. You’ll get nowt for dwelling on it. The present is the only thing that counts.”


Very little of 1731 Leeds remains nowadays. There are two churches (St John’s and Holy Trinity – the present parish church dates from the 1800s), the Ship Inn, and
Turk’s Head Yard. The old street names are still there, however – although you’ll never find Queen Charlotte’s Court, which is my invention – in very much the same
layout. Richard Nottingham and John Sedgwick might gaze in stupefaction and horror at many of the modern buildings, but they’d still be able to navigate from place to place.

I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with my history, and I owe a debt to several wonderful books, notably
The Illustrated History of Leeds
, by Steven Burt and
Kevin Grady (Breedon, 1994),
The Municipal History of Leeds
, by James Wardell (Longman, Brown, 1846),
, by Ivan Broadhead (Smith Settle, 1990),
The Merchants’ Golden
Age: Leeds 1700-1790
, by Steven Burt and Kevin Grady (Grady and Burt, 1987),
Chapel Allerton: From Village to Suburb
, by R Faulker (Chapel Allerton Residents’ Association, no
date), and a number of publications from the excellent and helpful Thoresby Society, as well the seminal work on Leeds,
Ducatus Leodiensis
, by Ralph Thoresby (handily available on CD-ROM).
Any historical failings are purely my own.

I was born and raised in Leeds, but the real genesis of
The Broken Token
happened far away, when I lived in Seattle. I’d go back to Leeds regularly, but it was the advent of eBay
that brought a number of the above works into my possession.

Although this book has my name on the cover, several others have played important roles in bringing it to publication. Lynne Patrick of Crème de la Crime believed in the
novel, Thom Atkinson (a superb writer) offered his insightful and constructive criticism, ideas, and above all, friendship. Linda Hornberg gave her skills to draw the wonderful map. Shonaleigh gave
graceful lessons in the art of storytelling, and Emma performed an initial edit. Without all of you, this would never have come to fruition, and I’m hugely grateful to you.

BOOK: The Broken Token
2.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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