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Authors: Chris Nickson

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BOOK: The Broken Token
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He put the quill down and stretched.

“Find anything, John?” he asked wearily. With his long legs, the lad always looked awkward, never seemed completely at home in his tall body with its pox-scarred face. But there was
intelligence in his eyes and a warm smile that invited confidences.

“Bugger all,” Sedgwick replied, shaking his head in frustration. “The only glimmer I got was a man at the other end of the yard who heard a noise.”

“Anything worthwhile?”

“He said he might have heard a short scream, sort of stifled, then a blow.” Sedgwick shrugged and kept his eyes on the Constable.

And he wouldn’t have got up to look, the Constable knew. People didn’t want to see, because to see was to be involved, and he didn’t blame them. Most lives had trouble enough
without seeking more.

“He was the only one who heard anything?”

“So far. I’m going back later and find the people who weren’t there this morning.”

“You were at the Market Cross last Saturday, weren’t you?” Nottingham asked.

Sedgwick grinned. “Oh aye. The way that preacher was acting I wasn’t even sure he wanted to get out. He seemed to enjoy the attention, if you ask me.”

“Why do you think they went for him?” the Constable pondered. He hadn’t understood their reaction. Maybe it had been a factor or motive for murder.

“Why?” Sedgwick looked astonished at the question. “Well, look at it, boss. They hear enough about God as it is, right?” Nottingham nodded. “You’re poor and
someone tells you that your lot in life is to suffer but you’ll have your reward in heaven. Now, that’s meant to make you feel better about not having anything while you’re here,
but it’s all nothing.” He glanced at the Constable, who was concentrating fiercely on his words. “Heaven isn’t helping when there’s no jobs and you can’t pay the
rent, is it?” He felt himself begin to redden with anger but didn’t stop. “All it does is keep the rich richer. Then this bugger comes along, and he’s obviously got money,
too. He starts spouting on about how we’re all equal in the eyes of God, when most of us know we have nothing. But he still wants us all to pray for our salvation. How would you

“So someone spotted him last night and decided to send him off to God?” Nottingham speculated. It was possible.

“Happen so,” Sedgwick agreed, his fury spent. “He was with a whore, after all.”

The Constable shifted in his seat. He had to tell the deputy about Pamela.

“There’s something you’d better know, John. That whore was once our servant.”

“Oh?” Sedgwick raised his eyebrows. The gesture tilted a small knife scar beside his mouth and gave him a ghoulish smile. “Did you have to turn her out?”

Nottingham gazed at him levelly. “She left nine years ago to marry a farm labourer. Evidently she came back to Leeds a year back, after he died.”

Sedgwick lowered his eyes. That explained a lot, he thought.

“Sorry, boss,” he apologised hurriedly, “I didn’t mean any disrespect. Do you think she’s important in this?”

“I don’t know,” the Constable admitted with a baffled shake of his head. For now he knew very little. “But we’re going to find out. She used to be called Pamela
Watson, then she was Pamela Malham out in Chapel Allerton. See what you can find about her,” he ordered briskly.

“Yes, sir.”

“I talked to Rawlinson earlier. He said the preacher went out for a walk after supper last night. I want to know who saw him, where and when.” Nottingham paused, looking worried.
“The Mayor’s going to want the person who killed the preacher. Leeds has to look respectable and safe. And I want the bastard who killed Pamela.”

He needed to know more about Daniel Morton. Nothing the preacher had told Rawlinson could be taken at face value; words could be twisted into so many fabulous shapes. So in his
best hand Nottingham composed a letter to the Constable of Oxford, asking for any information about Morton’s background and character, then dispatched it to leave with a coach the following

With the state of the roads it could be a fortnight before he heard anything. Hopefully he’d have the killings solved long before he received word, but it would all contribute to building
a picture. With no immediate leads he’d snatch at every scrap of knowledge he could gather.

Nottingham sat back in his chair, concentrating, fingers steepled in front of his mouth. He barely noticed the afternoon tumult of the street outside, the carters cursing at each other as they
angled for room on Kirkgate, the clatter of horses’ hooves, the constant bristle of conversation and the cries of vendors as they tried to sell out their wares for the day.

He was groping in the dark at the moment; he needed a way into the maze of this mystery. All he had were the bodies of two apparently unconnected people who’d been murdered together. He
needed something… anything.

Finally he stood up. He headed down Briggate in firm, concentrated strides. Just before Leeds Bridge he turned on to Swinegate, walking past the King’s Mill with its wheels still loudly
and busily grinding corn into flour, then along a row of cramped, dilapidated cottages and artisan dwellings that looked on the verge of toppling over. A cobbler had his goods displayed in the wide
front window of a house, the sound of his hammer against the last echoing across the street as he worked. Heat escaped like a thick sheet from the blacksmith’s forge, while next door a stable
reeked of horse dung as an ostler’s boy shovelled the steaming mess on to a larger pile against the wall. Servants shopped late for their mistresses, talking and laughing loudly as they
passed, enjoying the brief respite from the grind of their chores. Another frontage was piled with chandlers’ goods – coiled ropes, canvas duck, and all manner of items for the barges
that plied the Aire. Outside the door, two women, both haggard and old before their time, chatted earnestly as their children played in the dirt, close to the puddles and mud where people had
slopped the contents of the chamber pots into the street that morning. Somewhere in an upstairs room a baby was yelling, its cries going unheeded.

Without stopping to knock or announce himself, Nottingham slipped through a small door into a house that reeked foully of sweat and excrement. Thin light came through a dirty window, showing a
pair of boys, neither of them more than five, their faces grimed almost black, playing on the filthy floor. A woman of indeterminate age sat on a chair in the corner, her eyes closed, oblivious to
the world, an empty cup of gin on the table beside her.

He followed the passage through to the kitchen, a tumbledown affair that had been added to the house sometime in the past hundred years and never cleaned since the day it was built. The man he
was seeking would be there, enjoying the sun through the window and the heat of the cooking fire.

Amos Worthy was leaning against a wall, eyeing a girl who stood in the centre of the room. She kept glancing up at him nervously, her face blushing red from his gaze, scarcely a day over
thirteen. Seeing her, Nottingham thought of Emily, safe and sheltered at home. This lass had probably just arrived from one of the villages, hungry and in need of the only work she could find in
the city.

Worthy was a procurer, one who ran many of the prostitutes in Leeds. By rights he should have been before the Assizes many times over, convicted and hanged or transported to America. But several
of the city’s aldermen used his whores; he provided them with girls and in return they kept him safe from the law. His finger was firm on the pulse of the city’s crime.

Worthy turned his head, saw the Constable, and casually instructed the girl to come back later that evening, watching as she scuttled away.

Although he had to be well into his sixties, Worthy still cut a powerful figure. He was an inch or two taller than Nottingham, with a stiff, straight back and a barrel chest. His nose had been
broken and badly reset so often that it curved awkwardly and unevenly across his face.

Two of the Constable’s men had once worked for Worthy, and told with awe how the man always relished a fight, first into the conflict with fists and boots flailing and last to leave, his
cheeks flushed with blood and battle lust. His vicious reputation went beyond men; Worthy was also ruthless with his girls. If one didn’t do as she was told, he beat her bloody with his own
hands. A repeat offence brought cuts from the razor he kept in his waistcoat pocket. If there was ever a third instance, the girl simply disappeared.

“Mr Nottingham,” he said lazily. “A pleasure to see you here.”

There was no trepidation in his eyes, merely a mocking smile. Worthy was a rich man, even if he spent little of his wealth on his clothes or his surroundings, and even less on his girls. Yet no
matter how full his coffers or however many favours the people who ran Leeds owed him, his profession and low birth made him socially unacceptable. However important he was, the order of things
kept him at arm’s length – but within easy reach.

“I’m sure you heard about the murders last night,” Nottingham began bluntly.

“Always unfortunate when people are killed,” Worthy agreed, calmly picking at a tooth with his thumbnail. “Especially when one of them is a guest in our city. But it’s
nothing to do with me, Constable.”

He grinned, holding up a tiny piece of food for inspection before wiping it on his greasy coat.

“You deal in girls,” Nottingham pointed out. “She was a prostitute.”

Worthy shrugged carelessly. “Another girl. You know there’s no shortage of them.” He fixed the Constable with a pointed gaze. “If she’d been one of mine you’d
have heard about it by now.” He made it sound like a threat.

“Did you know her?”

“Of her.” He chose his words carefully. “She came to me last year, but I turned her away. She was too old for the tastes of my customers. They prefer someone…

“Like the girl who was just here,” Nottingham said, keeping his tone deliberately even.

“Exactly, Constable,” Worthy smiled sharply, showing jagged teeth. “Pretty little thing, ain’t she? Still got her youth, and maybe even her maidenhead, too. She’ll
be good for three or four years yet… as long she does what I tell her.”

The Constable let Worthy’s bait dangle between them for a few heartbeats. Then he calmly asked, “Can you tell me anything about the girl who was killed?”

The procurer considered the question before answering.

“I used to see her at the Ship sometimes. I don’t think anyone ran her, I’d have heard if they did. But for the little she’d earn, it would be a waste of time. I
couldn’t even tell you her name.”

“Pamela.” The Constable supplied the name firmly.

Worthy nodded as if he’d learned an interesting new fact.

“One way or another, they all die.” He paused before adding, “You should know that all too well, Mr Nottingham.”

The Constable stared hard at Worthy, wondering at the meaning beneath the words. He desperately wanted to smash the smugness from Worthy’s face, but knew better than to do it. He breathed
in and out slowly and said, “I’d be interested in knowing if she had any friends, or any regular customers, anyone who knew her.”

“You know me, always of service.” This time the grin was wolfish. “If I find anyone, I’ll let you know.”


Nottingham had scarcely returned to the jail before a messenger arrived, summoning him to an audience with the Mayor. He’d expected it, and sooner rather than later, but
he’d still hoped for a small reprieve, at least until tomorrow, when he might have known a little more about the murders.

Edward Kenion had only been sworn into office ten days before, and this would be their first official meeting. Kenion would be eager to establish his authority as Mayor, and that meant he would
want a quick solution to the preacher’s murder to gain the confidence of the merchants and the Corporation.

Grimly, Nottingham ran a hand through his hair, and vainly tried to brush the worst of the dirt off his old coat before walking over to the Moot Hall.

The elaborate two-storey building stood like an island in the middle of Briggate, forcing traffic to flow around it. In the cellar lay a dank, secure jail for prisoners committed to the Quarter
Sessions for serious crimes, a place to pass the days until sentence of transportation or the noose. The ground floor was given over to the Shambles, the city’s butchers’ shops. Around
them the paving stones were permanently discoloured by blood, and a small pack of salivating dogs circled hungrily all day, fighting as they hunted for offal and scraps.

Upstairs, however, it was a different world. Everything was quiet and luxurious. The wood was polished to a deep, lustrous brown, and the rooms had thick Turkey carpets to hush the footfalls.
The business of the city was carried out and the future of its citizens decided in meetings and unreported conversations. The windows, appropriately, looked down on the bustle of Leeds.

Kenion was waiting for him, not yet quite at home in the Mayor’s chamber. He’d hold the position until next September, then another alderman would take over for the following twelve
months. Nottingham had seen them come and go, some venal, a few good, most just taking it as their reward for faithful service.

To his eyes Kenion appeared nondescript, a man of average height, with a pale, astonished face and hook nose, neither thin nor fat, a fellow who seemed to disappear into his wig and clothes. But
that anonymity only made him all the more dangerous, the Constable decided. He’d want to make his mark if he could. What happened now would set the tone between them for the next year, and
they both knew it.

“Sit down.” Kenion gestured at a chair, and Nottingham folded himself into it. The Mayor remained standing.

“I’ve had Alderman Rawlinson here,” he began slowly.

“About Mr Morton’s death, of course,” the Constable said smoothly, hoping he could put the Mayor on the back foot. “A terrible business.”

“Yes.” Kenion seemed a little nonplussed and Nottingham continued to take the initiative.

“I understand how devastated he must feel,” Nottingham glided on. “Mr Rawlinson was in shock when I broke the news to him this morning. After all, he invited the man here to
perform good works. Then Morton was abused while preaching, and finally murdered.”

BOOK: The Broken Token
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